The Issues of Using Playing Time as a Consequence

Often times coaches try to use the bench as the motivator for behavior change. While it can be effective and is one of the necessary progressive consequences (Chapter 18 of The Culture System), it shouldn’t be the only consequence. Here are five issues I see come up time and time again with playing time as our primary carrot and stick.

1. Playing in Games Becomes the Only Privilege

It’s important to emphasize playing is a privilege that is earned by meeting the standards. But what about the athletes who shows up, works hard, has a good attitude, and still doesn’t get to play? We can start to send some mixed messages when we overuse playing time as both the carrot and stick.

2. Undermines the Role of Practice

 We want our players to see practice (not just games) as a privilege and an opportunity to get better. When we treat practice participation as a privilege, we train players to see practice as a “get to”, not a “got to”. For example: Imagine an athlete has a horrible effort and attitude in practice and we allow them to continue practicing. But then we bench them or drop them down the line-up as punishment.  Well, we have missed our opportunity to emphasize how practice is a privilege and opportunity to get better.

3. Ineffective with Reserves

If a player is a reserve or playing very little will they care if they are benched because of their behavior? Probably not.

4. Too Often a Delayed Consequence

More often than not standards are broken during practices and the time period between the behavior and the game is too lengthy. Delaying the consequence too long causes it to lose its meaning and the teachable moment has passed.

The Solution: Progressive Consequences & Simultaneous Thresholds

We coach coaches to use progressive consequences with their team. Rather than waiting for a player’s behavior to become so unacceptable we have to bench the player; we should use smaller consequences to help encourage them to correct their behavior. You can learn more about this by reading or listening to Chapter 18 of my book The Culture System.

 We also encourage coaches to use simultaneous thresholds when determining playing time. Essentially the first thing a coach looks at is have they met the minimum standards of the team academically, behaviorally, and with their commitment. If a player is eligible, then the second criteria is the individual’s performance. Who gives us the best chance of winning? To learn more about simultaneous thresholds as well as a whole system of principles, tools, methodology, and team activities to eliminate playing time issues check out our online course The Playing Time System.

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