Three Options For Role Acceptance

        Know your role.  As coaches, we all talk about it.  "You don't have to like your role, but you do need to accept it," is a quote most players have heard by the time they are a part of a high school team.  The spread of "travel ball" has made this a greater challenge because many players haven't had to accept their roles at an earlier age.  If a player doesn't like his role, then dad just makes his own new travel team to ensure the player does.  The concept behind acceptance of a role plays like this.  You have put in whatever amount of work you have put in during the offseason, you've had the opportunity to compete in practice, preseason scrimmages and intrasquads, and now you have some sort of role within the team from the coach's perspective.  Your situation is what it is.  Accepting or denying the role are the two options often presented.  I'd like to add a third option:  Embrace your role.

        Let's go through the three options.  The first is to deny your role within the team.  This could include quitting but more often results in pouting about it.  Very few athletes strive to "not play," but I think it helps to think about the situation rationally.  If you are not playing, there is probably a reason for it.  The reason is likely that the guy who is playing instead is better.  You can either "get bitter or get better."  Something I think helps minimize the situations where a player is shocked about not playing is for coaches to meet with players and explain the current role for the player.  Sometimes we assume that what we see as obvious from a coach's perspective is just as obvious to players.  We all know the saying about assumptions.  The guy who doesn't accept his role within a team can be a major problem if teammates and coaches allow him to be.

        A second option is the acceptance of a role.  This involves understanding why you are in the situation you are in.  Accepting you are a possible pinch-hitter off the bench means not pouting when you see the lineup and staying ready to hit.  You're not going to quit.  You're not going to pout, but you probably are not as engaged in the game as you could be if you are an acceptance guy.  You don't like it, but you accept it.  On the other end of the spectrum, accepting you are the best player on the team brings with it expectations of its own.  This could mean understanding when you hit with a runner in scoring position and a base open that you are probably not going to get much to it.

        The third, and final level, is EMBRACING your role.  For me, this goes well beyond accepting the role is what it is.  Someone who embraces their role as a pinch-runner is constantly watching the opposing pitcher to see if he can pick something up that would help his team out.  A bench guy who embraces his role keeps the chart without having to be asked over and over to do so.  He's working to pick up signs.  Embracing your role as a hitter, if you are a bottom of the order type, might mean having more at-bats where you are giving yourself up for the team to move a runner or get one in. The superstar player who embraces his role craves the big situation and the feeling of putting the team on his back.  He is what people are talking about when they discuss the difference between a #2 starter and the ACE.  Accepting a role means you will do it without causing a problem.  Embracing a role means you are going to compete to the best at whatever it may be.

        This is the time of the year where in college baseball we see the different levels of acceptance play out before our eyes.  It's also happening in the NBA Playoffs and in Major League clubhouses across the country though.  The best teams have a team full of players who embrace their roles.  Be an embracer today!

        Want to share a story or give a shoutout to a player you know embraced his role this spring?  I would love to hear them.  Tweet them to me @Coach_Ehrlich or shoot me an email at ehrlichb1@gmail.com.

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