Ode to junior varsity coaches and the love of the game | Bench Talk with Ben Ray

Junior varsity coaches notoriously get overlooked and are not given enough credit for the difficult job that they do.

Junior varsity coaches notoriously get overlooked and are not given enough credit for the difficult job that they do. Early practice times, early games, new players, disgruntled players and everything else are situations that JV coaches have to deal with.

Now I am someone who is familiar with playing at that lower level in high school. Even in college, I traded riding the bench on the varsity baseball team for getting in-game reps, which I believed were more valuable.

This column isn’t about me though. It is about coaches. Those of whom are probably teachers or involved with their school somehow and some way, taking time out of their day to enjoy and share a sport they care about.

But there is a caveat as a coach — it is not all sunshine and rainbows. Most of these kids who are rostered are either just learning a new sport or have not played that much of the organized version. So, it comes down to the coaching. These coaches need to get these kids invested in their team, teammates, and most importantly, themselves.

Since coming out of the pandemic, across the board participation in athletics is down. JV teams are suffering and rare to come across. From my experience, it is noteworthy if a sport has a JV program, let alone a C-team.

But some sports have it easier when filling a program. Take baseball. You need at least nine players to play, and now most rosters have 11-13 players. But nine must play every out on the field. Basketball, you only need five, and maybe you rotate eight really solid players in one game.

It is just flat out easier to field a team in basketball than baseball, just based on numbers, let alone the popularity of a sport.

Coaches play an integral role in getting players to love the sport. They can get a player hooked, or get that player to never play again. It takes someone who doesn’t have an ego, but instead can teach the fundamentals and show why the sport is special to them.

Many coaches nowadays are in it for the wrong reasons — a check, a promotion or what have you. JV coaches can’t afford to be that way because they will lose kids and maybe even lose the program.

If I am coaching a JV team, I can’t have complicated signals and a multitude of plays and expect someone who has never played to understand all that mumbo-jumbo. Plus, if and when they do fail, I can’t scold them. That is a fast track to losing a player who could really like the sport. And that would be me failing at my job.

Coaches need to be supportive, encouraging, and most of all, get their team and players to love the game. A team could go 0-20, but if the team is loving the game and putting in effort, they will only go up from there — with the right support system and a great team culture.

A positive culture can provide everlasting friendships and create a bond between players and coaches. That is what it is about. No one cares that they won 10 games as a junior varsity player.

But those experiences — being on the bus with your teammates, being a part of something — those memories last forever. That is why we need JV programs with coaches who want to be there and support these kids.

Ben Ray writes about sports in South King County. Contact benjamin.ray@fedwaymirror.com.