Playing time…always a sensitive and stressful topic.. for players, coaches and parents alike. The goal of any player is to make an impact on the field, and it should be. But what if we looked at every experience, playing and not playing alike, as an opportunity to grow, change, teach, lead and learn.
Playing time is not the only measure of success in sport. And often one’s approach to the team mentality will dictate his or her view of playing time as a measure of success. In youth sport, all players play….as it should be. As athletes move through the various ranks and levels of sport, there is shift in the equality of playing time…as it should be. The more athletically talented players play more. This transition can be difficult; but, I believe, if we shift our mindset slightly, all of us, parents, coaches and players alike, we will understand that some of our greatest opportunities lie in how we approach the bench.
Playing time, in high school and beyond, is given to the players the coach believes will give the team the best chance to win. That doesn’t mean it’s always given to the best role models, or the best teammates or the best people. It may not be fair but it is a parallel to life– we don’t always get what we work for and we don’t always get what we want. That being said, the players on the bench have a role and can contribute if they choose to endure the “agony of riding the bench,” focusing on the possibilities of leadership and teamwork. Every player, no matter playing time, has the ability and opportunity to be a role model in hard work, perseverance, and grit… and an even bigger message it sends when a player gives all they have in practice knowing the game day reward may not be there. Every player has the opportunity to be a leader, to encourage those around him or her to improve, to lift up instead of tear down, to do the work the right way…even when the coach is not watching. This is more a life skill and success factor than playing… this is just the type of person that will do great things in life. In her commencement speech at Barnard , Abby Wambach, one of the greatest female soccer players of all times, even cited “leading from the bench” as one of the pillars of success in sport and life, as later in her career she had to do just that.
If you don’t get to play…keep fighting for every minute, never give up, work harder and longer than the person next to you…because that is the only way to get on the field..but also, because that is what it means to be on a team…personal sacrifice for the betterment of the team.
If you get to play…keep fighting for every minute, never give up, work harder and longer than the person next to you….because it is the only way to stay on the field…and the only way to be a teammate and a leader.
Some of the athletes that forever impacted Broadneck lacrosse and its culture rarely stepped foot on the field. I hope they know who they are. They worked hard no matter the reward, in humility, and, in doing so, taught those around what it means to be on team, to play for each other, to be in it together. We still use them as examples in our team talks to this day…Playing time is not the ultimate factor in success in sports. And it will never be. I learned the most when I rode the bench… and I continue to admire the athletes that rode mine with pride, humility and the ultimate demonstration of leadership and selflessness….