I am a fairly coordinated person and I was a competitive athlete when I was in high school. I made all the teams I went out for and started all the games my junior and senior years for both volleyball and basketball. I would have been really irked to have not started (remember, humility is not my strong suit). I rarely sat the bench. I mean, yeah, I wasn’t the best passer, so I played only the front row in volleyball. But in basketball, I came out when I was tired and told the coach when I was ready to go back in. So I played…unless I was screwing up, but I often played as much as I wanted. And I worked hard, so there wasn’t any question of earning the time.
Now I am the mom of the kid on the bench. It’s true, my kid gets her playing time for Junior Varsity and sits bench for Varsity. But that was not my experience, so I’m learning a whole new side to high school sports. It’s enlightening and thrilling honestly. I love to watch her play, no matter the level. And her experience helps her to lead the younger players on JV, so this is not a knock on my daughter at all. I am pretty sure she wishes she played Varsity only and that she were on the court most of the time, but she also sees the value in the extra court time she gets by playing JV.
I mean, what if she wasn’t getting that time on JV? I’ve thought a lot about that this season. I’m grateful she gets the time on the court for JV and am pleased she is at a school that provides that, because let’s be honest, it would stink to put in the work that she does and rarely get to play in a match.
This is about being the mom of that kid on the end of the bench.
I am the mother of the hard working kid on the bench.
I am the mother of the kid who made every summer workout, except one where she had to go to the doctor to get the required physical done.
I am the mother of the kid who did extra running in the summer: the kid who busted her butt and made sure she met the coach’s soft requirement that they run the mile under 8 minutes (I think she was around 7:39 or something?) and continue on the pacer past 8 minutes (I think she got to 8:30-ish)?
I am the mom of the girl who goes hoarse to make sure she does her share (and then some) of the talking required to keep communication going on the floor.
And I think I feel the same level of pride in my player as I would if she were playing every rotation on Varsity. I see how she conducts herself on the bench: focused on the game, ready should her number be called. She isn’t moping or disengaged like some teens might be in her situation. She cheers for her teammates.
As a matter of fact, this is really cute…last year on JV, when the team scored a point, often Sarah could be seen jumping up from her position on the court with arms extended in victory, excited for the success. She still does this currently when she is on the court and her team scores. Over and over, each and every time a point was scored, it seemed she jumped so high in the air with excitement. It was adorable and endeared her to many of the parents in the stands. We called it “The Sarah” and even this year, some of the new JV parents have noticed how high she jumps when a point has been scored and mentioned it. The really cute thing is…she also does it from the Varsity bench this year. She is so truly happy for her teammates success, that she shows her exhilaration in a high jump from her seat on the bench, arms extended in victory.
When I started having kids, I assumed they would all have my athletic ability and competitive spirit and desire to play sports. Of course, five kids later and some of these children that have grown enough to show me that they–at least–did not get my coordination and athletic desire/ability, I know that was a silly assumption. But hey, Mom’s got dreams, right? I thought that maybe Sarah would get tall like her aunts on Craig’s side and maybe get to be 5’8″ or so. Yeah, that didn’t happen.
But I started teaching Sarah fundamentals of volleyball in the 3rd grade. She worked hard and she is a passable defensive volleyball player. Heck, she has grown to be rather smart. This year playing on JV has helped her develop the ability to put the ball where the other team isn’t, even if it is a lob over the net. She’s learned that placement is key, that brains can, at times, trump brawn in the game of volleyball.
Anyway, when Sarah was young, I dreamed of being proud of her because she was a fabulous hitter, and then because she was a fabulous defensive specialist (when it was apparent that the height thing wasn’t going to work out).
But now, as the mother of the kid on the bench, I am proud of her because her work ethic is second to no one’s. I am proud of her because her conduct on and off the court is unquestionably impeccable.
I am proud of her because she is coachable and wants to be better, even if being better doesn’t necessarily mean she gets to play all the time. I am proud of her because she understands that even those who aren’t the stars have a place on the team and that their place can, at times, prove to be just as important as those with the starring roles.
I am proud of her because she is growing into a stunning and stellar young woman with leadership and communication skills that will carry her far.
And honestly, I am proud of her because she doesn’t complain or gripe about things outside of her control. She focuses on that which she can control (the fact that she attends practices and workouts and works her butt off, for example). When she does whine or vent about anything, it’s usually to me and she and I work through it and she realizes that it’s not worth being upset over when she can’t control other people’s words or actions.
She’s learning a lot about life in volleyball. For example, she’s learning that there will always be those who absolve themselves of all responsibility, regardless of how obvious it is they had a hand in something. And she’s learning that there will always be those who blame everyone else, no matter what. And she’s also learning that there will be those who take responsibility for their actions and there will be others who rely on their parents to fight their battles for them. It’s given us lots of fodder for discussion about similarities between what she experiences now and what her dad and I experience in the workforce and what she may experience in college with classes and other people in life.
As the “has been” mom who had her opportunity to play extensively and avoid the bench relegated to watching others; as the mom of the kid who rides the end of the bench praying for a chance to play…I can say I have learned a lot watching her.
I’m humbled by her approach and her willingness to accept her role. I’m pleased with her performance when she is asked to play.
I’m honored to be the mom of the kid on the bench.