Playing Time: Paying It Forward

(What follows is an excerpt from an article by Jon Solomon of the Aspen Institute. Find the full article here.

There’s a time to sort the weak from the strong in sports. It’s not before kids grow into their bodies, minds and true interests.

Through age 12, at least, the Aspen Institute’s Project Play recommends that sports programs invest in every kid equally. That includes playing time – a valuable developmental tool that too many coaches assign based on player skill level and the score of the game. You will see this recommendation reflected in our Parent Checklists and companion videos.

The argument is simple for equal playing time: Research shows that what kids want out of a sports experience is both action and access to the action. Getting stuck at the end of the bench does not foster participation. And we all know greater participation is sorely needed in youth sports. Only 37 percent of kids ages 6 to 12 regularly played team sports in 2016, down from 45 percent in 2008, according to data from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association in the Aspen Institute’s State of Play 2017 report

Kids who quit sports often do so because of lack of playing time, which can be a result of lack of confidence. Confidence is a byproduct of proper preparation and adults who believe in the players, according to IMG Academy Head of Leadership Development James Leath

“From a small child to the world’s greatest athlete, those who are confident are confident because they have taken thousands of shots, tried and failed many times, then tried again and got it right,” Leath said.

Playing time shouldn’t be earned at younger ages. It should be paid forward to develop a future athlete.


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About the Author

Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts has been at the helm of the MHSAA as its Executive Director since 1986, implementing programs and overseeing tournament administration and regulations for the Association which boasts 1,500 member schools, 10,000 registered officials and 13,000 head coaches.

During the last 45 years, Roberts has spoken to educator and athletic groups, business leaders and civic groups in almost every state and five Canadian provinces. He is one of the nation's most articulate advocates for educational athletics.

Roberts has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), is in his second term on the board of the National Federation of State High School Associations, and is the first chairman of the NFHS Network board of directors. He has been board president for the Refugee Development Center for nine years, and is a past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He is chair of the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation for 2018.

He is a 1970 graduate of Dartmouth College, where he played defensive safety for the Ivy League's winningest football team during that span, and he sang in Dartmouth's close harmony vocal group.

His wife, Peggy, has retired from a 30-year career in social services, and is serving as president of the board of the Fenner Nature Conservancy in Lansing.