Where do y'all draw the line and at what age do you start focusing more on the "W" and less on making sure you've gotten all of the players MEANINGFUL playing time over the course of the season?
I'll give you a brief of my background and my take on this question, as it is always an interesting topic.
I've been a middle school and high school coach for the past 5 years. I currently play in adult "semi-pro" baseball leagues and I played for 3 years in college.
As a high school coach, I've always looked for ways to get as many of my players meaningful playing time (i.e. not just in blowouts or scrimmages). Baseball creates alot of issues with playing time because it doesn't have unlimited substitution, but I really strive to get my players legit field experience over the course of the season.
Obviously non-league games were great ways to get alot of the second tier players starts and keep them in there for most of the game, but I wasn't against starting a "backup" in a league game if a "starter" was slumping or just to shake things up. I had really no worry if that "backup" was going to cost us the game because I had enough faith to put him on the team. How do you handle the "starter" who COMPLAINS in this situation about having to sit out, or the parents who were insistent on knowing why their son got "benched" for a game?
What kind of service does it do to have a player on the team who goes through the season and gets like 5 at-bats? Why as coaches should we justify it as "they should just be happy to be on the team"? This isn't the pros and when they look back 10 years later, they aren't going to remember the wins / losses, they'll remember the playing time.
I've learned that sometimes I didn't get a good read on a player and they had a really hard time performing in games (wild pitching / poor defense / offense). but I still try to come back to them to try to keep their confidence up.
Do you try to stay conscious of whom you've given playing time to over the course of a few games (i.e. - I've sat this one for 3 games straight, etc etc)?
When I coached middle school, everyone split games and I rotated starters every game. I tried to mix the talent as best as I could, but I had no care if making a substituion was going to cost me the game. Again I try to instill in my players that I have that faith in them. Youth baseball shouldn't be judged on having a "winning team" because again what do those championships REALLY mean?
When do you put your personal desire to "win" in front of the playing time for the kids? I'm definitely aware that high school ball isn't going to be even playing time, but what service does it to for that player on the team with minimal at-bats / innings pitched? How do you mix up playing time and still stay competitive? If you polled all of the kids individually, what do you think they would say is more important, winning or playing in the game?
As a player, I still see in adult leagues coaches shutting out grown men of playing time because we have to "win"? Winning is nice on that level, but what "props" do you get for having a winning men's team? The public doesn't follow it like high school ball, the only people that know are the others in the league. How do you take people on a team and then give them like 1 at-bat every game or go a whole game and not play them when they're PAYING to be there? I've even seen some coaches worried about letting the "backup" player start a game for fear of pissing off the "starter". How can the "starter" be pissed when they're getting the majority of the time? They're both PAYING to be there. It surprised me at the lack of humility on the adult level when it comes to sharing time. I know guys want to be out there, but when you are paying, you shouldn't be above sharing time, this isn't the pros.
A coach should be able to balance playing time while staying competitive, especially below the college level where 9 times out of 10 your job is not on the line if you have a losing season. And I still say in colleges, there is definietly time to get the bench in, because that bench is one ankle sprain away from being your starters.