The critical issue arises at any level of soccer. Your team is competing well, but you know that if you take off your best player and let the worst player on the team come on, there’s a good bet that you guys will lose. But, if you leave him or her sitting on the bench, you also know that they will feel miserable and you’re also likely to have a chat with their parents.
So what to do? The situation depends upon the game and its importance. Most recreational soccer games are simply for sport and to get kids running around the field. So in essence, the end result really shouldn’t matter and the playing time should be generally equal amongst the whole team. This isn’t the time to impress scouts. This isn’t the time for you to get your break into professional coaching. It is for the children. Put the kid in.
The matter takes on a whole new perspective if you are a coach of a travel club team or a junior high or high school team. Clearly, there is a bit more focus on winning at this level. The trick is to identify which players are in the top tier. Those players will need to play a bit more than the rest as obviously they are the most likely to win the game. Most coaches realize this.
The issue I find too often is on the opposite end of the team; the few players who just barely made the team, are unlikely to make an impact, and spend the entire season in bored delirium on the bench. Occasionally they get their five minutes of garbage time at the end of the game but that’s only if you’re winning by a wide margin.
The problem I have with this sort of situation is that soccer is a sport based on consistency. What that means is that most players are capable of making a great impact, it is just a matter of how often they do it. Everyone on the lower half of the team should therefore be given an equal amount of playing time since it isn’t possible to know who will perform best on any given day.
Or if you wish, you can make your team selection based on who plays best during warm ups before any given match. Don’t let your team know that is how you are basing your choice, because then they will wear themselves out before the first whistle. But this way, you can keep up a competitive feeling throughout the whole team, knowing that everyone is potentially a starter.
I feel that if there are such benchwarmers on the team, they perhaps shouldn’t have even been in the squad in the first place. Sure they provide depth, but if you aren’t planning on using them, there really isn’t any point. Having miserable people on the team will merely bring morale down and inflate the egos of your starters. Therefore, make sure you have a team with a good balance of playing time.