Non-Starters Are People, Too!



You’ve heard the old saying about, “If you don’t use your bench, you’ll lose your bench!”


Coaches, we all struggle with how to manage the roles of the non-starters. I know I have certainly felt like I could have/should have done a better job of managing the roles of the players who were not in the starting line up.


There two types of experience: Expensive, that you learn by making the mistakes and paying the price yourself, and inexpensive, that you learn from mistakes that others make so you don’t have to make them yourself.


Coaches, here is your chance for some inexpensive experience:


Things I wish I had done better:

1. Understand that it is more difficult for a non starter to prepare and perform well.

2. Know that subs will all have varying emotions and reactions to not starting.

3. Understand that subs will experience different stresses than starters!

4. Know that subs, and their parents, will always assess the situation differently than I did.

5. Help the non-starters develop better strategies to handle the challenges of not being in the starting lineup.

6. Stress the importance of all team members, starters and non starters.

7. Explain why a player was not in the starting lineup. This was my biggest failure. The player ends up spending way too much time and effort trying to figure out what I thought was obvious.

8. Explain to the sub what she needs to work on to improve her chances of improving her role within the team. Including the idea of competing for a different position.

9. Improve the quality of time and effort I spent to help the non-starters compete for a bigger role.

10. Explain each player’s role better. Where and when they might be likely to contribute.

11. Expect a player who usually started to support her replacement.

12. Give a sub enough lead time to prepare for her chances. Be sure she is loose and ready.

13. Make a point of recognizing the impact that a non-starter had on the game. Helping warm up a pitcher, charting pitches, stealing a sign, noticing a runner missing a base, and on and on the list goes.

14. Help subs see their roles as important and an opportunity for them to grow as a player and to positively impact the team.

15. Emphasize the importance of all players, in team success.

16. Stress the importance of who is in the game when it is on the line rather than when the game starts.

17. Understand that players will always say they can handle the challenges of being a non-starter. And they often will not be able to maintain a positive attitude after they see what their role truly is.

18. Remember that all players are people too. 


Age and experience is a wonderful and agonizing thing. Hindsight is always 20/20.


About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.