The Glory of Bench Warming: Fathers, Sons, Playing Time, and Leadership -- By: David E. Prince

Journal: Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry
Volume: JDFM 01:2 (Spring 2011)
Article: The Glory of Bench Warming: Fathers, Sons, Playing Time, and Leadership
Author: David E. Prince

The Glory of Bench Warming:
Fathers, Sons, Playing Time, and Leadership

David Prince

David Prince (Ph.D. cand., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Pastor of Preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. He also serves as Adjunct Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern Seminary. The central labor and passion of David’s life and ministry is preaching Christ. He is committed to Christ-centered, Kingdom-focused, expository preaching. The second greatest day of David’s life was when he married Judi—the first was when he trusted Jesus. God has blessed David and Judi with a gloriously-full quiver of eight children.

Something great happened this past basketball season for one of my sons.

He sat the bench.

You may be thinking that such news sounds more like a cause for depression than celebration—and at the beginning of the season, my middle-school son would have agreed with you. The truth is, I do not want him to want to sit the bench. I want him to try with every ounce of his ability to earn a starting position. Yet I also want him to know how to be a leader even when he finds himself sitting on the bench despite his best efforts. In most sports leagues prior to middle school, the focus had been teaching the fundamentals of the game and giving everyone an opportunity to play. This philosophy, coupled with the fact that my son was consistently one of the better players on past teams, meant that he rarely spent much time on the bench. But in sports, as with other areas of life, greater age brings greater responsibility and accountability—and a strong dose of maturing reality. On athletic teams this means, appropriately, a transition from playing time being given to playing time being earned. It also means recognizing that God has gifted some people with superior athletic abilities.

My son was excited when team tryouts were announced. He made the team, practices began, and the team moved toward the start of the season. We decided he would get up before school in the morning and run two miles on the treadmill to increase his stamina. Yet when the team began playing games, he rarely got off the bench and I began to notice his demeanor. He seemed disinterested and chatty. He was only engaged and focused when he was in the game. On the floor, he was loud and fiery. When he was on the bench, which was most of the time, he rarely left his seat and his posture was relaxed and slouching.

I heard one parent say about their son in a similar situation, “Well, what do you expect when he is sitting the bench? You have to feel sorry for him working so hard and not getting to play.”

I didn’t understand that mentality. I was pleased that my so...

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