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Determining a Starting Lineup As Coach

When putting together your starting lineup (the kids who are playing in the game first), bear in mind that you usually have more kids on the roster (a listing of all the kids on your team) than can play at the same time. Also, kids want to rotate and play different positions throughout the game.

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Some leagues mandate that kids rotate through the lineup; in other leagues, this rule doesn't exist. Be certain to check your league's rules!

Suppose you have 15 kids on your soccer roster. The rules stipulate that only 11 kids can play at one time — that means four players are sitting out. The tricky part for you as coach is to make sure that no child sits out more than one quarter before everybody else does, and to make sure that each child gets a chance to play at several positions: up front as a forward, some work on defense, some time at mid-field, and maybe a few minutes as the goalkeeper.

In the majority of youth leagues, this policy is clear. As the coach, you have to rotate the players throughout the games so that every child takes a turn sitting out. That's the other purpose of the scoresheet: to keep track of which kids have sat out of the games and to ensure that you're fair about this distribution.

Keeping good players on the field

Suppose you have kids of varying abilities on your team and they all want to win. How do you keep your team rotating through, and at the same time put forth a competitive effort? By the time you've coached your team for a few practice sessions, you will have a decent idea of who your better players are.

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Ideally, whenever you put your team out to play, you always keep two or three of your better athletes on the field at the same time. While they all rotate through and sit out at various times, if you plan well enough, you never have to face a situation in which all of your better players are sitting out at the same time.

In other words, everybody still plays the same amount of time in a game, and everybody plays different positions. But with a little advance planning, you can map it out so that you always have a competitive team on the field during the game.

Announcing the starting lineup to your team

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Before you announce the starting lineup for the day, remind the kids of one key component: It doesn't make any difference what the starting lineup is because everybody is going to play in the game today.

This is important because every kid wants to be in the starting lineup. Perhaps even more significant is the fact that all parents want to see their children in the starting lineup. Indeed, no matter how much a parent demurs and says, "That's okay — I understand if my child isn't starting," the reality of human nature is that she will be disappointed.

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To reinforce the point that you're not going to play favorites and give certain kids special treatment, during the very first game of the season, be sure to have your own son or daughter sit out the first portion of the game. That's right — by not putting your own child in the starting lineup on opening day, you send a distinct message to the other kids and their parents that you are definitely not "playing favorites" this season.

While this may not be very fair to your own child who hopes to be in the starting lineup, explain it to your child this way: "Everybody has to sit out during the course of the season. It just happens that your time to sit has come up first."

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