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WillLennon

Subbing Players & Winning Vs. Fun (5V5, 6-8 Y/o, I9Rules)

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I coach 6-8yo 5v5 i9 rules. I have 9 boys on the team. I have six that "get it", two that are a little immature and one that I have to pick up and put in place and remind him of everthing. They are all good kids, just different levels of maturity and competiveness. I am struggling a bit with two issues.

1. A good sub plan. My wife was at the game yesterday and told me she thought I did not sub enough. I would let the 5 on the field complete the offensive series before subbing the next group for defense. Then alternate so that all kids played both ways. I did not have a solid plan for this, just did it as I went along. Does anyone have a good rotation plan or recommended numbers of plays to sub. It seems that to sub every play would kill any momentum you might establish.

2. We had the ball for the last drive and were down by 6. I had just rotated new players on the field. As it turns out this rotation sent some of my better players to the sidleines. I struggled after the first play on whether to bring in my better players and go for the win. As a former Marine Infantry Officer, I am extremely competitive, winning and losing have a higher meaning in combat. But I am extremely concious of this and have set the tone with my players with three priorities - 1. Have Fun, 2. Try your best 3. Be a good teammate. I have seen other coaches in our league that are pretty strict and seem to have a win first mentality. As these are 6-8 y/o I believe fun and a positive experience is more important. I did not bring the better players back in. We drove down the field and came up short of the end zone and lost. Although we lost, the kids had fun and did not dwell on the loss for nearly as long as I did.

Any input, advice or comments are welcomed.

Thanks

Coach Will

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Will,

Thanks for your post. I can assure you that you are not alone in your competitiveness---most 'coaches' are sports fans and we have an inherent way of defining success with our win/loss record.

One thing that might help is to think in terms of the parents and players at this age. While parents enjoy their kids' team to win, their first concern is (or should be) their child's individual contribution to the overall outcome. Players at this age? Hey---I can assure you when little Joey is riding on the car after the game, he's not thinking about whether his team won or lost, he's thinking about what HE did in that game. ;-)

Said differently, continue to NOT let wins/losses dictate how successful of a coach you are. My first few seasons we got SKUNKED. However, we got skunked as a team. ALL the parents completely bought into my "team first" mindset, and I still have 99% of the same players 12+ seasons later....and we did end up winning some championships in the mean time. It was much sweeter doing with a team that battled through thick and thin...as you can imagine.

As for substiutions...kudos to your wife for pointing it out. Is she saw it and mentioned something, then know it was definitely noticed by some parents who are monitoring how often their kid plays.

Here is what we do: I sub at each quarter. I make a line up of who is to play in each quarter at each positions...and I stick to it. I let the parents know that while each player might not play an equal amount in each game...they WILL play an equal amount for the season as a whole.

If you would like an example of the way I track substitutions let me know. As you've learned...game day is fast an furious. The only way I can ensure fair playing time is to chart it and stick to it. It also lets you devise your game plan as you know who is playing where...and when. I script my first 10 plays for each game, and we walk through them in practice...and I assure you when we open up the game we are a well-oiled machine and go in like a buzz saw and frankly destroy the will of our opponents if we can in the first quarter. If not, we've still shown we can dog-fight with anyone....as a team.

Good luck!

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Does anyone have a good rotation plan or recommended numbers of plays to sub. It seems that to sub every play would kill any momentum you might establish.
You could:

a)5 play O for the first half, let 4 (plus 1 from the offense - keep switching in a new +1 player each series) play D for 1st half, and then switch for 2nd half. With this strategy, you'd probably want to use a few of the stronger kids on each squad.

b)start out using the scenario above, but don't worry if you decide to mix it up to keep the momentum going or strengthen your team for a few downs. if you wanted to make sure things were pretty even, you could ask your wife to help track that on the sidelines. she could tell you when there was a gap for certain players. focus more on making sure the kids are getting equal ball touches.

I had just rotated new players on the field. As it turns out this rotation sent some of my better players to the sidleines. I struggled after the first play on whether to bring in my better players and go for the win.
If it was time for those new players to be on the field, you did the right thing. As tempting as it is, and even when the other coach uses their best player for the umpteenth time, stick to your philosophy:
But I am extremely concious of this and have set the tone with my players with three priorities - 1. Have Fun, 2. Try your best 3. Be a good teammate.
I did not bring the better players back in. We drove down the field and came up short of the end zone and lost.
And here's the cool part, the weaker players will get better each time you do that. The only way those weaker players will get better is when you give them the chance to feel the pressure once in a while.
As these are 6-8 y/o I believe fun and a positive experience is more important.
I can tell you that fun equals ball touches for both the kids and parents. I rarely had a parent complain that their kid was cheated out playing time simply because we focused on real ball touches. Successful handoffs and receptions. My advice is have someone track those ball touches during a game. Have them come over and tell you who needs ball touches and let that dictate who goes in on offense at certain points in the game.

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I use the same philosophy that Rob uses. We have two squads, evenly talented and have one play offense the first half, then swtich at halftime, rotating one each series on the team with 4 kids. I work in my touches early so by the second series, every kid has had the ball. It makes the parents happy, and makes the coaches job easier by not having to worry about touches and rotation problems.

One note. Design plays for your weaker runners that will give them success. We play several teams who wait until they either way up or getting killed, then give the weaker kids a handoff up the middle. I hate that. You need to get those kids in open space where they may get 5-10 yards. That will make their (and parents) day.

Good luck!

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The two squad, evenly balanced is what I always used. Since you have 9, you have room for a floating player which complicates things a little but also allows you to sub situationally. Just don't get stuck with the same exact squads week in and week out. Mix it up as you see fit, depending on what works best that given week.

If I were you I'd define your substitution plan and let the kids and parents know what you are doing. Tell them this gives you an opportunity to let everyone play at least 50% of the game. If your wife thought some of the kids weren't playing enough maybe some of the other parents feel the same way. This will help them understand what's going on.

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Will,

My team is 5 on 5, 7-9 year old. I have 9 players and sometimes am missing at least one per game for one thing or another. I have two basic squads that rotate on offense and defense. Each squad gets to play offense and defense during the game. There is some overlap so some of my best players are on both squads. As the game goes on I then rotate a player in or out as the situation warrants. I have a parent who tracks stats on a spreadsheet during the game and I check with the stats parent to see who hasn't gotten a run or catch. I get each player no less than one run or catch per game and try to get at least two. The time I might play someone less than other players is if that player has been missing practices and don't know their assignment on offense.

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It is always best if someone doesn't show. Then you can rotate groups of three and play the top 2 players basically the entire game, which should keep your team pretty competive. In the event all 9 players show up. I would try to keep my top 2 defenders on the field for most of the game. The remainder of the seven children I would rotate in the other 3 positions. Constantly swapping players in every 2 plays. Most coaches take 30-40 seconds to get a play in which should allow plenty of time to make substituions. On offense I would have 2 units and make sure every child played at least 50% of the offensive snaps. Every player gets one touch. You could balance it out talent wise or just stick 5 guys that get it on one group (assuring at least one effective group) Then on the other group take your lumps and go with the second team and hope your extra guy(top player) breaks a long run with your 2nd team. The advantage of putting all your eggs in the one basket. Is it gives yourself a little break of constantly lining up the kids that don't get it. This way you get it all out of the way and don't have to do it every offensive series. Every team and league are different. But the suggestion proposed above is good for a coach that has less fire power than the opposing teams. Im all about having fun. And after coaching 4 seasons I've realized the kids don't have as much fun losing 6-42. It's our job to keep it competitive but not at the expense of kids sitting on the sideline. The team I currenlty coach is very good, it's easy for me to play everyone 50/50. But I've coached less talented teams and used the above approach. As for the end of the game situation. I would have probably substituted and try to put the game away. Then make it up to whoever was pulled out and give them a little love in a future game, with a special play for him or extra touches.

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