My Turn, Ty Cobb Jr.: Let them all play, coaches
Young athletes go out for sports because they want to be part of the team and play. They go to all practices and try their hardest. However, many of them, though they “pay their dues” at practice, never get a chance to play in games. I find this particularly true for football players.
I go to many games and not a small number of practices. Last year at a practice, I observed a portly (OK, he was quite overweight) young man running laps that seemed to stress him beyond his limit of endurance. I saw this player suit-up and stand on the sidelines game after game after game. I do not think he ever got to play. He reminded of the “lonesome end” of my college days. (But the “lonesome end” always played in a unique offensive scheme.)
The young man became my personal “lonesome lineman.” It was easy to tell from his body language at games that he wanted to play. He represents a substantial number of young football players throughout our county’s football leagues.
Is it possible for coaches to find a way to play my lonesome lineman and his compatriots? I think so.
Too many years ago, I played high school football starting in my junior year when I finally gained enough weight to keep from blowing away in a mild breeze. I loved it. I loved practice, but for the most part sat the bench at games. During my senior year, I was the No. 3 guard and again sat the bench a lot.
Then it happened! One of our starting guards got injured in the first quarter of a game against our arch-rival who had beat us 36-10 the year before. I played the rest of the game on offense with my opposite not in on a tackle the entire game. We won 20-0. Though I played all the time at practice, I learned that night that there is no substitute for game experience.
Getting in a game once in a while can provide experience that just might help my lonesome lineman develop into a better player, thus a real asset to the team. But coaches must find a way to get my lonesome lineman and his compatriots into games. When you are behind by 20 or more points with 4-5 minutes left in the game, would it hurt to slip bench-warmers in for a few plays? Of course not! Oh, I believe in miracles, but let us get serious!
If you are ahead by 20 points or so, there is no reason not to “play them all.”
Doing this will likely cause the county’s lonesome lineman (and backs) to work harder at practice and become true assets.
Obviously, the players’ parents would be more appreciative of the coaching staffs they pay though their taxes if their youngsters got to play a few plays. After all, if these lonesome linemen/backs were not around, who would you practice against? Stuffed dummies?
I do not advocate doing this in close games where the best players must be in the game to assure victory. But over the course of a season, there are almost always game situations where it would not hurt to play my lonesome lineman.
This phenomenon is not unique to football. Coaches of other high school sports should also try to insert all their players into games when favorable game situations permit.
Coaches, you are bright folks. Be a “can do” person and reward all the players entrusted to you. Let them all play!
Ty Cobb Jr. lives in Rowan County.
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