Even Bench Warmers Can Be Winners
Players can help their team win even from the sidelines.
When you join a team, the last thing you want to do is play, right? After all, why spend hour after hour panting and sweating during practice or a game when you can take in all the action from a nice, cozy spot on the sidelines?
Unless you’re just looking for an excuse to get out of the house, you want to play. Whether you’re aspiring to get a college scholarship or playing for fun, you don’t want to spend all your time on the bench.
Unfortunately, there are only so many starting positions to go around. Plus, injuries and consistently poor play can contribute to a player being out of the lineup.
If you keep up with college basketball, you may remember the sideline antics of the Monmouth University basketball team several years ago. Their bench received national attention for the hilarious celebrations they performed during games. They became so popular that high school teams and even some NBA players began emulating them.
It isn’t necessary to be creative or goofy to keep a roster spot. But there are ways players can contribute to their team even while on the sidelines.
Always Be Ready
How many movies or TV shows have you seen where the kid who never plays comes in near the end and becomes the hero? Sometimes it happens in real life.
I remember watching a college football game years ago in which the starting quarterback and the backup both got hurt. The third-string quarterback hadn’t played all year, but he came in and led the team to victory over one of its biggest rivals.
It’s always possible the coach may call on you if a starter goes out with an injury or they become ineffective, so it’s important to be prepared.
It’s important for all players to keep physically loose during the game, especially if they might be called on after a sudden injury.
The longer you sit, the harder it will be to get warmed up. Eric Johnson of Keep Playing Baseball
a nonprofit organization devoted to helping high school players get to the collegiate level, suggests staying loose between innings by jogging, stretching, or warming up other players. If your time to play does come, you’ll need less time to get warmed up.
Be a Coach On the Bench
This certainly doesn’t mean taking over the coach’s job. But you can soak up a lot of information when you’re not in the thick of the action. Being on the sidelines often allows you to study the other team, and relay your observations to coaches and teammates.
If you are a basketball player, watch the opponents you may be guarding if you do get into the game. A quarterback should study potential weaknesses in a defense he can take advantage of. I’ve spoken with many youth coaches who have praised their bench players for taking that initiative. Who knows? You may have a future in coaching.
Stay Engaged with the Team
Villanova University forward Maddy Siegrist had only been at practice two days when her freshman season was cut short by an ankle injury.
As devastating as that was, Siegrist was determined to remain a part of the team. She worked hard during rehab, and learned as much as she could from the coaching staff. The next season, she led the team in scoring and rebounding.
“The next year is when I realized I was able to (improve) my game more by knowing where to be in the right spots and knowing when to cut and when not to cut,” Siegrist told me during an interview for FloHoops.com. “I wouldn’t have known that initially. I think watching it and then being able to practice it helped.”
Study the Other Player At Your Position
Johnson advises players to watch the starter who won the position they’re seeking. What does he or she do differently, and why do you feel they were chosen over you? If you can answer those questions, it may not only help you deal with the frustration of not being a starter, but allow you to take the next step in becoming one.
Step Up Your Own Game
Sitting on the bench isn’t always a bad thing, says youth coach and conditioning instructor Jeanne Goodes. It can actually be a great motivator to get better.
“Sitting the bench may make the youth athlete work that much harder in practice and at home,” Goodes explained. “It may give athletes the motivation, drive, and commitment needed to make them a starter.”
This is a tough one for most athletes, but it’s crucial to maintain a positive attitude when not playing. Johnson says if you make it obvious you’re unhappy with your role, don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for you. They will see you as a bad teammate and will do everything to avoid you. Any coach will tell you one of the best qualities of an athlete is a team-first mentality over individual goals or accomplishments.
Lead the Cheering Section
You’d be surprised how much better your team plays when they see their fellow backups cheering as enthusiastically as fans in the bleachers.
I remember being injured during a baseball tournament and having to sit out another game later that day. Our opponent was the defending champion, and we were a less experienced team.
I cheered at the top of my lungs practically the whole game, even though it was killing me inside not being out there. We put up a good fight and just barely lost. To this day, some of my former teammates still tell me how inspired they were by my energy and yells of encouragement.
Sitting on the bench doesn’t have to be the end of the world. The star athletes who have been backups at one time or another are too numerous to mention. But they obviously found a way to get better. So be ready, work hard, and stay positive. You may learn some valuable insights that could make you a better player. Plus, you never know when the coach will call your name.
Hot Takes and Great Reads
I got some great feedback from last week’s article on Justine Siegal and her fight for the inclusion of more girls in baseball. (Comments have been lightly edited for clarity).
Keith P writes, “My junior year in high school, we played at a tournament at the beginning of the season. They had a girl. She played shortstop. We thought we were going to have an easy game because they had to get a girl to play.
“We ended up winning the game, but it wasn’t as easy as we thought. And there was a reason she played shortstop; she was good with a capital G. Good for her and girls like Justine.”
Great story, Keith; thanks for sharing. Keep those comments coming on this or any other article you read in the newsletter.
Being a sports parent isn’t easy. Some handle it like pros; others are just hoping they can get through a season without pulling their hair out. No matter the situation, there’s a tweet for it.
I came across this article featuring 35 top tweets from sports parents. Some are funny, some quite blunt. Either way, check it out here.
Thanks to some volunteers in Kent County, Michigan, disabled kids and adults got to enjoy some downhill skiing.
The Cannonsburg Challenged Ski Association (CCSA) partnered with the City of Kentwood Parks and Recreation Department and Mary Free Bed’s Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports to assist 19 skiers in the annual downhill clinic, which took place February 5.
For some, it was their first time on the slopes, while others keep coming to the clinic each year.
“The Cannonsburg Challenged Ski Association or CCSA are really the angels in disguise out here,” Ann Przybysz, recreation program coordinator for Kentwood Parks and Recreation, told MLive.com. “They are really doing the leg work for all of our skiers on the hill to make sure people are successful.”
Angels, indeed. Click here to read the full story.
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