THE “STARTING” BENCH WARMER
Dr. Alan Goldberg
Edited by Bob Muscala January 2020
The hardest, mentally and emotionally grueling and most underrated position to play on any team is that of reserve. Whether you’re thought of as a role player, back-up, 3rd stringer, bench warmer, pine-time player, substitute or scrub, not being in the starting line-up takes tons more character, determination, guts and discipline than is needed when you’re fortunate enough to play all the time.
It’s not the starters that are the real warriors on a given team. Anyone can handle being in the starting line-up. It takes no particular character strength, courage, resilience or mental toughness to be in the limelight day in and day out. How you manage the good times doesn’t ever determine what you’re really made of on the inside. Any Joe Schmo or Martha Marvela can look and act like a winner when the coach is smiling down upon them and giving them the nod for the start. The real test, the true test of what you’re really made of comes when things don’t go your way, when you don’t get the starting assignment, when you feel like you’ve been forgotten on the pine, when the coach looks down the bench and seems to look right through you. The mark of a true champion comes with how well you play this back-up role on your team.
The strength of a championship character is determined by how you deal with the lack of glory and the invisibility that inevitably comes from sitting when you’d much rather be playing.
There is no position on any team that is more difficult to master and continually execute well than that of “SUB!” When you’re surrounded by sensitive coaches and caring, respectful teammates you’re called a “role player” and your job is to “play” a certain role on the team.
When your coaches are less evolved and your teammates are selfish and ignorant, your role on the team is belittled and you’re made to feel like you are nothing more than an unimportant afterthought. In either case, you can’t escape the irony of the situation. The so-called “role” that you’re supposed to “play” mostly involves NOT PLAYING! Go figure! Oh sure, you get the occasional moments of “garbage time” as it’s so lovingly referred to by other athletes, fans and the media. You know, that real exciting time when your team is up or down by so much that the outcome of the contest is no longer in question. If you’re lucky you may go in for a whole minute! All too often though, you only get to “play” for a lousy few seconds. But do you ever get playing time when the game is on the line? Does the coach ever look to you when the competitive pressures heat up? Unfortunately, only in your very frustrated dreams!
Here’s the interesting thing. You may feel like you’re a fifth wheel. You may feel like you make no significant contribution to your team. You may believe that you are nothing more than an afterthought, unimportant, superfluous and unnecessary. You may even feel that you are not as worthy as the starters. In fact, your teammates and coaches may even be dumb enough to believe this and therefore say and do things that make you feel worthless. However, for your team to go as far as possible, for your team to be as good as possible, for your team to be successful, YOU ARE NEEDED! YOU as a substitute, role player, scrub, reserve, bench jockey or however you refer to yourself are absolutely vital to your team’s success regardless of what some of the starters and coaches may say. Good teams do not become great without the efforts of their role players. In my book, it’s not the stars that really make the team, it’s the supporting cast.
Keeping that metaphor going, when you watch a play or a movie, it’s the stars or actors that are always the most visible. They are on stage all the time. It seems like the play or movie is all about them. And, in fact, there’s no question that their talents and skills are necessary for a great production. However, without all the behind-the-scenes people, the make-up, lighting and camera crews, the set changers, the back-up musicians, the wardrobe people, the “gophers”, there would be no successful production at all. These invisible supporting players make the award winning production possible. Do they get the glory? Do they get any of the recognition? Fat chance! Do they get written up in the newspapers? Yeah right! Do the fans easily recognize them? Please! They work and toil in obscurity because that’s the role that they have been assigned for this play. Many of them may even wish that they were the stars. A few may even be working towards getting “discovered.” However, until they do, they do their job to the very best of their ability. Why? Because they know that, deep down, the entire production’s success depends upon them just as much as it does on the stars.
Almost all college players could start for a number of other Division I schools in the country. Instead they chose to 'go wherever'.. A good number of these very talented athletes who were once stars in high school now found themselves assigned to the supporting cast. Right or wrong, they rarely got the opportunity to start. Fair or unfair, they barely got any playing time. They practiced just as hard, if not harder than some of the starters. The demands on their time and commitment to the program were equal to the stars. However, their role on the team didn’t change. They were still the back-up players. They still sat the bench. Some don’t dress for any games. Some not even allowed to sit on the bench! Did this mean that they weren’t an important part of the team? Did this mean that their contribution was less significant than the starters’?The more obvious and less informed answer to this question is of course, “yes!” On the surface, their contribution to the team’s success appeared to be significantly less than the top scorer. However, no team will ever win championship without the contribution of every player on that squad, without a total team effort. What the role players did for the starters on a daily basis was to continuously push them. They challenged them hard in practice and made the starters fight for their position. The role players’ daily challenges made the starters tactically better, physically more conditioned and mentally tougher. Many of the roles players were team leaders in their own right. Several were supportive, unselfish team players with great attitudes, the kind that helps build a winning program. In my book these very capable reserves were the unsung, invisible heroes of the Huskies’ team.
Trust me. Theirs was not a very glamorous position. It was not fun to sit the bench, game in and game out. It was not confidence boosting to almost never get any PT. Many of these players battled inwardly with self-doubts, negativity and intense feelings of unhappiness. It was a real struggle “playing” this position to the best of their ability. It was unbelievably frustrating and discouraging. It was a daily struggle to maintain a positive, winning attitude. This is the real test of the reserve. Handling the feelings of unhappiness, frustration and the low self-confidence that frequently come from not getting a chance to prove yourself. Maintaining your motivation to go hard every day, in every drill even though you can’t escape the fact that you probably won’t see any playing time is not easy to do. However, for the good of the team and their teammates, these reserves did the very best that they could. This is the only way a team can truly be successful. Without the role players doing their assigned jobs well, the entire team will suffer.
For you as a support player, this is truly one tough act to pull off. Most reserves sit the bench during games trying their best to prevent themselves from becoming overwhelmed by waves of bitterness and negative feelings that seem to roll in nonstop. “I never get to play. This absolutely sucks. I am so much better than him/her, how come coach always gives them the playing time and not me? Coach doesn’t believe in me, because if he did I’d get a chance to play. Maybe I’m just not that good. Why does this crap always seem to happen to me? I can’t believe Billy/Sarah is playing in front of me. It’s just not fair. I work so much harder than they do in practice. They are always dogging it. It’s like the coach doesn’t even seem to see them goofing around or doesn’t care. Then he still plays them in front of me. What really gets me is that they make mistakes all the time and still stay in. The few times that I go in and screw up, I get pulled immediately. Heck, coach has taken me out even when I don’t mess up. What’s up with that?”
Even under the best of team circumstances it can be extremely difficult to keep your head above the waves of this internal negative chatter. However, if you let yourself give in to your unhappiness and frustration, if you allow yourself to wallow in a sea of bitterness and self-pity, then you are sunk and your team will ultimately go down with you. First off, let’s call a spade a spade. There is nothing glamorous about being a role player and never getting any PT. You participate in your sport to play, not to collect splinters from sitting on the bench. It’s the actual playing of the game that first attracted you to the sport so long ago, not the watching. There’s no way around that. However….
Being on a competitive team always brings with it some unpleasant realities, not the least of which is this playing time issue. You have to understand that fair or unfair, right or wrong, things won’t always go your way. In fact, many times they don’t! This is the nature of sport. This is the nature of life. And you need to make a decision as to how you’ll choose to handle yourself when circumstances don’t go your way. While you may not have much control over a lot of things as a member of this team, you do have control over how you choose to respond to this playing time issue. You can choose to handle the situation with class, dignity, good sportsmanship and in a way that makes a significant contributes to the team. Or, you can choose to pout, complain, be selfish and miserable and then indirectly share your misery with everyone around you.
That’s the thing about playing time. It really tests your commitment as an athlete to the team. Playing time is a very selfish issue. It’s all about ME. Being a true team player is all about WE and if you’re a team player, then you have to be willing to sacrifice your ME for the team’s WE. Is this easy to do with grace and dignity? Heck, it’s not easy to do period! However, being on a team means that you have to be willing to accept the role that has been assigned to you. If you are not willing to play your role to the best of your ability then the entire team will feel it. Whether you like your role or think it’s fair is totally irrelevant. Your job as a team player is not to second-guess or criticize the coaching decisions. It is not to critically evaluate your teammates’ play in an attempt to try to determine whether they deserve their PT over you. This is NOT how a real winner conducts him/herself on a team.
It’s perfectly fine for you to be unhappy with your reserve status. However, how you deal with your unhappiness is what separates the winners from the losers. A winner will constructively channel his unhappiness into the team. He will work harder, cheer louder, be more supportive, and in every way he can, just do more. A winner will also take his frustration with his lack of playing time and use it as a source of motivation to improve. He will channel it into extra training sessions and longer workouts. He will do whatever he can to try to improve his chances for playing time in the future by trying to get better every day. Remember, just because you start doesn’t make you better than your teammates who don’t. Just because the coach looks to you when the game is on the line doesn’t make you a winner. A winner is someone who handles adversity with grace and dignity. A winner is someone who is willing to sacrifice his needs for the team’s greater good. There are many starters who would immediately crack if they were subjected to having to sit on the bench the way the reserves have to do game in, game out.
I’ve watched this happen at every level, in many sports. For example, in an AAU basketball game the coach pulls one of the starting players out and she immediately starts to pout. She looks at her parents in the stands with a “do you believe this idiot” look. She maintains a sour expression on her face while she sits on the pine. She makes disgusted faces and frustrated gestures when her teammates mess up. Her attitude is one of “why are you out there when you suck and I’m great!” She acts like the world is not right until she is put back in the game. Truth be told, she is not a team player. She could care less about how her teammates feel. She acts like a selfish baby. She is NOT a winner. She’s a whiner and that makes her a loser!
That’s the funny thing about really great athletes. Being better than everyone else doesn’t make you great. Your athleticism and talent have nothing to do with being great. What really puts you in the GREAT category, what separates the truly great athletes from everyone else is that they make everyone around them better.
P.S. Kyrie, LeBron, Harden, Paul George, Russell and KD are unable to do this – they can only make themselves feel better.
A winner makes his teammates better. He/she brings up their level of play. He/she makes them feel better about themselves. He/she understands that for a team to be successful everyone must play their role to the best of their ability. Therefore the champion treats his/her teammates with respect and importance. He/she values their contribution to the team regardless of how small their role may be.
“My child should be starting!”
Scene 1: Setting: Middle school basketball game. Final home game of the season before the “league playoffs.” Time: 8:00 minutes to go in the second half. Place: Inside the head of Mr. Smith, Jaime’s Father. Let’s listen in to a monologue that runs non-stop.
“Jaime is so much better than Natalie. I don’t understand why Natalie always plays in front of her. She’s not really that good. She can’t shoot. She can’t dribble. She doesn’t seem to know where to go on the court. I can’t believe that Coach Scott doesn’t see this. What’s his problem anyway. Look! There it is again. Natalie turned the ball over. Get her out of there! Come on! Put Jaime in there! She is just so much better. I don’t get why he just sits Jaime all game long. She gets no playing time. He even plays Jill in front of her. If you ask me, Jill’s not that good either. Jaime could play the 2-guard just as well as Jill does. Look at that! She just got tied up and now we lost the ball because they have the possession arrow. She’s not strong enough like my Jaime is. I think Coach Scott doesn’t know what he’s doing. I wish I had the time to coach. Then we probably would be winning more games.”
Jaime’s Dad turns to another parent of a bench warmer: “Ya know Sam, between you and I, I think coach Scott is really missing the boat here. He’s not playing the strongest kids. My Jaime and your Sandra should be out there. They are just flat out better than those other two he’s playing instead. Your Sandra hasn’t gotten a minute of playing time this game either. What gives?”
Sam looks at him and grunts his agreement. “Damn straight! I’ve been telling my Sandra that she’s so much better than that kid he’s got in front of her. I tell her that I think her coach is an idiot for not seeing that. She always looks at me funny and tells me to shut up though, that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Why can’t this team ever get a good coach? That’s what I want to know. My kid should be out there. Yours too Smitty!”
Jaime’s Dad nods in agreement and then turns back to watch the game. His mind continues to churn. “Jaime looks absolutely miserable. She should be playing more. I think she should talk to that coach. She should tell him that she’s better than that Natalie kid. This is just so unfair. Maybe I should say something. I’d let him know what a mistake he was making. But I know if I did that Jaime said she’d never speak to me again. Oh look. He’s going to sub. GREAT! Jaime’s finally going to get in! It’s about time! There’s only 7 minutes left in this game. Now we’re going to see something! All right!” Yelling out to his daughter, “Come on Jaime! Show your stuff kid! Let’s get it done out there! Score some points!”
Jaime goes into the game and the first time that she gets the ball, she dribbles it off her foot and out of bounds. The monologue in Jaime’s Dad’s head increases in intensity. “Come on Jaime! Get with the program girl! You can do this! Prove to everyone that you belong out there! You’re better. Shake it off. No problem. Everyone makes mistakes and that Natalie makes many more than you do.”
On the defensive end, Jaime is slow to cover her player who gets wide open for an easy 6-foot shot. On her team’s very next trip up court Jaime has the ball stolen from her, and the “thief” scores on an easy lay-up. Jaime looks tentative and scared, like a deer caught in headlights. On the team’s next offensive possession, Jaime throws too soft a pass across the top of the key and it’s easily read and picked off by an opponent who then dribbles the length of the court and scores again. Coach Scott immediately calls time out. When the team comes to the bench he tells Jaime that he’s putting Natalie back in at guard. Jaime dejectedly sits down on the bench. The game continues and the noise in Jaime’s Dad head rises to a feverish pitch.
“Do you believe that?! He benched her already. She wasn’t out there more than two minutes! What kind of crap is that?” He turns towards Sam and loudly complains. “That’s such crap that he benched my Jaime. He didn’t even give her time to warm up. I’m sure she was just a bit nervous from not having played all game. I mean, what does he expect? She comes in cold. She’s been sitting all game. How is she supposed to play well without a proper warm-up? That Natalie has gotten to warm up all game!” Sam tries to calm the man down quietly gesturing to him that Natalie’s father is sitting well within earshot but Mr. Smith is beside himself. He doesn’t seem to care that Natalie’s dad is staring at him. He abruptly falls silent and goes back inside his head with his unhappy grumbling that doesn’t really stop until he finally falls asleep that night.
Does this scenario sound vaguely familiar? OK, So maybe your kid doesn’t get enough playing time. And let me guess. Like Jaime’s Dad, your unbiased, totally objective assessment of the situation is that your child is getting a raw deal. He/she should be starting in place of another teammate or two who you are sure are not nearly as fast, strong, gifted or athletically inclined as your offspring. Let me make another guess. You think that the coach is either blind, misguided, biased or just plain stupid not to see that your child is the better athlete, the one that will most help the team and the one that should get the starting nod. How do I know? Am I psychic? Perhaps a mind reader? No, I’m just simply a parent and who knows about the quiet agony and heartache that a father or mother regularly experiences when his/her child rides the bench during the games.
So do you really think your assessment of this situation that your child is struggling with is an accurate, reality based one? Do you really think that you are in a position to be a good judge? Let’s face it. As parents it is virtually impossible for us to be objective when it comes to our kids. In this regard, we all wear rose-colored glasses that make us view our child in a very special light. When our child’s coaches, teachers, camp counselors, baby sitters, or employers don’t share our rosy view we immediately think that there must something very wrong with them. Perhaps they’re misguided. Maybe they’re prejudiced or close-minded. Could be that they’re just unreasonable or unfair. We never once stop to think that perhaps they don’t simply see our child with the same strengths and unbounded abilities that we do. Who really has the more accurate perspective here?
As a parent it is your job to think that your children are wonderful. It is your job to support them and nurture their dreams. It is your job to encourage nascent talents, to believe in them. It is also your job to try to structure experiences for them that build up rather than tear down their self-esteem and self-confidence. Unfortunately, when your child decides to try out for and participate in a sport that is competitive where the goal is to field the best possible team with the greatest chance of winning, (to be distinguished from recreation sports where the goal is equal participation, skill acquisition and fun) you suddenly lose a lot of control in relation to this last part of your job. If your child doesn’t get much playing time there is very little that you as a parent can and should do to change the situation. As a consequence, it becomes that much more difficult to help them maintain their confidence and high self-esteem.
So what should you do? Let’s discuss some basic do’s and don’ts: First off, DON’T spend time with your son or daughter bad mouthing those teammates that get to play in front of him or her. It’s NOT good for team chemistry and it encourages your child to resent them. Furthermore, these kinds of discussions encourage a “me-first” selfishness that shouldn’t be on a team and will get your son or daughter into hot water later on in their life. Instead DO teach your child that teams are all about everyone having a role and playing that role to the very best of your ability. You may not like that role, but for the team to be successful everyone has to do his/her job. DO encourage your child to be a class act at games by conducting him/herself like a winner, cheering for the whole team and being supportive of those players in his/her position. Help your child understand that being a good support player is a very difficult, but important role, one which they should try to master for the time being, and one that they should feel proud to play.
DON’T bad mouth the coach to your child. If you have a problem with the coach’s decisions find an appropriate time and place to have a discussion with him/her. However, it’s important for you to understand that coaches make decisions for their own reasons. Sometimes these reasons are good ones and sometimes they are very bad ones. In either case, your complaining about your child’s playing time will usually only cause more problems. If you do decide to approach the coach, try to look at the situation through the coach’s eyes, try to understand where he/she is coming from and then let him/her in on your child’s experience. The bottom line here is that if your child is playing on a competitive team, fair or unfair, it’s the coach’s prerogative to set the line-up and determine who gets the playing time.
DON’T pull a “Mr. Smith” and bad mouth the coach or starting players to other disgruntled parents. You are being an exceptionally bad role model and poor sport when you do this. Remember this is a team and you as the parent have an important responsibility to model appropriate team behavior at games and practices. If you’re unhappy either chat with the coach or bring your feelings home and share them with your spouse. Do NOT act them out with boorish behavior on the sidelines or snide comments in the stands.
DO encourage your child to take his/her frustrations and constructively channel them into a quest for improvement. DO encourage your child to talk to the coach and ask him/her what is needed to get better. Help them use their lack of playing time as a valuable teaching experience for them. Nothing worth accomplishing in life happens without a lot of hard work and sacrifice. If they are truly unhappy with their lack of playing time then you should encourage them to start working harder and doing extra training to achieve the goal of someday starting. This is probably the best strategy that you can encourage in your child. Teach them to deal with adversity and disappointment in their life by getting motivated, “rolling up their sleeves” and working twice as hard.
Unfortunately, the reality of the particular team that your child is on may be that he/she just won’t have the size, strength or skill level to start or even play a lot. In these situations no amount of extra work or training may make a difference. Your job in this kind of situation is to help your son or daughter play their assigned role to the very best of their ability and to be a good team player. To quote Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want….but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”
“Handling your bench” (are you listening Billy?)
I’ve always believed that one of the marks of a truly great coach could be found in his/her ability to make the squad’s least skilled player feel just as valuable and important to the team as the (so-called) superstar. Obviously this is a magic trick that’s a whole lot easier said than done. All too often coaches fall into the trap of treating their players unequally based upon the athlete’s particular athletic ability and his/her importance to the starting line-up. Quite simply, the better players get a whole lot more of the coach’s attention and interest than the reserves. This is an unfortunate coaching mistake that will ultimately jeopardize your season’s success and your effectiveness with each and every one of your players.
First off, when your attention is mainly “ability-directed”, every player on your squad indirectly but just as powerfully gets the message that what you really value is not the athlete as a person, but the athlete as a performer. Whether you mean to communicate this or not, your unspoken message to your players is loud and clear. “I am only interested in what you as an athlete can do for me and my team. If you can’t do much performance-wise, then you’re not really that important to me.” Sometimes you can even see this blatantly played out when the team’s superstar suddenly gets injured and is knocked out for the remainder of the season. Instantly he has lost his performance value and, as a consequence, he falls off the coach’s radar screen. The coach stops paying attention to him and seems to not really care that much about his former star’s plight. He/she adopts an “out of sight, out of mind” headset in relation to this athlete.
If you read this and immediately think, “God, I’d never treat my athletes that way!” then I applaud you. While it may seem like common sense to you to want to reach out more to an injured player, to have the understanding that they need you more now than ever before, this is sadly not the case for far too many coaches. These coaches seem totally oblivious to the athlete’s feelings as a person and almost appear to be bothered by any “problems” that are going on in the athlete’s personal life that might interfere with his/her performance value to the team.
If it’s the coach-athlete relationship that truly motivates, what kind of a message is the coach communicating to his players with this kind of response? What kind of a relationship are you building if you are only interested in your players’ skill levels? It may seem a bit on the obvious side, but as a coach you are actually working with thinking, feeling human beings, NOT robots. How you treat each and every one of your athletes on a daily basis determines the quality of your relationship with them and, as a result, their happiness on the team, coach-ability, motivation, determination, and productivity in both practice and competition. Furthermore, and equally as important, how you handle your superstars on a daily basis will dramatically affect team chemistry and bonding, the respect that the team holds for you as well as the bottom line: your won-loss record.
Do your stars get preferential treatment from you? Are they able to bend your rules and get away with ii? Do you have a different set of behavioral standards for the better players than you do for the reserves? When your stars break the team’s rules are their consequences the same as when their less talented teammates do so or do you tend to look the other way? How would your athletes answer these questions?
The starting point guard on a girl’s high school basketball team recently told me about a situation where she missed three practices and one game because of a family vacation over Xmas and her coach appropriately responded by benching her for the entire game, her first game back. While unhappy about having to sit out, the athlete completely understood what the coach was doing and felt that it would be unfair for her to be able to play before those athletes who hadn’t missed any practices that week. However she went on to bitterly complain about the team’s center who she described as moody, immature and undependable, an athlete who regularly missed practices, sometimes not even bothering to call and notify the coach. Because this player was the tallest on the team and the only one who could effectively play center, the coach never sat her out for her transgressions. She regularly broke the coach’s and team’s rules and there were never any consequences! His preferential treatment of, and inconsistency with this athlete wasn’t lost on her teammates who were extremely resentful of her and the coach for his unwillingness to consistently enforce his own rules.
As you are probably well aware, the best athletes don’t win championships. Instead it’s always the athletes that play best together that do. Your team’s success is directly dependent upon how well the individual athletes mesh, on their “chemistry,” and especially on their willingness to sacrifice “me” for “we,” that is, their ability to take on a role for the good of the team and play that role to their potential. How they play this assigned role depends almost entirely on YOU. If you treat your role players with respect and understanding, if you give them and their starting teammates the clear message that the role an athlete plays, regardless of how outwardly important it may seem, is absolutely critical to the team’s ultimate success, then and only then will you be doing all you can to build a close-knit, winning squad. If you ignore or denigrate your reserves, if show favoritism, if you are mainly concerned with the better athletes, then you communicate to the entire team that the reserves are unimportant. When you act this way, your starting line-up will soon follow and begin treating the bench players as a lower, less important form of life. Furthermore, even your subs will begin to look upon themselves as second-class citizens.
Your job is to try to make each and every athlete on your team feel like an important piece of the machinery, that each has a valuable contribution to make to the squad, regardless of how humble it may seem. You do this by trying to make daily contact with ALL of your players, not just the stars. You do this by being clear and honest with your players at the beginning of the season and all the way through about exactly what their role is. You don’t promise them things that you don’t intend to follow through on. You do this by clearly communicating to them when and if they’ll get playing time. When they go in for a minute or more, you personally give them feedback on how they did and what they can do to improve. You do this by trying to make them and each and every one of their teammates feel that their role is very important to you and the team. You do this by not allowing your starters or superstars to denigrate or put down the reserves. You can also do this directly by trying the following exercise:
ROLE APPRECIATION EXERCISE
This is a good exercise to do the night before or day of a big game. Start your team meeting off by talking about the importance of teamwork and the need for each athlete on the team to accept their role and play it to the very best of their ability, that the team’s ultimate success depends on how well everyone plays their role. You can even give examples of the different roles athletes can play for their team, (i.e. cheerleader, leader, motivator, spark plug, comic, mother, enforcer, etc.). Pick one player to start with and then ask your team, one athlete at a time to answer these two questions about that particular athlete: #1 What does this player bring to our team, (i.e. what is their role?)? #2 What do we need them to do today or tomorrow to increase the team’s chances for success? Let as many teammates comment per person as they would like. Make it clear that everyone does not have to necessarily speak up. When your team has finished their comments on this first player, then move on to a second one and a third until you have gone around the entire room and discussed each member of the team and their role.
DR G’S TEACHING TALES
“So just how important are you, the superstar to the team?”
Two geese were about to start southward on their long, annual migration when they were approached by an overconfident frog who begged them to take him with them on their flight. The frog explained that he absolutely had to get down south and that he would help the birds navigate through their journey, that no one could navigate quite like a bull frog. When the geese looked at each other skeptically, the frog chimed in that because of his very fine eyesight he would also be able to keep a look out for water stops along the way as well as for potential dangers. He boasted that he could see hunters from almost three miles away and would be able to warn the geese should these dangers emerge. This way the geese wouldn’t have to worry about always having to look down and thus risk being distracted and flying off course. The frog then claimed that every Fall he had made the journey and had helped scores of geese successfully and safely navigate the long and arduous trip. He added that there was no better creature than himself at finding all the best ponds and lakes along the way, that he knew which ones were to be avoided because of pollution or danger and which had the cleanest waters and best food.
The geese listened to the frog’s boastings and began to think that perhaps it might be in their best interests to have such a talented, knowledgeable and eagle-eyed creature to guide them. They reasoned that the frog’s early spotting of the dangers posed by camouflaged hunters would make their having to carry the extra weight of the frog more than worth it. They agreed to help him but seemed at a loss as to how they would actually go about carrying him on the flight.
The frog of course explained that this would be an easy problem to solve for one as clever and knowledgeable as himself. He then quickly produced a long stalk of pond grass which he had brought along for the occasion and explained his plan to the geese. Each bird would grab one end of the grass with their beaks while he would cling to the middle of the stalk with his mouth. He claimed that his was a brilliant, yet foolproof plan. The geese looked at each other and were duly impressed. So in this way the three began their very long journey. And, true to his claims, the frog did point out a wonderful water stop where the birds were able to safely rest and take in ample food. As they were leaving this pond and flying high over some cultivated fields, some farmers on the ground caught sight of this strange sight. The men loudly expressed their admiration for the travel device that the three were using and wondered aloud who had been clever enough to discover it.
Of course the vain frog couldn’t resist an opportunity to blow his own horn and so opened his mouth to tell the farmers, “It was I, naturally who was so brilliant to have devised such a means of conveyance.” Unfortunately before he could even get the “I” out, he immediately lost his grip, fell to the earth and was dashed to pieces.Moral of the story: Sometimes when you feel like you’re God’s gift to creation, it is much better to keep your big mouth SHUT!