The View from the Bench
What most youth coaches fail to realize
The Try outs are over, the cuts are made. The rejoicing begins over the roster spot you apparently have earned. You believe that now that you wear the uniform, you are actually going to go out on the field or on the court and be a part of the games. Be part of the team.
The games begin and you find yourself sitting on the bench. Through cold weather it if it an outdoor sport and often in a cold or stuffy gym if it is an indoor sport. You give up other activities that you enjoy because your coach says that in order to be a part of the team, you must be dedicated. You attend every practice, at times when you are actually not feeling well. You forsake vacations,extra curricular activities, parties and nights out with your friends to make sure you are alert and available for the game. You work hard in practice, listen intently and do all that the coach has demanded of you.
But then, you sit. You watch as every other player enters the game....except you. As you watch, and watch something is lost. Your confidence, your self esteem and eventually...your desire to work hard. Honestly, why would you keep all of those things if you are left behind while players who show attitude, miss practices and even try outs get to play before you and at times are the starters. I am sure that does not make you feel too great. If it were about talent, you might accept it, but there are players in there who are slower, not as skilled and definitely not doing what the coach has told them to do.
Now make yourself into a teenager. A vulnerable, and trusting young person. You are walking a fine line on a daily basis of how you feel about yourself. You are growing into an adult therefore all that is said and done before your eyes becomes an example to you of what your life has become or will be in the future. Every emotion is stronger than an adult. Things are not easy to forget as they were when you were a child. It is a powder keg and it should not be. Sports should be the highlight of your day. Studies show that students that are part of a team are better behaved in school as well as achieving good grades.
As a sports parent, spouse of a coach and an assistant coach myself, I absolutely understand that sports are competitive and our mentality of everyone gets a trophy is not always wise on the upper levels of athletics. However, if someone is good enough to make the roster, why are they not good enough to participate in a game? It is a fact that athletes do NOT improve unless they are in actual competitive play. Scrimmaging your teammates and attending practices does not show what a player can truly do. It also offers no challenge or opportunity because level of play is lower among your own teammates
In addition, if an athlete is sat game after game, often the ONLY player who sits, an explanation should be offered. If you as a coach honestly do not feel they are ready for this level of play, then you need to be the leader that you are supposed to be and take time with that player. It is not about how well the star player plays that defines you, it is about how the last man on the bench improved on your watch.
A truly good youth coach can take ANY combination of his or her players and put them in a game. ANY. Do you know why? It is simple, if you have done your job as a YOUTH coach, you have worked with every single player and imparted every bit of wisdom you have to assist them in playing as best they can. If you are not learned in any particular area, you educate yourself. Go to clinics, watch videos, speak to other coaches.Grow...be the example you should for your players.
Do you know why? Here it is. YOU ARE NOT A PROFESSIONAL COACH. You are a YOUTH coach. You have an incredible opportunity to take young men or young women and give them moments they will remember for the rest of their lives. Your job is not to win games. You are not at a college level where your career is dependent upon your win and loss record. You are molding young human beings into adults. Do you have any idea how important that is? No, I think far too many of you do not. Do you know why? Because it is about YOU. You are coaching for YOU. For the glory you feel when your team wins. For the interview in the newspaper. To dream a dream of coaching on the next level, which 9 times out of 10 does NOT happen.
So as you sit that dedicated teenager or pre teen on the bench game after game without any thought of an explanation, you are teaching him or her about disappointment. You are teaching them that hard work does NOT pay off. That dedication is nonsense. You are showing them that being a prima dona and talking back to the coach or the referee is fine as long as you score them winning goals or baskets.
Just how many of your players will play on the next level? I guarantee you, not that many if any at all. And if they do, you will have NOT equipped them with the emotional tools necessary to be there. The first time they miss a practice on the next level and then throw a tantrum, there is a good chance that they will be tossed from the team. If they do not play sports, they may do what you taught them in the work place or in a college classroom. I wonder how fast they will be fired?
How often have I sat at a field or in a gym and watched kids as young as 9 sit through entire or near full games without being a part of the action. That is truly a sad state of affairs and a disgrace on the part of the coach and the athletic program that it is permitted to go on. Never mind the fact that you have collected money from the parents, forced them to buy equipment, had them driving all over the place often giving up other commitments to get their child to the games. NO ONE learns anything constructive in sports by just sitting around. You have to be in it to win it. If you are a youth coach that sits a child for any time longer than 4 minutes, hang your head in shame. You need to turn in your whistle and go sit in the stands.
If you are coaching simply to make YOUR child the star, you also need to hand in your coach's pass and walk quickly to the bleachers or better yet, get in your car and go home. You are not only hurting the team but being a poor parent as well.
The view from the bench is fine if it is not the only view you ever see. Take a minute and get into the psyche of a teenager or a pre teen who is going through massive changes and emotions as it is, and imagine what they must be thinking game after game. " will he play me today?" "maybe if I lose more weight she will let me play" " What did I do? Did I say something wrong?" "Does the coach not like me? Every kid played except me. All my friends are here. I am such a loser" "when I went in last time, he said I played well. Now I do not play at all. I am confused." "I am humiliated, they tease me at school for sitting the bench. I wish I were dead." These are some of their thoughts.
Step back, be the adult. Stop trying to live your athletic career through these kids. That time is OVER. It is about mentoring these kids now. Your success is what kind of human beings you are helping them become. Some of these kids only have you. They do not go home to loving and concerned parents. What you do in these short years will stay with them forever. They will remember what you say, what you do, and how you behaved. Some will remember you fondly, some will hate and despise you. You have a chance to leave a mark. Make it a good one.
- To coach is defined as to train or teach someone.
An example of to coach is someone training a high school soccer team.
To train or to teach someone.........think about what you are training them to do or teaching them to be.
"I never cease to be amazed at the power of the coaching process to draw out the skills or talent that was previously hidden within an individual, and which invariably finds a way to solve a problem previously thought unsolvable."
"A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are."
"Make no mistake, as you change your leadership style to one of a coach you will face challenges. There will be times when you question why am I doing this. However, you must at all times keep the long term benefits of being a coach at the forefront of your mind."
Byron & Catherine Pulsifer, from Challenges in Adopting a Coaching Style
You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within."