Attendance: what message are you sending?

softball rules vs principles
Last week, I wrote this post about attendance, commitment, multi-sport athletes, and playing time.  It’s obviously a hot topic and, some of the thoughts I shared aren’t exactly what people thought they would be, nor what some wanted to hear.

I received an email back asking,

But what are you teaching them if you “show favoritism” by playing players who miss practice?

Another coach insisted that players who DO show up resent those who miss practice.

So I asked my daughter to pretend she has…

One teammate who shows up every single day to practice, but

  • goes through motions
  • complains regularly
  • brings teammates down
  • and is more of a distraction than a positive contributor

(this wasn’t hard for her to imagine because she recently had this exact kind of teammate)

And another teammate, who is in choir and, therefore, has to miss one practice every single week, but she

  • is focused
  • gives her very best effort
  • has a great attitude
  • lifts her teammates up
  • and is a big benefit to the team while she IS there

Which one would you want playing alongside to you?  Which one deserves to play?

Should the player that shows up every day play over the other one simply because they showed up more?

She very easily answered, “NO!”

I don’t think she’d be alone in that sentiment.

Of course, so many hypothetical and real scenarios exist.  But what if she’s just staying home because she’s too tired to attend practice? But what if she’s missing more than one day?  But what if she misses games, not only practice?  But what if…

This is the problem with operating your team on a bunch of rules instead of on guiding principles and core values.

With RULES, you tend to lay out the ONE hard fast response no matter what the surrounding circumstances are.  For example, many coaches have a RULE that, if you miss practice for any reason other than sickness, school, or family emergency, it is an “unexcused” absence which reduces playing time.

So what about all the “what ifs?”

You can’t possibly account for all the “what ifs” when you’re laying out RULES. That’s where coaches get caught with their pants down, making choices that go against what players and parents expect. This quickly creates conflict within your team.

OR, if you DO stick to your RULES, you miss out on being able to reward players that truly DO deserve it, crippling your team in the process.

When you operate your team based on PRINCIPLES and CORE VALUES…

  • attitude and effort matter
  • how you impact the team matters
  • how you carry yourself within the team environment matters
  • how you contribute to or take away from the team matters

…you give yourself the chance to evaluate each situation and make decisions accordingly.

You give yourself the opportunity to ALWAYS make decisions that most closely align with the principles and core values that matter most VS. tie yourself to hard, fast rules that may NOT always align with your core values (rewarding a “lazy” player because they came to more practices vs rewarding the player who gives their best attitude and effort in everything they do).

Principles don’t change.  How they are executed can.

Think about it.  What ARE you really trying to convey with your attendance policies/rules?  Do your current policies/rules communicate that showing up counts more than what you actually DO while you’re there?

But what are you teaching the kids if you “show favoritism” and play girls that miss practice over players that don’t?

If the players missing practice are doing so for valid reasons (not just missing because they’re tired or want to watch TV instead), then you’re giving all of them a taste of the real world through sports.

It is not favoritism.  It’s real life.

It IS you who contributes most gets the benefit. Some players contribute in time, other players contribute in attitude and effort and performance. If all you have on your side is time, you need to step it up.

This applies in REAL life!

When I got hired at the last full-time, outside the home job I had, I told them from the very beginning that I had to leave every day at 3:30 instead of 4:00 because I coached softball.  I also let them know there would be times during the week when I had to leave even earlier (on game days).

On regular practice days, I came in 30 minutes early and made up the time. On game days, I was simply short 1-2 hours of work time. BUT, I could get more done in 6 hours than previous employees were doing in 8.

So even though I had to miss some work hours every week for almost half the year (during softball season), I was still the easy choice for management to make for the position.

You don’t get paid (or played) just for showing up. That’s not good enough!

Even with the hours missed, I was a bigger benefit to the company than other candidates who could show up 8 hours a day, day in and day out, and would never need to call in sick because of sick kids as I inevitably would. Not only that, I quickly moved up from an entry level position to a management position despite my need to cut hours short for softball!

My reason for missing these WORK hours wasn’t for sickness or family emergencies or even for further training or development for work.  I was taking time off to do something that mattered to ME. Coach softball.

My boss and the CFO and the owner of the company were all more than willing to accommodate what I needed in order for me to be part of their team.

So honestly, what are we teaching our kids if we DO give them playing time just because they show up more? Is that really the message you want to send? Or are we setting them up to get beat out in the workplace by someone like me? Because they expect rewards just for showing up?

If real world BOSSES in real world work places can make exceptions, where do softball coaches get off making softball more important than anything else?

Someone told me, “You open a can of worms if you start letting players do choir or dance or debate.”

It doesn’t matter to me what the other activity is.  If we’re being honest with ourselves, almost ANY other activity a player participates in can likely be part of her life MUCH longer than playing softball.  Singing, dance, debate, all those things can much more easily turn into careers or future jobs than softball can.  Other sports, such as soccer and volleyball, provide more future opportunities than softball right now.

Who are we to keep young ladies from those endeavors in the name of softball?

I realize not every work place is like the one I worked at. Regardless, excellence attracts opportunities.

Showing up isn’t enough. Stop making up team rules that send a message that it is.

If all else is equal, then yes, attendance may very well be the determining factor in how you set your lineup.  But the attendance factor most certainly does not top my list when I look at potential starters, especially if the absences were communicated up front.

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Comments 3

  • First, I absolutely love your site. Keep up the amazing work!
    My daughter is in her last season of high school softball and will soon be officially signing with Mercyhurst Nort East. She has worked hard for years on and off the field to keep up her grades and her skills. She has one team mate who also runs spring track in addition to softball. She misses half the practices for track and has not played softball in 2 years. She was promised a starting Varsity position before her first practice. She’s a sweet girl and a decent player, but this teacher/coach drove off a girl better suited to her position with insults and favoritism. This player’s mother teaches in the same building and she played in a local Rec league for him. I agree there are circumstances in which a driven player should be excused for an absence, but this is killing team morale. My daughter is out for 2 weeks with GIRD and hasn’t missed a practice or game. She and the other 2 seniors try to lead and keep attitudes strong but it’s difficult with his “it’s who you know” way of coaching. Another cried and threw a fit in the dugout because she was pulled for errors. She started the next game. I’m all for flexibility and dealing with player’s on a case by case basis but there also has to be fairness.

    It’s too bad high school coaches are not chosen by ability instead of being a teacher and not given a job by reason of being staff.

  • First, I agree w/your last paragraph. High school coaches most definitely should be coaches w/experience and leaders. As my daughter grows, I will def be seeking future coaching opportunities at that level, prior to her even being in HS. If that means, I have to change jobs – I’ve been an ED nurse for 10 years, then fine. I’ll go be a school nurse, just so I have that “needed requirement,” which I feel is a stupid one. As an Athletic Director (which I am not), why would you want a coach w/minimal or less desirable experience, just “coaching,” (used loosely), rather than someone who is dedicated, passionate, and can advance the school team to bring home championship titles (every child’s & great coach’s aspiration & dream)? I do not understand this! back in the day, I had a coach who did it for the 3K rec’d for the “job.” I didn’t grow. When our Head Coach became our Athletic Director and took over that group – b/c we weren’t a “team,” we quickly became one! He was dedicated, organized w/practice plans, went over and beyond to get me to pitching clinics and learn. He saw in me-my drive, passion, & love for the game and was able to get me to advance my game, learn life lessons, and how important commitment is to something you absolutely LOVE! I am forever grateful for him.

    About your other statements, can you control this situation ? No, so remember, as a parent-your role is cheerleader/encourager. When parents “vent” frustration about X situation, when a child is already emotional about it, think about how that affects that child. Are you going to make the situation better by joining in on the constant drama or are you going to be supportive w/providing maybe a different perspective and encourage her and others to focus on the positives, b/c no matter what in life-there are TONS of negatives. Parents can kill team spirit, make situations worse than what they are actually perceived to be, and then players take that and bring it to the field. The frustration and tension effects the team. Again, there is no “I” in team. I can’t stress that enough. Maybe something that will help parents w/situations like this is to take a moment-wrote your thoughts down and put them in an envelope. Address the envelope: “If I were the coach.” Then leave it alone. Don’t even bother giving it to the coach. Why? B/c are you going to change anything or make the situation better? Nope.

    As far as the “tantrum” – This is how you can help her if you want to, b/c just observing and complaining doesn’t help players grow or learn. That is a life lesson. Obviously, she needs a mistake ritual. Everyone of my teams have one. The players need to be “10 second time” (not sure if you saw that movie!) in order to let errors be errors. Life is full of mistakes, but you learn from them and try not to make the same mistake again. If you want to help her now and the team, suggest they come up w/a mistake ritual. Wiping the forehead, signal like flushing the toilet-a sign and mental indicator that the error was made and it’s gone. This gets them psychologically back into the game. Carrying that frustration of making an error is immense b/c you let your team down. Same thing in real life. Let it go, learn from it, move on. I teach my players to be 10 sec Tom. We joke, we laugh, we have fun. If you can’t let go of the error, continue on making them then what good are you doing the team by leaving her in there? You aren’t. So let her cry or vent or whatever she needs to do w/her emotions. When things settle (my own 24 hr rule), a good coach would then discuss errors and how to manage them.

    But hey, that’s my two cents. Take it or leave it. I volunteer to coach. It’s important to ME! I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

    Much love and good luck -J

  • Should read “10 second Tom’s”

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