How to Handle Parents Complaining About Playing Time for Kids

Footballer taking penalty at game, low section, surface view

Coaching a youth sports team is about more than just winning and losing; you have to try to keep the players and parents happy as well. A frequent complaint youth coaches face is from parents who say their child doesn’t get enough playing time. Most likely, your own kids either play or played sports, so you know what it’s like to want them to get more playing time. The best approach to handling parents who complain about their kids' playing time is to prepare for those complaints ahead of time.

Plan a meeting before the start of the season to meet with parents, introduce yourself and discuss the upcoming season.

Explain your rules for playing time to the parents. Outline factors you consider when it comes to playing time, which might include attendance, work ethic or skill level. Once you lay out your playing time guidelines, you have something to refer back to if parents complain to you mid-season.

Encourage parents to suggest their kids talk to you if they have a problem with the amount of time they play. Players should ask you, the coach, for suggestions on what they can do to increase their playing time before going to their parents. This teaches responsibility.

Invite parents to attend practices. This gives them a chance to see the whole picture. At a practice, they might notice that their child doesn’t have the same skill level or isn’t putting in as much effort as another player who is getting more time.

Find opportunities for lesser skilled players to get more playing time such as extra games that won’t affect your record or scrimmages between teams. This way, you’re going out of your way to give everyone an opportunity to play.

Look at your schedule ahead of time and identify games where you know lesser skilled players can get a little playing time without jeopardizing a loss.

Listen calmly to parents who do complain without interrupting them.

Ask parents to talk to their child about why they aren’t playing as much. Often a player knows why he isn’t playing as much, but hasn’t explained the reasons to a parent.

Remind parents of your preseason meeting when you laid out your guidelines for playing time and explain to them why their child isn't getting as much.

Suggest they find another outlet for their child to play sports if they still have a problem. Some leagues require all players to get equal playing time regardless of skill or circumstances.