What To Do When a Coach Plays Favorites

Self-Criticism In Youth Athletes

Dealing with Coaches Who Play Favorites

Sports parents can easily become upset with coaches who play favorites. When this happens, parents face a dilemma: Should they approach coaches about their athletes’ lack of playing time and risk making matters worse?

Your first step is to confirm your beliefs about a coach who is playing favorites. Parents should talk to other parents, school administrators or other coaches about their observations. Parents can also watch their children play during practices and games.

Parents who think a coach is unfairly treating their athletes have the right to communicate with the coach. Coaches are often revered in youth athletics. But you should feel empowered as a sports parent to talk to a coach just like you would talk to your child’s teacher.

However, you don’t want to put coaches on the defensive by attacking them. Be sure to approach them at the right moment–not right after a heated game.

Keep in mind that coaches may have a legitimate reason about playing other kids ahead of yours. Coaches may not play kids with the best talent. They often want to play athletes who work well together. Parents should talk to their children about the importance of being team players.

Coaches might be more inclined to give more playing time to hard-working kids because these athletes have a strong work ethic and are dedicated to practice. Parents can emphasize the importance of working hard in practice. Parents can also talk to young athletes about being helpful to the coach–setting up equipment, picking up balls or hustling to the next drill.

You may decide that approaching the coach about playing time is the best option. The downside is that coaches don’t have time to listen to all parent’s concerns. Coaches may become annoyed and think that parents are questioning their judgment. Coaches do not what to be told how they should be doing their job.

You certainly have the right to talk with your kid’s coaches in hopes of opening the lines of communication. The first step is to schedule a meeting with the coach away from practice time. The key is to talk in a respectful manner and try to understand the coach’s point of view. Parents should avoid attacking the coach or being overly aggressive, which could make matters worse.

Begin by saying something like, “It seems my child gets less playing time than some of the other children. This is hard for him. Is there anything he can do to improve his chances of getting more playing time?”

Be sure to wait and listen for the coach’s response. Let the coach know you want your child to contribute to the team as a whole. Don’t lecture the coach about your child’s talents or strengths. Let the coach know you also want to support the team as a parent. If you focus too much on yourself and your child, the coach will be less likely to listen.

If you’re sure your coach is playing favorites and his behavior is hurting your young athlete, you might consider finding another team for your child.

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36 thoughts on “What To Do When a Coach Plays Favorites”

  1. My son has been a lacrosse goalie for his same team for four years. This is his last year at middle school, 8 th grade. This is now his fifth year as goalie. The coach’s son had an injury and cannot do as much running so he says. The coach took out my son who has been a loyal and talented goalie for 4 years and replaced him with his son. He is even starting his own son the first opening game. His son continues to tell everyone that he is the goalie now. This is leaving such an emotional scar on my son. My son is not a conceited outspoken child but he takes pride in the one talent that he feels he has and is great at. This is the last sport in our school not tarnished with politics and favoritism. This is also such a hard age as they develop. Children are naturally insecure and learning who they are at the same time. This is affecting my son’s self-esteem, his self-worth and his mental ability as an athlete. After every practice my son gets so upset that he is nauseous and throws up because of the stress and hurtful manipulation. The coach never gave him an explanation except for it’s what’s best for the team and the only position his injured son can play. Yes life can be tough and handling disappointment is something we all have to do but we are not born knowing and its a process to learn. There is also more to coaching then playing time. You have a responsibility to teach team cohesiveness, building youth character, developing self esteem and confidence on and off the field. Maybe the lesson needed to be taught is to listen to your body, heal properly and sit out if you can’t play, not take over someone’s position. Tearing a 14 yr old kid out of his 4 yr position is emotionally damaging, manipulative, abuse of power, and sends the wrong message to our developing youths. Especially when my son is gearing up for high school lacrosse tryouts next year. Yes it’s good to know other positions and makes one more valuable of an athletic but not total replacement or even demoted to second backup goalie. The coach is not making decision with the teams best interest. He is making a decision for what’s best for his son. Almost all the other team members feel it is unfair what is being done but they are afraid to speak up in fear of being coach bullied, losing their playing time or position. Do you actually think that if another teammate was injured and the only position he could play would be the coach’s son position that the coach would actually take out his son to replace him with the injured player? What would you do if this was your son? What is a coaches perspective? I would love to get your feed back.

    • Coaches do play favorites and this in unfortunate. Hopefully, he will have a different coach in HS and can earn the position. And some parents do go over the coach’s head, but it can backfire when the AD is close with the coach. Power in numbers is the best option if you are going to approach the AD.

      • My son played JV 1 hockey last year and dressed 15 games for Varsity. He was the only jv1 player to earn a varsity letter. This year he was placed back on JV 1 again but 4 players from that Jv 1 team made varsity this year. All board members kids.

      • My son played JV 1 hockey last year and dressed 15 games for Varsity. He was the only jv1 player to earn a varsity letter. This year he was placed back on JV 1 again but 4 players from that Jv 1 team made varsity instead of him. All board members kids.

    • Reading this made me sad. I hear everything you’re saying. Not fair at all. I have a 14 year old son on a basketball team. Makes every practice and works hard, but never gets game time. I can feel your frustration as well as your sons. I hurt for my son every game he doesn’t play. Your son will continue to shine and everyone else still sees his worth. He’s not alone on this journey. Tell him not to give up, no matter what.

  2. I am currently dealing with a coach who has an inflated head.
    Last year for the full football season, my child seen the field for the last 2 mins of some of the games. Even when we were down 50-0, this coach still wouldn’t put the younger players in. He is getting too much to deal with and the first game of this season, he couldn’t make the game and my kid got lots of field time and did good. next game, this coach was back and after the game was lost and only 2 mins left, he puts my son in for only 2 plays. This coach has a history of doing this and is destroying these kids fun and ruining sports for them. Last year I let the organization know my feelings and its happening all over again.
    I volunteer for this organization and am thinking of fulling my support. Why should I use my vacation days on this team, when they can not even let players have a fair chance. A player can not develop if they sit on the bench the whole season.

  3. My sons coach plays favoritism with one player. He will post only highlights of this one players and the whole team sees this on social media.
    I think it is so unprofessional. He even brought this one kid onto their AAU team. He didn’t pay the fee we all paid and comes to tournaments and plays the entire game over any other kid whose parents paid after they made the team. Drives me crazy!

  4. My daughter plays volleyball she’s 14 it’s her second year playing and I noticed the coach has favorites that she puts in and let them play a lot more she literally walked on the court and off of court again I don’t know what to do and I don’t want to go to the coach and then them not let her play at all wish I knew what to do it feels like it’s going to scar her till that she feels not good and she’s really good if they would give her a chance to show them I guess what I want to ask is does it ever get better

    • No it doesn’t… dealing with this now. It’s infuriating. I’m waiting for end of season when there is zero chance of retaliation on my high schooler and I am going to give the coach a piece of my mind… then I am going to actively work on getting the coach replaced so she can’t emotionally damage future athletes.

    • This is my daughter’s 1st yr playing volleyball (7th grade). Also noticed the first few games she rarely gets play time. Initially, when she tried out, she didn’t make it. My daughter told me the 8th grade coach was shocked when she told him she didn’t make it. I reached out to the coach, and she ended up placing her in B team. What irks me is she keeps the same girls playing throughout each game, those same girls make mistakes like my daughter, but when she puts my daughter in it’s literally for less than 5-8min. Last game, she put her in the last 10min, took her right back out. I’ve reached out via their v ball app. She has not responded but my daughter told me she had a meeting with them and one thing she stated was she does not want any parents complaining or messaging her, I’m angry. Should I leave it alone? I also want to know if it gets better. I think her coaching sucks!

      • Yes, work with your daughter to help her resolve the issue with coach. Sometimes you can make it worse when the coach thinks she’s being attacked for not playing your athlete enough.

    • Same thing happening yo granddaughter in volleyball! She played 6-7-8 grade was a starter all three years then in freshman year she was a starter for freshman and JV and got to dress and play some in varsity then with no explanation and no communication from coach sat her on bench and nothing !!! Lady game coach played ever player except her and I think this coach is trying to humiliate her even her team mates have questioned why she is being treated like this. Ok bench but a good coach will talk and communicate with that player and help her understand stand what she has done or needs to do but nothing just silence! This speaks volumes about this coaches character, oh wait, I should say this coach has no character because obviously she’s not a coach either!

    • My daughter is also 14. She’s been playing club volleyball for 3 years. Her previous coaches all liked her for being very coachable, hard working and focused on the sport. We spend a lot of money and time on her training throughout the year. She is really good at volleyball. She gave up her other sport so she can focus on her favorite sport. This year is a nightmare. The new coach doesn’t start her. He barely celebrates her passes and hits, but only focuses it seems on his few favorites who mess up a lot. He starts his favorites. But it seems he doesn’t like my daughter and put all his anger on her. It breaks my heart. She cries after practices and games. She event told me he rolls eyes at her after she tries to explain to him why she couldn’t get the ball (happens to every volleyball player every now and then, right?). I feel like talking to him would be making the matter worse.

  5. Hi. I wanted to reach out and get your take on my 16 yo daughters situation. She’s been playing volleyball since 4th grade. With the same kids (mostly) throughout the years. She plays with the same kids on both club and school teams. There is one girl that my daughter just can’t seem to get past. My daughter has private trainers. Works hard on her own time. Works before or after most practices. There’s really not much more she can do. We’ve traveled across the country to attend the highest level D1 training camps. This season she has now made varsity and the highest level club team. But this girl did as well. We just had our first scrimmage with our varsity players only. And like clock work, my daughter is out with the 2nd team. She is extremely defeated now. Her confidence is shattered. The girl she has been battling since grade school has parents who volunteer and go out of their way for the coach. They insure their daughter hangs out with the coaches daughter who is also on the same team since childhood. My daughter is a very athletic, hard working, talented athlete. I played sports at a high level when I was younger. If she wasn’t deserving of the starting position, if she didn’t work hard enough, if she wasn’t deducted, I would have NO problem telling her. But that’s just not the case. She’s an amazing team mate and person. Honor student, school council, etc…! What do I do??? We live in a small area and there aren’t many choices for club. If she changes high schools, she loses everything she’s worked so hard for in her school. Additionally there is a long required sit period. And finally, it wouldn’t stop the club team problem. Please help us. I encourage her to keep working, be a great teammate, and take advantage of her opportunities when she gets them.

  6. My daughter is a Senior and plays volleyball.
    The Coach does everything in her power to destroy my daughter dream. We had to go in every year to confront her.
    For the last 3 years she was MVP
    Junior she was MVP- MVP District- All State Team witch only two other girls ever received that.
    Also she got a 5 year scholarship at a D2 college because of Club volleyball School Coach never reached out to any college.
    My daughter wanted to break the school record in kills. She is the most accurate hitter.
    She gets playing time but is only in for blocking rarely gets set.
    We have a freshman and sophomores who get more respect from the coach.
    We put in complaints but nothing is happening.
    Would it look bad for our daughter to quit because it’s mentally affecting her? Would the college coach reconsider her offer? I also have the stat’s to prove it.

    • Sometimes the more you complain, the more push back you get from coaches. Power in numbers when it comes to going to AD or others. I would default to what you daughter wants to do about leaving the team. Can she play for a club instead and not school?

  7. What do you do as a parent when your football college student has been verbally disrespected by his position coach also been told by the position coach your going to play a big much in the game just to see the coach didn’t put you in not one quarter of the game also the position coach have call me about certain situations but never about my son’s work ethic in his position but still stated to me if he can help it my son will stay on the bench he’s in his second year with this coach he’s pretty much benching him it’s missing with his mental state do I go to the head coach or is this a matter where my son just transfer out

    • Your son has to separate the message from the messenger. Use what’s helpful and disregard the rest and how the coach is talking to him. You want him to be ready to come off the bench when he does get his chance and be patient to get playing time.

  8. So in hs sports we as should be complacent with the basis that is clearly displayed in sports especially when it comes to economic reasons or should I say the family’s economic status?

  9. If a group of parents and students have common observation that a coach plays favoritism and their children were discriminated in not playing football or unfairly given less time to play even through they worked hard practicing what is your recommendation of filing a lawsuit for emotional, physical, financial, and mental damages that a coach did to students?

  10. I am shocked. After reading parent’s comments the replies are not at all helpful, supportive nor offer solutions in favor of the parents and students.

    I for one will not stand by and allow any school organization to support a coach or teacher that doesn’t abide by all rules themselves.

    There are organizations and associations that are in place at schools and on district levels to support families and assist with solutions. Your school PTA or PTO is a resource for support as well. The High School Athletic Association and the House of Representatives Athletic Council contact information is online and there are resources with them as well.

    Favoritism, verbal abuse, inconsistency and unequal enforcement of rules and play times with students by coaches is another form of bullying and SHOULD not be tolerated under any circumstances. If you know something isn’t right you should speak up and realize how many parents and children may have or are feeling the same.

    Sports are for learning team work, endurance, exercise, enjoyment and passion. Sports should not be an outlet for controlling, narcissist to bully children and parents at will without accountability or consequences.

    The answers presented here told parents basically “ yep! This is how it is! Deal with it”

    • I completely agree with you! My son has been a varsity wrestler for two years now and only has been on the mat for a handful of times in these two years. I’ve went to the coach many many times because out of 75 kids on our wrestling team this year, the same 10-14 kids get the mat time at EVERY tournament two to three times a week, while the other 60+ wrestlers sit on the bench just waiting. Every tournament we go to, multiple parents complain to me about how badly our coach plays favorites and apparently it’s been happening for YEARS. My son is a full time wrestler who wrestles with multiple organizations and wrestles all three styles, all year long. It’s bullshit and there MUST be something that can be done to get the coach to do better.

    • Thank you ! For speaking up for the victims of these bullying coaches. I had a coach tell me it is a great life lesson “life is unfair!” That doesn’t settle me down. I am going to keep talking to whom ever it is I need to till this abuse of power is stopped! It is toxic and will kill or leave gappings wounds in an athletic program. Once you have a few freshmen not believing in your program well considered it sunk the toxicity will continue to push good athletes to choose other sports instead and your team will be filled with unskilled over privileged children who lack basic skills to compete.

  11. My son who is 6’2″ 220 lbs, one of the fastest kids in the county, he is a extremely hard worker, attends every practice and goes to a personal trainer, his senior year of football was terrible, he started defence at LB and would make every other tackle, saving other teams from scoring a TD on multiple occasions, after many first drives my son would be pulled from the game and lucky to play again at all, i would have other parents from both teams asking why my son was not playing, my wife and i heard from other players and parents that the coaches didnt like our son, my son at one game had to play RB for a drive since the starter was hurt, he had more yards in 4 carries then the starter did for the whole game, we even witnessed our son come off the field, as he talked to the coach our son removed his pads and sat on the bench after a pick 6, we have been hearing through the grapevine the coaches didnt want our son stealing all the stats from other players who wanted to play collage ball, after some of the games other parents from both teams would come up to me and comment how much of a beast our son was, but then why he only would play the first drive, his senior season is over now, he never would let me talk to his coaches in fear it would get worse

    • Sorry. I am dealing with the same thing. My son will not let me talk to the coach. He’s just not a good coach. He was a skills coach never a head coach and it shows. He has 6 guys he lets play a lot. The other 15 on the are lucky to get 2 min at a time. My son won’t let me talk to him. It’s disheartening and frustrating at the same time. My son a twice the natural athleticism that three of the guys on the court. But nope he still gets very little game time. Just a shame.

  12. You can’t find a different team for the child when he’s at a Michigan high school and the mhsaa would make him ineligible for a year. Basically we (parents) would have move, and pull out other kids out too, or get divorced (even though we are happy) and have one of us change towns in order for him to be able to play on a new team. Apparently the mhsaa doesn’t consider biased, power tripping coaches a good reason to change high schools.

  13. Coaches playing favorites is hurting high school sports like never before. Kids get tired of the unfairness and word gets around quickly. Before you know it, coaches are less respected if they are respected at all. It’s really sad how high school staff/board doesn’t do something about it. If a teacher was playing favorites and being unfair, certainly they deserve serious investigation; the same standard should be held in all high school activities!

  14. My son is a freshman trying out for the tennis team in high school. He is an experienced player. He beat number 2 singles on the team and the coach made him play him again and my son lost. My son then played 1st doubles varsity player and won him twice. He then played the other 1st doubles partner and won him too.

    The coach never let him tryout doubles with the varsity boys. The coach is a math teacher and this is his first time coaching. He doesn’t play tennis. He is learning to play in a clinic at the local tennis club with 2 of the boys trying out. They made varsity and my son did not.

    I emailed him to know why he didn’t make varsity and where he stood on the ladder, doesn’t answer my question.

    • That is unfortunate. You might focus on USTA junior events with your son as they are more challenging than HS tennis.

  15. I feel your pain. My son started 5 out of 10 games last year on his middle school baseball team as a lefty pitcher. Had few earned runs and went from
    Batting 9th to 5th midway through the season. The grandson of a guy who the field is named after batted second and started IF yet had Ks all day and many errors.

    All season TWO strikeouts while batting.
    Got to tryouts summer after season and the high school coach(middle school coach left due to not getting along with HS coach) cuts him (only kid not retained) because he was “just not big enough”, yet they took several kids much smaller (whose parents teach at school or donate to boosters). My son makes As, keeps his mouth shut, and is coachable . Even the stat guy who I didn’t know called me and said it was ridiculous .

    Now my son has little joy when playing baseball even though he’s solid and has four years to grow. Wishing he would use this as motivation for next tryout rather than depletion!


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