What To Do When a Coach Isn’t Playing You

Talking To a Coach Isn't Always Easy

It can be very difficult to openly and honestly talk to a coach.  For one thing, a lot of coaches don't ever make themselves available for that kind of conversation.  Some coaches believe that being open and speaking with a player in an honest way makes them too vulnerable.  

This is tough, because if your coach isn't playing you, talking to them is the best way to find out why and learn what you need to do to get back in the game. 

Believe it or not, many baseball coaches are pretty insecure at heart.  It can come from many different places.  Some coaches are out there because they have a giant ego.  These coaches want to seem like the macho guy that's not to be trifled with.  Any break in that armor would weaken their tough persona and they don't want you to do that.

A lot of coaches have varied interests on the field and in their lineups.  Maybe they get along with the father of the right fielder better than they do the family of the guy on the bench.  I'm sure many of you have seen this more times than you care to think about.  This conflict of interest and favoritism (or sometimes nepotism) makes the coach very insecure about his decision making.  The last thing he wants you to do is confront him about it.

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There are numerous other reasons why many coaches shut themselves off from conversations with players as well.  Some hate confrontation, some haven't thought things through enough and they know it, some don't want to spend the time, and many of them don't know how to have a real honest eye to eye talk with a young person.

The truth is however, that the vast majority of coaches in all sports love to talk to their players.  Notice we didn't say "love to talk to parents".   Of course in youth sports, it may need to be the parent doing the talking.  The tips in this article still apply, but if it's ever possible for the player to talk to the coach, that's a far better option. 

As coaches ourselves, we look forward to sitting down with players and explaining exactly where we think they are and what they can do to improve.  As intimidating as it can seem to a player, the reception by the coach will probably be much more welcoming than you may imagine.  

Sometimes It's Hard To Understand The Coach's Decisions

Playing time is often a very subjective thing.  Coaches watch the action at practice, they consider the player's history and things like his attitude and effort.  They typically discuss these things with other coaches (not always), and from these various elements they form opinions of players.  

Sometimes there really isn't a great reason why one kid plays over another.  Sometimes it's just a lingering negative impression that the coach has from some day in the past where an error was made or a player struck out.  It shouldn't have much bearing on today, but it does.  

We've seen many kids make huge improvements throughout their baseball careers, but still be benched because they may not have historically been the best player on the field.  All too often, coaches rely on reputation more than on field facts.  Seasons in Little League, middle school, and high school are very short.  This exacerbates the situation because there just isn't enough opportunity for a kid to prove himself if he isn't starting everyday. 

Understanding why coaches don't play certain people is part of the battle which is why we spent a little time on it in this article.  There's another factor, and that is the coach just may not like you.  Read our article about coaches that don't like you for tips on that particular situation.

The real purpose of this article however, is to provide some tips on how to break through all of this and actually talk to the coach that isn't playing you.

Tips For Talking To A Coach Who Isn't Playing You

Tip #1:  If Coach Isn't Playing You, Be Patient 

Don't go to the coach the first time you don't play.  Sometimes coaches want to try different things, and sometimes they simply want to reward somebody with some playing time.  One thing that most coaches don't like is to feel like somebody else is calling the shots.

So if the coach is just sitting you for one game, or part of one game, be patient.  His intention all along might be to get you back in there.  But if you make a scene and put him in a position where he feels like he's not in control, he may not put you back in as fast as you would like.  

Tip #2:  Think About It

Sometimes emotion gets the better of an athlete who isn't playing.  You're working hard and you've been there every step of the way with the team, and then on game day you're not in the lineup.  It can be extremely frustrating and it can cause a lot of anger.  Going to the coach while you're angry is a horrible idea.

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Think about why you're not playing.  It's easy to assume it's because the coach is a jerk or because he's making a mistake, but often there is a real reason why you've moved down the depth chart.  Before you go to the coach and ask what it is, think about it yourself.  Maybe your numbers have been terrible, maybe you failed a class, maybe somebody else has been really good, or maybe you missed a few practices.  

Whether or not you feel the reasons justify the benching, it's important that you identify them.  When you do finally go talk to the coach you'll be more prepared if you have thought about all the reasons he might be not playing you.  

Tip #3:  Request a Time To Talk In Person

Don't text or email your coach to talk about playing time.  Maybe you can text or email to set up a meeting, but that's it.  It is way too hard to determine tone of voice and real intent through texting and emails and it can lead to misunderstandings very easily.  It can also catch a coach off guard and lead to awkward or negative responses.  Set a meeting to talk in person, always.

Make sure the meeting isn't five minutes in passing after practice before he heads to a lesson.  It needs to be a time where the coach can really dedicate his time and focus into the subject.  If the coach is in a hurry or if there's a ton of people around while you're trying to meet, you're more likely to get a bunch of stupid "keep playing hard" cliches than you are real help.

Tip #4:  Be rational and reasonable

Do not go into the meeting to argue.  There may be very good reasons why the coach isn't playing you and the coach might be a great guy who can give you great advice.  None of that will happen if you go into the meeting argumentative and emotional.  

The meeting shouldn't happen until you've been patient and given it some time, thought about all the reasons you're not playing, and set your attitude correctly.  You should go into the meeting to get information.  There is a reason the coach isn't playing you, what is it?

Be very rational, very factual, and very conversational.  You aren't there to make demands, you're there on a fact finding mission. 

Tip #5:  Swallow Your Pride

The coach may say some things you don't like.  Whether true or not, we don't like it when people are critical of us.  To hear the coach say you're not fast enough or that you're not quite as good as your friends, can be very hard.   If you want this meeting to go well, you'll need to expect the coach to be honest and stay stoic when he is.  

Buried beneath the anger or awkwardness you'll feel when the coach is giving you the reasons why you're not playing will be good advice.  You won't hear that advice if you're busy trying to defend yourself.  Listen, accept his thoughts, and use all the information you're getting.

Tip #6:  Vow To Get Better, and Then Do It

Tell the coach you've heard him, you've accepted his advice, and that you'll get to work right away on targeting your specific weaknesses.   Tell him you would really like the opportunity to play, but if he chooses to keep playing the other guy you will be busy rooting on the team and working your butt off to become the first guy on the depth chart.  

Coaches don't necessarily want a constant brown noser, but they do love guys who are making an investment.  If you show him that you truly are working to improve and getting in there everyday to eliminate your weaknesses, playing time should follow.

Talking To The Coach Is a Good First Step, Hard Work Is Next

It's very hard to crack the code of how and why some coaches write the lineups the way they do.  The tips above can really help if you choose to talk to the coach about why he's not playing you, but every coach is very different.  Just know that the lessons learned in sports will make you a dramatically better person, whether you play a ton in games or not.   

At the very least your hard work will teach you a lot and you can become a good coach someday yourself.  That can be your opportunity to treat people better than you may feel you're being treated at the moment.  

Keep working as hard as you can and do it for yourself.  Make yourself healthier, smarter, faster, stronger, and keep a great positive attitude.  Even if the coach never recognizes your investment, you'll be a better person for doing all of that.  And becoming better people is really what sports are all about. 

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