Benching a player


I was recently called into to consult a couple of players on a team that were struggling. These boys are very good boys and their team was, for the most part, being successful. In one game, one of the players was benched by the coach and he was quite upset. He made a mistake and the coach berated him in front of the whole team. He went to the bench and sat down, disgusted.


After the game was over I stopped by to see this young man on his way to practice the next day. I did not want to talk to him right after the game as he was still upset.


My conversation with him was much different than he thought it was going to be. His first words to me were:” This sucks I hate this!” He was still obviously upset and felt badly about his benching, even though his team won the game.


 I gave him two different scenarios. Here is what I said to him. Let’s say that you got beat on a long pass completion. The coach yelled at you in front of the team and told you to go sit on the bench. He said “You can’t do that!”, 9 well obviously you can, and did, so subconsciously the coach is already starting off on the wrong foot with you as it pertains to trust. It may seem like a small simple thing, but it is not.


Now my solution to the problem would be to tell the player that, yes you got beat and I am putting another guy in your place. But that doesn’t mean it is permanent. (And yes, it is quite possible that I may yell at you) The after we both cooled down I said to you.” I notice every time that wide receiver points his outside front foot inward at the line of scrimmage he runs a slant. Why don’t you jump the route and go for the interception. If he beats you and gets a completion for a touchdown it’s on me. And when the play happens and you jump the route and get the interception, all I am going to do is wink at you, and not take any credit publicly for what you did.


Two reasons for that: First, when one of your buddies or teammates says your coach is a jerk for benching you, you will know better. You will know that I didn’t embarrass you in front of your teammates and I gave you another chance to make up for the mistake. If you did make up for the mistake I could be pretty certain that you were going to be  a loyal player and understand that learning from your mistakes was way more important to the journey than getting it right all the time.


Secondly, if your mind was clear and free from most negative stress, we have both increased the odds of you playing better, and getting better, because the more calm you are the better you will play.


You see it is not about winning. It is about the journey and the process. The mental side of youth sports and life are embraced and nurtured enough. The mind is almost endless in its ability to be creative, while the body has many limitations.


You can follow VJ on twitter @VJJStanley on face book at frozenshorts, on his website, and email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

His book Stop the Tsunami in Youth Sports is now available on Create Space and soon on Amazon in paperback form as well as an E reader through his website