“Come on, REALLY?”


            I had a very interesting conversation yesterday with a youth sports coach. And when I say interesting, as a very good friend of mine uses that word, like my wife uses the word “FINE,” when everything is not fine, it wasn’t interesting, it was downright sad.


            He is coaching a youth sports team, as usual the sport does not matter, No really it doesn’t! But I digress.


            He told me he had a problem with the way the league was set up. One middle school would get to choose from all the kids and then the other kids left after “cuts” would be distributed to the other teams.”He gets the best kids” my friend lamented. Really? Who is to say they are the best kids? They are 12 years old. The ability and growth pattern could change during a season, heck; it could change during a practice! I’ll tell you what, give me the kids you don’t want, give me three weeks and then let’s play.


             The main reason most kids get better quicker than others is because in the beginning of their athletic journey, they show some modicum of athletic talent superior to the other kids. ( As a good friend of mine said once,” They just suck less than the other kids.” Really, have you ever seen a 13 year old in the N.B.A., N.H.L., or M.L.B.? So all you are doing is giving the kids with a modicum of talent a head start, since puberty changes everything, and the male body doesn’t fully develop until the early to mid twenties.


I said just play them all equal and let’s see who gets better. His answer was telling. He said “We do play them equal, well, pretty close, within a couple of minutes each time we sub. So in a 32 minute game, if you substitute 4 times you can have some kids sit for a whole quarter. How much fun is that?


Then he said when we have a small bench because some kids don’t show, I play the better kids more. Why? He didn’t have an answer.  Sounds like another form of entitlement, the same entitlement that we all resent when we see it.


Do coaches really think that kids not showing up at practice and games are not directly related to their lack of playing time? How do you get better if you don’t play?


Look at the highest levels, in college and pros, practice are essential. But in youth sports, come on, really? Practice is way to get in shape, learn life skills, have fun, and hopefully develop some skills. But you MUST play in games to know how you are doing.


Then he started on the officials. Let me explain to you something about officials. The single most important factor in a referee getting good is experience. The more you yell at them, the more they want to quit. The more they quit the less experienced officials you get. See the pattern? You are actually creating the officials problem! Don’t talk to them. If your main objective is to have the kids play for fun then the officiating doesn’t matter. I coached 451 college hockey games and a referee did not decide the outcome of a single game, not one!

V.J. can be reached on twitter @VJJStanley, on face book at frozen shorts, by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Go to his website frozenshorts.com to read more and see videos. His new book Stop the Tsunami in Youth Sports is now on sale through his website in paperback and E Reader from.