Edson: Young Athletes Need to Practice Patience

Timing is everything.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a young high school athlete or a person who has been in the workforce for years.

As an athlete, all you can do is prepare yourself for “Your Time.”

Sometimes that means stepping into a starting lineup right away. Other times it means being ready to help your team when an opportunity finally presents itself.

And the best way to make that happen is:

* Be patient. If you aren’t starting and think (to yourself) that you should be, just put your nose down, work hard and don’t complain. You’d be surprised how many coaches appreciate that kind of effort and attitude.

* Be a good teammate. By being a positive force on your team and helping in any way you can – practice or a game – your teammates will welcome you accordingly when you get your chance.

* Be punctual and practice hard. Some players think they can loaf in practice and “turn it on” during the game. It doesn’t work that way. If you work hard in practice and are on time for meetings and practices, those things get noticed.

I’ve seen the three examples above work so many times I’ve lost count over the last 40 years of covering sports.

A few years ago a good friend said his son was feeling frustrated with his role as a backup goalie on the varsity hockey team. His son was thinking of quitting the team.

But he decided to be patient, be a good teammate and practice hard. And guess what?

The starting goalie went down with an injury, my son’s friend stepped in and he went on to have an all-conference career in the net.

He also learned the more important lesson of what it’s like to be a valuable member of a team. That translates to later in life when you have to practice the same thing – patience, being supportive and being on time.

Sometimes that’s easier said than done. But it works out far better if a young athlete learns these lessons earlier rather than later.

And the bottom line is this – you don’t have to be a star to enjoy “Your Time.” It might be a key contribution in a big game or playing valuable minutes for your team while a key teammate gets a must-needed breather.

It still all comes down to attitude… and the valuable lesson of being patient.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.