Tag Archives: league

Busting The Myth Of Equal Playing Time

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I love Mythbusters for three reasons. One, Adam Savage, Jamie Hyneman, Grant Imahara, Kari Byron, and Tory Belleci make science fun. Two, the show confirms or busts commonly held myths. And three, most episodes end with something blowing up.

In the spirit of Mythbusters I am busting the myth of equal playing time in this post. I’ve written about The Coaches Lie, Sweating and Smiling, and Equal Playing Time over the last two years, but I don’t believe I’ve fully explained my position on why I believe equal playing time is a myth. This post delves into my position, and explains to parents the best way to approach the concept of equal playing time.

Equal playing time sounds great and that is the point. Who could argue that equal playing time is a bad idea? It sounds so nice and good, and if you come out against equal playing time you sound negative no matter how you articulate your point. I am not stating that equal playing time is bad, but I do state that most coaches and league administrators say they believe in equal playing time without putting in any structures to promote it. This happens because equal playing time sounds so darn good, and that phrase draws parents into the league.

The problem as I see it is that someone came up with the concept of equal playing time; then everyone bought into what a great idea it is, but nobody actually thought about how to make it happen. So every youth sports league promises equal playing time without saying how. If you as a parent are looking into a youth league for your child the first question you should ask if the league offers equal playing time is: “How do you ensure equal playing time?” If they do not have a reasonable answer then move on to another program.

Atlanta Youth Lacrosse does not guarantee equal playing time in our recreational lacrosse programs because we would be lying. Instead, we use two key strategies to help increase playing time for all players:

  1. Small team sizes capped at twenty-two players per team encourages more substitutions as players will get tired. We’ve found that adding players beyond twenty-two significantly decreases playing time for most of a team’s players.
  2. The 24-Hour Rule gives players and parents an opportunity to think through their concern about playing time (or any other concern) and then contact Atlanta Youth Lacrosse. During the next game, our experienced staff watches the team the player is on and prompts the coach to substitute their lines more frequently. We often do this with new coaches who are learning how to substitute players and manage game strategy.

That is how AYL builds more playing time into our games and manages concerns over playing time. The goal is to aim for more playing time, but I believe we need to remove the word equal out of phrase.

I would prefer saying Fair Playing Time because that is a more attainable goal, and it is more applicable to the real world that we want to prepare young kids to enter. The definition of equal is, “the same in number, amount, degree, rank, or quality”. Equality is the bedrock concept upon which a free society rests, but as many adults know, we don’t always get treated equally in the real world. We may be as skilled as another person at work, but we get passed over for a promotion. We may be more passionate than another person during an interview, but we don’t get a call back due to a possible bias from the interviewer. That is a depressing fact of life but if introduced slowly at a young age, a child can grow into an adult knowing how the real world operates, and, more importantly, how to handle unequal setbacks.

Equal is the same thing as perfection. We may never get there as human beings, but there is no reason not to try. However, I believe that prefacing “playing time” with the word equal prevents us from coming up with ways to actually get there. Which is why I like Fair Playing Time. the definition of fair is, “treating people in a way that does not favor some over others”. Treating players fairly is a much better word. Children are not identical and they should not be treated as identical people because what works for one child may not work for another, but every child should be treated fairly.

Is it fair that when one child misses a full week of practice that he gets the same amount of playing time as the child who attended every practice? I do not believe so. Giving the absentee child the same amount of time on the field as everyone else who showed up is not fair to the team because that player did not practice what the team worked on that week. The fair treatment would be keeping that player on the bench for one half. This teaches that absenteeism has consequences, and in team sports, the team comes first.

Equal is a strong word. Our country’s founding fathers stated, “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”. Nations have risen and fallen on the basis of equality. Leaders have emerged in the just fight of equality for every human being born on this Earth. I believe equal is too strong of a word when we talk about playing time. Fair is much more manageable.



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Over the last few hours I read every form submission from the last two and a half years that came through on the page www.ayllax.com/contact. This form along with the two email addresses: info@ayllax.com and rules@ayllax.com, are critical for good communication between our AYL staff and our members.

So here is the data I collected from the form:

  • League Question – 313 submissions
  • Payment Question – 73 submission
  • Coyote Question – 30 submissions
  • Group/Private Lesson – 37 submissions
  • Concern or Suggestion – 17 submissions
  • Other (anything not listed above) – 260 submissions
  • Total submissions = 730


As with all statistics the question is “what do the numbers mean?” Well, the numbers tell me a good deal:

  1. Many individuals have questions regarding our league. From what times games and practices are held, to who coaches our teams, to how to get on the waitlist. That last question is particularly popular. I am going to be spending this week going over the Leagonue Question submissions and crafting a more comprehensive FAQ page, which I hope will address many of these queries.
  2. Considering the large amount of members we have at each level, there were less Payment Questions than I anticipated. I believe this is a result of our move to League Toolbox, which has significantly streamlined our registration system. The majority of submissions were in regards to the AYL refund policy, which can be found on the FAQ page under “registration.”
  3. FYI – group/private lessons are generally held during the winter and summer months. This is when our college players and coaches come back to Atlanta from their campuses. In the spring and fall seasons, we do more clinics than private and group instruction. If you do have questions about our group and private lessons email me at rules@ayllax.com.
  4. The fact that there were only seventeen submissions regarding Concerns and Suggestions tells me that AYL is doing a real solid job with our league. That being said, I believe strongly that critiques, even over little things, can make our league better. So I created an anonymous “Suggestion Box,” which anyone can drop a suggestion and our staff will review it. I certainly would consider making a suggestion if my name was not tied to it, which is why this form is completely anonymous.
  5. “Other” is the second highest submission topic. Based off the submissions I’ve added two new subject which are routed to the appropriate AYL staff member for review. Those topics are “Rule Questions,” and “Advertise/Sponsor.”

Well, there is some data. Remember, if you’ve got questions we will answer them as best as we can!


200th Post! The Golden Rule In Youth Lacrosse

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I thought hard about what topic I wanted to write about for my 200th post. After many different ideas and drafts I settled on addressing how poor behavior by parents negatively impacts the children playing lacrosse. I addressed part of this in my post “Getting The Most Out Of Fall Ball.” Where I detailed the responsibilities of parents in off-season games, but I wanted to dig deeper into this area. So settle in because I’m going all out for the 200th post on the AYL Blog!

I am starting off with a video by Duke University Sport Psychologist Richard Keefe. Watch this three-minute video as the topics covered will be referenced and reinforced in the rest of this post:

One part of this video hit me especially hard. “The parents make it no fun.” That is the number one reason young players cite for not wanting to play a particular sport anymore. Let’s dig into that a little further with a snippet from the “Recommendations For Communities” article by the National Alliance For Youth Sports:

What Children Are Saying

The Kids Speak Out: Violence in Youth Sports article that appeared in the August, 2001 issue of Sports Illustrated for Kids featured more than 3,000 reader responses to a youth sports violence survey. It found that:

  • 57% of the respondents said there was too much violence in youth sports
  • 74% said they have seen out-of-control adults at their games (emphasis mine)
  • 36% cited embarrassment as the main emotion they felt while witnessing bad adult behavior
  • 37% said they have witnessed parents yelling at kids
  • 27% said they have seen parents yelling at coaches or officials
  • 25% said they have seen coaches yelling at officials or kids
  • 4% said they have seen violent behavior by adults

The results indicate that nearly three out of four youth players have seen “out-of-control adults at their games.” Which, as Richard Keefe pointed out, could lead to the youth players to  not want to play their sport anymore because of the actions of adult spectators.

Why is it that some parents work themselves up into an agitated rage while their kid is playing? Perhaps, as young Calvin puts it:


To be fair here, I do not have kids. I have no idea what it feels like for a parent to see their child get a cheap shot and the referee not call anything. I don’t have a clue how about how a parent feels when their kid gets benched. I most certainly do not know how it feels for a parent to see their child lose a game. That being said, I know exactly how it feels to be embarrassed for friends of mine whose parents decided it was important to share their opinion with the rest of the fans about how terrible the official, coach, or other team is. I can only imagine how embarrassing it was for my friends if I was feeling embarrassed for them.

Perhaps these angry fans feel that because they paid money to sign their child up that they somehow get to behave in a manner that makes everyone around them cringe. Perhaps they are just reacting poorly to not being able to control everything that happens to their child. After all, the lacrosse field can be a chaotic place.

Why is it that these individuals lose their brain-mouth connection? My theory is simple. They do not get the point of youth sports. What is the point of youth sports? Four things: Fun, Fundamentals, Sportsmanship, and Honoring the Game. If you noticed those four things are a part of Atlanta Youth Lacrosse’s mission in our community. If even one of these pillars is absent I do not believe a league can reach it’s true potential. So let’s break down these four pillars and how parents can be involved in each one:

  • Fun – If playing is not fun and enjoyable what is the point of playing? Parents can increase the amount of fun their child is having by remaining positive and upbeat before, during, and after games.
  • Fundamentals – Without a solid foundation to build on a player cannot be successful in the long term. Parents can improve their young player’s fundamentals by making sure they are at practices and games on time, having a catch with them in the backyard, or just talking with their player about what he/she may be struggling with on the field. Here’s the kicker, if you don’t know the answer or the correct fundamental skill then don’t teach it to your player! Ask your coach or contact the AYL staff. We are more than happy to assist you in putting the fun in fundamentals.
  • Sportsmanship – This pillar is always emphasized for the players, but rarely for the parents. Be a good steward of the game by making sure that your actions reflect positively upon it.
  • Honoring the Game – This is a big one for me, but I only realized how important it was until I became a coach and official. When you play all you care about is having a good time, but when you coach or officiate everything you do impacts the players. Parents, you must realize that everything you do impacts the atmosphere of the sporting event that you participate in. If every parent and family member watching the game buys into honoring the game through their actions, then the event will always be positive.

We are very grateful at Atlanta Youth Lacrosse that our parents, and their extended families, abide by the golden rule. We have what I consider seasoned parents who know how we operate at AYL, and they take it upon themselves to make sure that our new parents are introduced to how to be positive cheerers. Our parents are wonderful for two reasons:

  1. They know we at Atlanta Youth Lacrosse are strict about what we expect regarding conduct during games.
  2. They also know that we have enforced our expectations by removing the individuals who don’t get it from our facilities.

That is what it takes to keep everyone on the same page. Expectations and enforcement. We don’t do this to be boogie men. We do this to safeguard the game of lacrosse that we care so deeply about. So this season come share in our love of lacrosse by treating the game and everyone involved with dignity and respect.

How Does It Feel?

To wrap up I wanted to showcase some videos that came up during my research for this post. I will warn you, the behavior in these videos is both shocking and disturbing. Shocking because everyone in this video is an adult, and disturbing to see how low some people are willing to go because of a perceived injustice or their team’s loss in a game.