If anyone who comes on this site has read anything I’ve written you should pretty much be aware that I’m on a one man crusade to stop coaches from abusing some kids through the practicing of benching, or essentially giving a player on the team either no, or very, very little, meaningful playing time.
I stated that this practice is really only bad on team sports where a team of 5-6-9-11 or so players take the field or court. I’ve gone on further to state that this practice can be very, very bad in team sports where the act of playing does NOT physically exhaust a player to the point where he/she needs to be subbed for by someone sitting on the bench. Two team sports that come to mind in this category are baseball and volleyball. My family’s experience is with my daughter in the sport of volleyball.
So let me first describe my parental feelings by saying that seeing my daughter, or any of my children, take the field, or court, gives my heart unspeakable joy. My joy is made even more intense in seeing her perform well, or in knowing that she’s part of a very very good team. My feelings can’t be odd for a parent . . .can they? I’m certain every parent reading this feels the way that I do. My excitement level is such that as my daughter’s season approaches my mood starts to brighten thinking of days or evenings where I’ll get to see my daughter play her sport. I mark these days on my calendar and I count them off to game day. If there’s a possibility that a work or other life event might get me down or slide me into a crappy mood . . .I’ll shake off those feelings saying to myself . . . .”Yes, that’s crappy, but at least I get to see my girl’s volleyball match tomorrow!” And then . . . .everything’s ok!
So, again, any of you who’ve read any of my previous posts knows what comes next. While I’ve written about this from my daughter’s perspective I’m now going to write about it from mine. I’ve written about how such happiness and excitement a young athlete has in being selected to a team can quickly turn to horrific pain and self-esteem destruction when the child realizes that the coach just isn’t going to play her! I’ve stated that at the level where my daughter plays volleyball, being selected to a particular club or varsity level team is, of itself, a tremendous accomplishment but, in seeing what can happen to a child on just such a team who receives no playing time, I can’t any longer take pride or happiness in just team selection. That accomplishment MUST go hand-in-hand with receiving playing time. Now I really don’t view selection as an accomplishment if playing time isn’t there. Seeing the devastation the lack of playing time causes I now view being selected to a team, where playing time is excluded, to be among the cruelest “jokes’ that can be played upon a young person’s heart!
But in this blog I’m writing about me when this happens with/to my child. It’s therapeutic when I write and I just need to let a little of my own pain escape my body through my fingertips. Thinking someone might read this and may even give me some advice helps me all the more. So as way of background I provide this quick synopsis:
My daughter’s Junior High Years – 1 year of scholastic volleyball – 2 years of club volleyball : played a good amount in scholastic volleyball – was told she was very good but had to “learn” in club –so very little playing time (oh and this team went to the USA Volleyball National Championships)
Freshman Year – scholastic volleyball – JV – honor to make JV, not “C” squad, but not as much playing time as we felt she deserved : Club – again made the same club team a year older, devastated to learn her club recruited other girls who were promised playing time over her – again very little playing time (but this team also went to national championships)
Sophomore Year – scholastic volleyball – plays on JV- NEVER comes off the court and “swings” every game with Varsity: Club – changes club as we now see the true character of the people who ran her last club – makes a very good team ranked among the top 4-5 in state, and they just miss qualifying for the national championships – playing time is very good
Junior year (current) – scholastic volleyball – selected to Varsity – is not playing anywhere near the amount she feels she deserves – I couldn’t agree more!
And that’s where I pick up the story again. As my girl did all the pre-season things for her high school ALL the feedback we received was positive from her. She told us how well she thought she was doing, how positive her coach was, and how she felt she stacked up favorably to other girls on the team. So as the season approached I got all those feelings in side of me as her first game approached. At work on the day of that first game I was almost giddy.
Imagine all of my family’s devastation as the six girls take the court and my daughter isn’t one of them! Well, at first we think, that’s ok. . . .starting isn’t everything . . it’s getting to play. Even though we’ve seen SOOOOOO many volleyball coaches in that history I gave you above who just go with, and stay with, the same six girls thoughout ALL the games. But I wipe those thoughts away because knowing the abilities my daughter brings to that team, I know she’ll be in soon.
First game goes by . . .my daughter doesn’t play at all.
Ok, well in high school volleyball you have to win three games. So there’s always the second game.
She doesn’t go in the second game.
She doesn’t go in the third game until her team is up 18 to 11. By now I can see, when she goes in just how red her face is from crying. She couldn’t hold it in and actually began weeping while on the bench.
She played well when she was in . . . .but the damage was done.
So you know what happened. Now let me tell you what happened to me.
By the time her team had scored 10 points in the second game with my girl on the bench, I felt my body almost freeze in confusion over competing emotions of shock, horror and close to uncontrollable anger. I simply didn’t know who to react to anyone or anything. Another parent had to remind me that I really hadn’t cheered for the team since the second game started. Now aware of that I found myself resenting girls who hadn’t done anything to my daughter, but I resented them simply because they were PLAYING while she wasn’t. I knew these girls from involvement with the sport over several years. Some of whom were playing but had been CUT by my daughter’s club team . . . a team she had made! I had seen their level of play and I knew they were ok or fine players but they weren’t “99% playing time to my girl’s 1% playing time” better than my daughter. I became unable to clap or cheer. All joy associated with this night, this game, this team was washed from my body. As I became certain that my daughter would NOT play in the second game . . . . I left the stands and walked out of the gym.
I peaked in the gym’s window every so often and actually missed her going into the third game by a few minutes. Once she was in, I returned to the stands and cheered my head off for her and for all her team-mates.
So that’s my question to you. Should I be ashamed of myself? To “state for the record” I asked my daughter if she felt bad when I walked out as I was driving her home and she basically told me, “Dad, when a coach treats me like this, after all I’ve given to this sport, I feel so bad, so ashamed, so confused that I don’t know which way is up. I KNOW I’m good . . .good enough to play. So I just don’t understand it. Knowing you’re watching me get humiliated makes it all the worse, so I’m actually kinda glad you walked out.” I re-assured her that I want to, desperately want to, see HER play and that I don’t hate her team-mates it’s just I want to see her play and to see her sit the bench, knowing how good she is . . .is nothing but insulting, degrading and humiliating to her and, through her . . .my family, and I DO feel that to sit there and watch is essentially giving the coach a BIG thumbs up to how she’s treating my kid. You can abuse my daughter and threaten to hang the title “Quitter” on her if she just can’t take it and walks away (so basically assuring yourself that she WON’T walk away) but you just can’t expect me to watch you abuse her. I can walk away when the pain gets too extreme. And if that alleviates a little of her pain . . .then that’s what I feel I have to do.