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Local Sports

Athletes stay engaged on, off the bench

Participating in a sport is not just about playing or starting on varsity.

While I was growing up there weren’t a lot of opportunities for girls to participate in school sports. For most of my school years, track and field was it. Volleyball arrived my junior year in high school in 1974.

What I wouldn’t have given to be even on the bench in a sport.

Over my almost 40 years of sports journalism, I’ve come across many girls and boys who participate in a sport who may never see the court or field. They put in the same practice time as those who do leave the bench to play, and their teammates appreciate what they contribute even without being in the games.

See, participating is about being engaged in the activity, which doesn’t even need to be about athletics. If you make the decision to “go out” for a sport, be all in whether you are a varsity starter or a body on the bench.

Do the work in practices and offseason activities so you are prepared to go in if needed. If you are an athlete who starts and comes to the bench for a breather, don’t just breathe — be engaged.

Being engaged is supporting your teammates on and off the bench. Coaches at all levels notice body language. They recognize athletes who are all in for the team.

I’ve known coaches who put in players who are not as talented and skilled for ones who are because of level of engagement.

A player on the field or court can’t stop doing every thing he or she can to help the team if things are going south. They have to be engaged in the game at all times.

A player on the bench needs to cheer and encourage. They need to be watching the action, realizing it might be their turn to go in at any time.

Be ready to contribute on and off the court. If you are sitting on say the varsity bench, always know the score and situation on the court.

Those athletes who play at the junior varsity or freshman levels should also be watching. Learn what goes on in a varsity game. It’s a step up and at a different pace then the other levels. See what is working and what isn’t so you can ask your coaches to show you how it will work.

Be engaged.

Unfortunately, we’ve become a society of non-engagement. I resisted using social media updates from games because I didn’t want to appear I wasn’t paying attention to games. Me looking at my cell phone clumsily attempted to type an update on Twitter or Facebook — in my mind — made it look like I wasn’t watching the action.

We look at our phones way too much. At times I hanker for the days of only land-line phones. You know those telephones with a wire connection in them and a cord attached.

When you were not home, you were unavailable for a call. You couldn’t be reached, unless you were in the office or some other place with a phone in the building.

We were engaged with each other at activities. No need to have our phones in hand or in our pocket. Hey, I’ve gotten the bug — a bit — also, and I’m not making judgments on those who enjoy being that connected all the time.

I’ll be engaged with my television come Saturday afternoon — NFL playoff games. Going to be trying to cheer my Kansas City Chiefs past the Indianapolis Colts. The Chiefs’ defense has to show up more against Andrew Luck and Company to allow Kansas City to advance into the AFC Championship game.

If they win, they host the title game. Arrowhead Stadium in January!

Contact Jocelyn Sheets

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