3 Ways to Help Your Child Keep Focused While Playing Backup
By janis on Nov 11, 2013
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Our college son shining in his backup role at college.

How often have we seen second and third string players put in the game in key situations and end up taking their team to victory?

It happens all the time in the pros. I remember one game a few seasons back when Miami Dolphin’s third string QB Tyler Thigpen suited up for what he probably assumed was just another day of watching the game from the sidelines.

But when the first string QB was injured in the first quarter, and the second string QB was injured in the third, 3rd string Tyler was put in the game. Here was his big chance to make a statement! Fortunately, for him and for his team, he led the Dolphins to a much-needed victory.

Can’t you imagine Tyler’s mom after the game? “Tyler, I told you, honey, you always have to be ready! You never know what could happen!”

I said that to my son many times when he was backup QB in his junior year of high school (He went on to be the starting QB his senior year!).  He watched many games from the sidelines, wondering when his time would come.

“You never know,” I’d say to TJ. “You’re one play away from getting in. ”

And every once in a while, he did get in. When the 1st QB suffered a tweaked ankle, a cramp, a hard hit, TJ was called in to lead the team for a few plays. And because he was prepared, he always did a good job, helping the offense not skip a beat.

If your child’s role on the team is one of back-up–whether it’s 2nd or 4th string–it might be easy for him to get lazy because he thinks he will never get into the game. What can you say to encourage them?

  • Stay tuned into the game. Pay attention to what’s happening in the game. If you are called in to play, you will know what you are facing.
  • Keep up the hard work in practice. At some point, chances are good that you will be called into the game, and when you are, you will be glad that you didn’t slough off in practice.
  •  When you get in, give it all you’ve got. We always encouraged our kids to “leave it all on the field (or court)”. It was our way of saying, give it all you’ve got so that when you are done, you can say you did your very best.

Playing a backup position is difficult. Your child may be chomping at the bit to get in the game. But it’s amazing how suddenly a backup player becomes very important when the first string is injured, and often the consistent performance of a team depends on the whether or not the backup is prepared for his task.

Help your child see that his backup role is a key to his team’s success and that maintaining his focus will help him be ready to step up when he is called into the game.


Janis B. Meredith writes a sportsparenting blog, http://jbmthinks.com. She’s been a sports mom for 20 years, and a coach’s wife for 28, and sees life from both sides of the bench. You can also follow her on facebook and twitter.