Pickens' Perspective: Use of youth is important during stretch run
As the regular season gives way to the postseason, youth should be transforming into experience.
College football and basketball announcers like to say late in the season that "the freshman aren't freshmen anymore."
While in local high school sports, it's a rare freshman who makes the varsity, the same notion applies to upper classmen: the sophomore need to play like juniors; the juniors need to play like seniors; and the seniors need to be game-changers.
If chances arise, coaches should give their bench players some minutes. It can behoove a team by giving the older, more worn players rest, and you never know where a diamond in the rough will come from.
Every high school athlete is youthful, however, over the grind of a 20-someodd game season, with practice and workouts scheduled in between, it is necessary to give kids who see a lot of minutes a break.
When the calendar turns to February, or when the calendar changes to the final month of any season, the wear and tear on body and mind is evident. This is where the freshness and spirit of younger, less experienced kids come into play.
High school athletes have a lot on their plates. Between tests, sports and the every day drama of high school, there is more than enough to fill their minds. Sometimes I forget that the athletes are kids first, students second and athletes third. Their full schedules motivate and force them to prioritize. But the demand can be detrimental to their psyches and bodies toward the end of the season.
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Getting the seniors a break at this point of the year, is as much of a value as getting the younger kids varsity playing time. These kids who play their sport, or a sport in general, year round can grow weary of the grind that it puts on schedules.
A day off, or even a half day, like the Warde girls basketball starters got on Tuesday against Bassick, can do the mind and body good.
"They work hard," Mustangs' head coach Dave Danko said.
The other benefit of giving older kids rest, is that it allows coaches to see what they have on the bench. You never know when a coach sees a fourth-liner, or a junior varsity player give that effort, or show off some skill and turn a perceived weakness into a skill.
"You can't teach minutes," Danko said.
With the stretch run of the seasons upon us, runs to championships can be formed at any point from here on out, and it is those little rest periods, or added bonuses off the bench, that can turn a one-and-done team to a Cinderella.