Talent, character, and mental toughness matter. Those who have these traits will tend to play more than those who don’t. I’ll take character over talent any day. I lived this issue as an athlete and see it now as a coach and director. The coach will normally be accused of "Playing Favorites" with the amount of playing time an athlete is receiving. People will also accuse parents of the athlete playing over their child of “sucking up” to the coach.
Any good coach doesn’t allow this to happen. We love soccer because it is reflective of life, it teaches priceless life lessons. Instead of looking for an excuse and blaming politics, players should be taught how to accept, embrace, and be the best they are in their role. Everyone on a team has a role, but not everyone can or will be the star. If a player can understand and accept that early on, they will have created a growth attitude allowing them to succeed in each aspects of their life.
Do coaches play favorites? Yes, absolutely. Our favorite athletes do the following five things:
Work hard. They bring it every day in every drill. They do not take days off. It’s not enough just to put in work when it’s required (practices, off-season team workouts), the best players put in many unassigned hours. They work on their game when no one else is around. That is how they separate and elevate themselves.
Listen. Our favorite players listen with their eyes. They make eye contact when listening to and speaking with others. Eye contact tells the coach the player is engaged, that they understands and even more importantly, that they care. We want players who are bought in.
Build others. Coaches love when athletes raise the level of play. The best players bring out the best in others. Players who are enthusiastic and encourage their teammates will get to play. Coaches will always find a spot for someone who puts others above himself. We love players who root and cheer like crazy for their teammates. They become more than just a teammate, they become leaders, which by nature puts them in the spotlight.
Show up. Just by showing up you can create your place on the team. Consistency is key, you can't continue to develop if you're here one day and gone the next. Players need to be taught to take advantage of opportunity, it will come but many won’t be ready to take advantage because they haven’t shown up and put work in.
Star in your role. Before you can move up to a bigger role, you have to be great in your current role. If you don’t accept, embrace, and excel in your current role, how can I trust you with a bigger one? I think this is so crucial, but often overlooked. If you want more playing time, show the coach why you deserve it. Star in your role and the opportunity will come for a larger one.