James Leath heads up IMG Academy's Leadership Development, helping to develop and deliver curriculum for IMG student athletes across eight different sports while also working with various companies and professional athletes on communication, personal and group leadership, and developing an identity and culture.
Coach Leath is a great resource for the coaching profession, and that is illustrated via his Twitter feed (@JamesLeath) as well as his personal blog where he shares quotes, ideas, and notes related to communicating with your athletes, coaches, and parents, developing leadership on your team, and ideas on building and maintaining a winning team culture.
Recently, Leath's blog posted a question from an 11 year-old kid named Chris about wanting to quit his football team because all he does is sit the bench. Leath's response to the kid's dilemma is something that all coaches can relate to, and will enjoy. It's a delicate, often difficult situation that coaches and parents face all too often.
Below is the exchange, courtesy of JamesLeath.com.
Hello Coach Leath,
My dad says I can’t quit my team, but I don’t want to play football anymore. All I do is sit on the bench during the games. What should I do?
Congratulations on making the football team. Believe it or not, the first year I tried out for football I did not make the team. I remember how sad I was when the coach read off the names of the kids who would be playing that year. I tried out the next year and sat on the bench during most of the games, only playing a few plays. But I knew I would not play in the games. The other players were bigger and better than I was, so why would coach put me in?
So, instead of complaining about playing time, I decided to make practice my games. Every Tuesday and Thursday I would prepare for practice as if I was going to be playing a game. I went all out on the scout team, knowing that the harder I was to block in practice, the better my team would do in the game. When they did well in the game, I took pride in knowing I helped them prepare.
Practice was hard, Chris. I got knocked down, a lot. I was scared, but I tried not to let the other players know how scared I was. Some of the players hit really hard and the noise alone made me want to quit.
After a few weeks I got better and was less afraid. I made some friends on the team and started to have fun. I still got knocked down, and I wasn’t very good, but I realized what a privilege it was to be on the team. I promised myself I would finish the season and then decide if I wanted to play again.
Also, I thought I was letting my dad down by not starting. When I told him I was embarrassed because I sat the bench, he told me he was proud that I made the team, and that he loved to watch me go all out in practice. That helped a lot knowing that my dad just loved to watch me practice.
The next year, you know what? I was one of the best players on the team. I was voted team captain and rarely came out of the game. I am not saying this will happen for you, but I am telling you that in order to be good at something, you have to be okay with being bad at it first. Then you get better. Always aim to get better, no matter what you do in life.
I want to encourage you to finish the season. You don’t have to play next year, but you should follow through with your commitment and try to have as much fun while you are there. Please don’t quit.
Head over to coach Leath's blog for plenty more quality coaching content. There's a reason that IMG has entrusted him with the responsibility of communicating vital sports and life lessons with some of the nation's top athletes in a variety of sports.