Monday, March 23, 2015

"Garbage Time"

Garbage time.  It’s a term I’d never heard before my kids were involved in sports on a competitive level.  Garbage time is the playing time at the very end of a losing game; the thirty seconds before the half, the last quarter of a football game if your team is winning by three touchdowns.

Garbage time.  The time that really doesn’t make any difference at all in the game.  The time reserved for kids who aren’t as athletic, talented or maybe they are just younger and need better skills.  The time reserved the players that stand on the sidelines waiting their turn to get in the game, with their uniform still clean from last night’s wash. 

The time that truthfully, isn’t garbage at all.  It’s the game time that many parents wait for; the time that builds confidence and makes many kids feel like they’re part of a team.  It’s the time that some kids never have to wait for, while other kids pray their team scores just one more time so they can be assured a few minutes on that field.

I’ve been on all sides of the “garbage time” fence.  My kids have played it and my coaching husband has managed it.  My kids have also played entire games and entire seasons and only come off the field for the other kids to get their “garbage time.”  

It’s such a horrible term.  I loathe it.  I have sat so many times in the cold huddled under a blanket, waiting to see my son run onto the field.  In the heat, sweltering, waiting for an at bat.  I’ve driven over an hour to games just to watch that three minutes of “garbage time,” and it’s made my entire week. 

That time is essential to so many athletes.  Kids who have yearned to be a part of a team and kids who have practiced just as hard (sometimes harder) than the athletes who have more natural ability.  When kids decide to go out for a team, they are putting themselves out there.  They are chancing ridicule and embarrassment, but they are also hoping to gain teammates and the bragging rights to say they are part of that team.  I sincerely feel that every kid who goes out for a team, on any level, deserves a place.  Whether it be a scorekeeper, waterboy, equipment manager or the kid who gets that precious “garbage time.” 

In the days of youth sports, I can only pray that there are more coaches that will share that mentality.  We need more coaches that give a shout out at practice to the kids that continue to show up without basking in the glory of winning touchdowns and grand slam homeruns.  Coaches need to remember to stress the value of every player, because a team couldn’t scrimmage against themselves if every player didn’t show up to practice.

Every player has a value.  Every. Single. One.

I must admit that I'm thankful over the years I have been on both ends of this spectrum, because I have gained so much perspective seeing the field from both sets of eyes.  I've watched with eyes so competitive and hungry for the team's success, and I've watched with eyes on my son, waiting patiently for his turn to take the field.

I’m not saying teams shouldn’t aim for a winning record.  I’m not saying every kid deserves equal time.  I’m urging parents and coaches and players to view that “garbage time” differently.  It’s the stuff that kids need to learn to be proud of.  They earned it, and even if they are just trying a new sport or the most unathletic on the team, their parents are up there smiling in the stands.  Those three minutes at the end of the game can make a child’s day, and considering 99.9% of kids in Little League, Midget Football, Tee Ball, Elementary Soccer, Junior High Basketball and even many high school teams will never go pro, let’s keep things in perspective. 

Success isn't just a winning record.  It's how you send those players into the world.

Give the players their time.  If you’re winning by a decent margin rotate them in.  Most of all, teach the more skilled players to cheer them on and encourage them.  Good teammates are the ones that recognize every player on the team.  They see them every day sweating through practice even though they barely see the field, and they pat them on the shoulders even when they make a mistake.

That’s what being a team is all about.  Along with building records and legacies, let’s build something that kids can really take with them.



  1. This warms my heart - beautifully stated sis

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