Thursday, February 16, 2012

Youth Sports: Be Patient Benchwarmers, Be Patient

Lessons from Michael Jordan, Tom Brady and the newest sensation Jeremy Lin

How many kids with talent are overlooked because the coach did not see their potential?
How many kids with talent are pigeon-holed in a position that is not right for them and thus never shine?
How many kids with talent sit on the bench because another player is blocking their path?
How many kids with talent quit because the are just not big or tall enough yet?
How many kids with talent simply give up because they lost hope, or lost confidence or lost their competitive edge sitting on the bench?

Then again, how many overlooked kids with talent bide their time, continue to work hard, keep a positive attitude, never give up and finally make it?

The coaches and the scouts are not always right.

Michael Jordan did not make the varsity team of his high school as a sophomore. The coach thought he was too short at 5' 11''. Jordan worked hard on the JV level and worked hard in the off season. He played the final two years on the varsity team and earned McDonald's All-American status. Of course, he went on to North Carolina and then to become one of the greatest NBA basketball players ever.

Would the world know who Michael Jordan is if he decided to concentrate on baseball after he did not make the varsity basketball team as a sophomore?

Tom Brady enrolled in Michigan and was 7th QB on the team depth chart. Brian Griese was the starting quarterback for during Brady's first two years. After Griese left for the pros, Brady had to battle the highly touted Drew Hensen for a starting spot. He won that battle and set a Michigan record for most completions. He also led his team to win 20 of the 25 games he started. Despite this success, he was only drafted in the 6th round (the second to last round) in the 2000 NFL draft, a year with an otherwise unimpressive group of quarterbacks. Brady went to the Patriots and backed up Drew Bledsoe until an injury to Bledsoe gave Brady a chance to shine.

Would the world know who Tom Brady is if he did not continue to fight for the starting spot at Michigan when the highly regarded Drew Hensen showed up or if Tom Brady decided that he did not have a legitimate opportunity as the #4 quaterback on the Patriots his rookie year. (It is rare for a team to keep four QBs). He never lost hope or confidence, he simply prepared for his opportunity.

Jeremy Lin, the sensational new point guard for the Knicks, led his HS team to a California state championships, but only two D1 programs were interested in him, Brown and Harvard. Brown and Harvard are not exactly basketball powerhouses. He went to Harvard and played four years. He became the first Ivy League player to amass more than 1,400 points, 450 rebounds, 400 assists and 200 steals,  yet no NBA team drafted him. He joined the 2010/11 Golden State Warriors as an undrafted invitee and saw limited action in 29 games. During the beginning of the 2011/12 season, he was stuck on the Knick's bench until injuries to several Knick players open up a playing opportunity. In Lin's first 4 games as a starter he averaged 27.4 points per game, no one in the history of basketball since the ABA - NBA merger has done that.

Would the world know who Jeremy Lin is if he decided to quit basketball and go to business school to get a MBA - a thought that crossed his mind?

The Main Point

Many talented kids quit when the circumstances become challenging. If your kid is thinking about quitting, then share these stories with them to help them persevere.

And if they do persevere, and never make it after it is all said and done - then the experience of trying and never giving up will payoff in another form - perhaps in business school.


  1. We need to debunk the myth that Michael Jordan was cut or did not make the varsity team in his sophomore year in High School. Thomas Lake's recent Sports Illustrated piece does a great job of explaining the reasoning behind MJ being ASSIGNED to the JV team. It was strictly a decision to impact Jordan's long term development. Jordan's work ethic is to be applauded, but the myth of him being cut needs to be corrected.

    Here's two links your readers might like Sports Illustrated Article: & Thomas Lake interview:




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