Lessons From the Bench!
The bench. The pine. That little aluminum seat inside the dugout where you can often find downtrodden girls (and aggravated parents) who dream of being on the brick-dust and often start to feel ‘less than adept’ because they sit there so often.
Parents hate the bench. And so do most kids. If you are on a travel or select team, and your daughter is constantly on the bench, you should likely start looking for a team that will EMPOWER her. If you aren’t the best player on a team, that’s okay – everyone starts somewhere. Having better players can be motivational. But at the same time in travel/select ball, your daughter isn’t going to improve her game day skills if she is constantly benched while perceived/apparent better players play the game. Personally, I would rather my daughter play on a team that matches her level AND GET PLAYING TIME than play on an A Ball team and never play.
Experience grows players. There is NOTHING better than field, GAME experience to improve players.
But in other situations, such as school ball, where coaches sort of inherit multiple girls who ALL play the same position on their other team, fielding a team gets hairy. And then you have good players sitting the bench, because obviously only one can play first at a time, only one can pitch at a time, only one can catch. There is almost always the odd man out (or many odd women out) who sit patiently behind the chain link and watch their teammates play. And of course, every parent thinks their child should be the one on the field rather than the bench.
The thing is, as we have just personally learned from experience, there are a lot of lessons from the bench that can be extremely beneficial to a player if SHE CHOOSES (and is allowed by parents) to learn the lessons!
One of those things is self-worth. Many of you may disagree with this, but the REALITY is that our children need to learn early in life that THEY GET TO DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES HOW WORTHY THEY ARE! THEY, no one else gets to decide that for them. These girls have to stop looking to others to find their self-worth, have to stop waiting for a compliment, a pat on the back, or for acceptance from one person, in order to feel worthy. Bottom line, is some people just wont give the kudos or credits. And when it comes to fastpitch softball in particular, there are a TON of differing opinions about talent.There will always be people who see it in your daughter, and there will always be people who don’t see it in your daughter. The trick, is teaching your player to carry on regardless.
These girls that we love, have to learn not to place all their self-confidence in the hands of other people. What other people think of them doesn’t matter, its none of their business, nor is it ours as their parents. What our daughters think of themselves??? That’s what is important.
Sitting the bench can do one of two things. It can make a player angry and frustrated and want to give up, OR it can motivate them.
It can motivate them to realize their own potential. It can motivate them to become even better than they already are, to see that they are just as good (even better) than other girls. It can motivate them to take their fate into their own hands, and start making decisions for themselves about what they want out of this game AND what they are willing to give. It can motivate them to work harder, and smarter. It can motivate them to realize that not everyone’s opinion of them is important. That the most important opinion of who they are, lies within them.
Bench time, can also be CRITICAL to helping girls sort out what it is they really want. Sometimes, you have to spend quite a bit of time doing what you don’t like, feeling what doesn’t feel good – to know what you DO WANT and what does feel good!
We have recently watched a player come off the bench with a new-found self-confidence that we didn’t know existed. We have watched her decide to toss away others opinions of her talent, and learn to decide for herself, finally and at last, that she is good enough. We have watched her make decisions about how far she wants to go in this sport that would have NEVER been made before her bench time. We have watched her see just how hard she could push herself physically and mentally, to reach her goals.
While the bench time offered her a wide gamut of emotions that ran from wanting to quit forever and self doubt and frustration, the journey also gave her life skills that she would have never gained otherwise. The skill to survive in less than perfect conditions. The realization that you don’t always just get what you want, just because you want it. The reasoning that sometimes you have to work harder than everyone else, and it still may not give you that starting position you covet, BUT IT WILL IN the long run MAKE YOU BETTER. The truth that desire and passion are two things no one can ever take away from you.
And sometimes, it is important to teach our kiddos that the bigger plan for them is a work in progress. Allowing both the GOOD and the not so pleasant experiences to happen is an important part of their growth. It shapes their story, their future. If you just run from the bad experience, you never have the chance to learn what it is this big world has to teach you.
Part of being an amazing player is learning how to endure and remain MENTALLY TOUGH, through all conditions. The softball experience is a lot like life. Its a process. Instead of negating every situation, jumping on the bandwagon of pout and frustration, start asking your kids what they can learn from their particular situation. Ask them what they can do to make the most out of what is going on? Ask them to define what they want, how they feel and what goals they can put in place personally to ensure they move forward.
Lessons from the bench, while sometimes frustrating and disheartening – are often EXACTLY what your child needs to get themselves to the next level.
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