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Hey Monte, @monte22stokes@gmail.com

My apologies on being late to get to your question here regarding 7th and 8th travel team.

There is multiple layers here and I will answer it in the way the we approach our BCB travel ball programs here in ATL. And I’ll additionally answer in the way that I read your question…sometimes in our questions, there can be deeper meaning.

What has worked well for us:

1- we do equal playing time in our travel ball teams that run from 4th grade all the way to 17U age groups. We do equal playing time on 2 conditions

a) We play equal mins until the 4th quarter or if a 2 half game until what would be the last 25% of the game

b) That is assuming that you have 1) attended practice,   2) given great effort/your best effort    3) being a good teammate   4) being coachable

If a player is not executing on those 4 things, all bets are off and we don’t guarantee any playing time

In the 4th quarter, we go with the 5 players that give us a best chance to win that game. Those 5 players can change game to game depending on performance, opponent and/or flow of game.

We feel this approach allows for both development and not promoting a “Everyone gets a trophy” mentality. In life, you have to go earn things. If a player is unhappy with not closing games, that player (not parent) will learn to communicate with their coach. We feel that players need to learn how to have healthy, yet uncomfortable conversations with coaches and/or authority or people in general. This is a life skill that needs to be taught more.

We recently (as in this past Spring) tried a tweaked approach of this:

Equal playing time, except 4th quarter during pool play. Equal playing time for 1st half during bracket play and then 2nd half, play best 5 players.

Now, all this can only work if the coaches/organization are really clear on the front end with communication. We have found that you have to communicate this with extreme clarity during the tryout, pre-commitment stage so that parents and kids know what they are signing up for.  There can’t be surprises. If parents are looking for something else or not aligned with the program vision, it’s better to find that out before you get started rather than 2 tournaments in and you have to deal with frustrated parents, thus long emails , texts or phone calls when you want to invest your time and energy into coaching and developing the kids.

We aim to carry 10 players per team. We have carried 12 players as well. Through my experience, 10 is ideal, 12 is too many for games. 12 is fine for practice and may be even better than 10 because you can do more and protects against injuries, sickness or practice conflicts. 


Ideally, you don’t have a big talent gap between top players and bottom players. Top players get frustrated with inferior talent and might jump ship to a better team the following year as you may have experienced. 


The question you asked, “At what age should they start to accept roles and not get equal play time” …I am going to borrow from good friend and longtime PGC friend (current WNBA coach) Sefu Bernard.  WHO + WHY = WHAT + HOW

I think it goes back to who are you coaching and why are you coaching….that should lead to what you do and how you do it. If the goal is to win every 7th and 8th grade tournament, don’t play equal playing time and play your best players. I would even cut down your roster to 8 players and roll. If your goal is to develop players, playing the 5 best players the whole game is probably not in line with that. Now, we use the model I outlined above because we want both. We want to develop players, teach kids how to compete, help them understand life isn’t always fair, sometimes you aren’t good enough and you have to work harder, and we want to go compete for championships as well in tournaments. We won’t let the desire to win get in the way of development however. We won’t play the best player who has a poor attitude because we want to win. 

No system or model is full proof and has it’s shortcomings which ours does. We do think it’s pretty close to aligning our vision and values with the actual plan we lay out.


I hope this helps Monte. I will stop there and feel free to ping me back with additional questions after you have read this.