The Benchwarmer and the Water Boy

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Taking your 11-year-old son to be the benchwarmer on his tackle football team every Saturday for an entire season is infuriating.  That’s not why we paid $300 for him to join a tackle football team and it’s not why we take him to practice three times a week for two hours every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Yesterday, following a second consecutive game where my son did nothing but sit on the bench, his coach privately told me Jonathan wouldn’t be playing.  Actually his coach said something much more depressing about him but stay with me here because this story has a surprising twist.

His coach said: “If I put him out there, they’ll kill him.  Jonathan can’t tackle, can’t block and he doesn’t understand the game.  The other kids on the team have played five to seven years of tackle football and the only thing your son’s done is play flag football.  That’s useless here.  The only way he’ll get in a game this season is if there’s a blow out and he probably won’t even play this season or the next one.  Your son doesn’t have what it takes to play for a long time.”

“Wow, coach, so I guess you’re saying he sucks.”

“No, I didn’t say that.  I would never say that to any parent about their child.”

“Well, coach you wouldn’t ‘say that’ like that but that’s exactly what you’re saying.  I’m not judging your assessment but thanks for the reality check.  At least we know that when he comes here he’s coming to sit on the bench, unless, of course, there’s a so-called blow-out.”

I wanted to argue with Coach Lombardi Wannabe that tween football is not ONLY about winning and that maybe just a few garbage plays per game would be great encouragement for my son but I didn’t.  I thought it would be pointless.   In three minutes Coach Lombardi showed me he’s ONLY about winning, children be damned.

As we pulled out of the park, Jonathan inquired about my conversation with his coach.  I didn’t mince words.

“Your coach said you’re unlikely to play this entire season or the next.  He said you can’t play, that you can’t block and that you can’t tackle because you’re afraid of tackling bigger kids than yourself.  I think as long as he’s your coach, you may never play.”

My son was silent in the backseat of the car.  I thought I heard him weeping.

“I don’t know what to tell you, papi. If you want to leave the team, your mom and I won’t blame you at all.  I think you should stay there to show the coach who you are but if you don’t that’s fine too.  We’ll find something else for you to do that’s fun and worthwhile.  Do you want to leave the team?”

I turned the rearview mirror to see his face.  Jonathan was completely unruffled by what I said.  He was composed.

“Daddy, I want to stay on the team.  I like my team.”

“But you must understand you may not play.  You probably won’t play next season either if you have this coach.”

“I know daddy but I’m learning.  And coach is right.  I’m not as good as most of those guys out there and there are others that are better than me that also sat on the bench today.”

I was proud of my boy but only got prouder with what he said next.

“The only thing I wish is that coach would at least let me be the water boy so I could help my teammates during the games.”

What?  Did I hear right?  Did my son, a starting QB for THREE consecutive seasons on his previous flag football team just say he actually WISHES he could serve his teammates water so that THEY can win?!!!

Blow out scrub on a haughty football team of stars, benchwarmer, water boy, my son’s Christian attitude made me prouder yesterday than any touchdown or report card ever could.  This IS the heart of a champion of life.

I’ve never been prouder of a bench warmer.


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