With my same middle daughter, I’ve experienced two kinds of playing time issues. When she was in kindergarten soccer, she would not play at all if I was near the field. Instead, she would want to sit on my lap. I was banned most of the season in order to get my daughter to play by the coach, my husband. When she was older and playing club soccer, she was very cognizant of playing time. Starting and playing time was a proxy for the social pecking order of the team. It’s the perceived relationship of starting/playing time and social status on the team that coaches should be aware of. Even mixing up the starting line up once a season, signals to the players that everyone is valued, and that there are no “favorites.”
It’s important for the coach to give a pre-season message about playing and starting philosophy. I believe that for kids U12 and younger, every player should have equal playing starting and playing time. They should also play different positions.
For very young players, coaches may have a different kind of problem concerning participation. Some kids might not want to be play at all during games. Taking a very gentle approach to young athletes is very important. I found that asking them if a friend or sibling holding their hand on the field would help. A lot of time it does.
Coaches should look for games where the lineup can be switched up so that everyone gets a change to start.
For more on this topic, please read How to Coach Girls when it comes out in March of 2018.