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Navigating the Versatile Valley of the Twelfth-Man Trench

Well damn if there ever was a “story of my life” moment, this is it.

I like to drive. It puts me in control, I can leave when I want and go where I wanna go. But what if you’re not the one picking the destination?

Enter team sports.

Who here has been told to work on their weaknesses? Everyone at some point, yeah? Who has worked solely on their left-handed jumper when you’re not in fact left-handed? Surely not just me. What about defenders who spent time working on their shot “just in case” you find yourself outside the opponent’s box? How about the infielder who was like “You know what I wanna work on pitching just for funsies”?

Nothing wrong with that, I tell myself.

But enter Me. My High School basketball coach once told a group of summer campers that I could “play anywhere,” but joke’s on me, I didn’t realize the pine pony was one of those places. (And I was good, damn it.)

Much, much later in life, I realized that I’d focused on becoming so valuable, so versatile… that I forgot to be a force in any one position. I thought saying I can “play anywhere” was a positive. And well, it can be and it is, given that maybe the position I was currently in wasn’t really for me. But instead of becoming the best player I could be, I was really turning into the best 12th Man. (For those at home, some sports have 11 players on the field, 6th Man for our bball fans.)

Coaches, tap in here. What are your thoughts on this? I have played a different position for every team so I feel it’s been a good thing. Even my final years playing pro in a different-strategied arena soccer. Signed on as a midfielder, but ended up playing defense, and it was the best move we made. How do you think you influence this ideal to your players whether purposely or subconsciously? Do you have a preference? Have you tried to influence one way and it didn’t work out? Or it did?

Players… what have you been told? What has worked for you? I’d love to hear especially from the ones who picked one position and nailed it. You are the absolute best that you can be. How did you make that decision?

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