Butch thanks great team members . . . the “subs”

By Butch Dale

In the past year, I have written articles about several of the great athletes in Montgomery County during the last 70 years. These athletes had exceptional talent and practiced hundreds of hours to hone their skills to be the best. Many of these “star” athletes were lucky enough to inherit natural athletic skills, while others worked incessantly, with the help of coaches, teammates and parents to become outstanding players.

But there are many former high school athletes who were unable to excel in various sports. They practiced just as much and they tried their best, but these athletes just couldn’t quite attain the skills necessary to make the starting team or even get much actual playing time during their entire high school sports career. Yet, these athletes were a vital part of the team . . . yes, I am referring to the boys on the bench . . . the “subs.”

How would you like to practice every day, do exactly what the coach tells you to do, follow all team training rules, dress for each game . . . and then sit on the bench the entire game . . . or if you’re lucky . . . play the last few seconds as the game is ending? How many of you could do that game after game . . . year after year? When I participated in sports at Darlington, I wanted to be out there playing . . . win or lose. I was very fortunate to be able to be a starter and play almost every minute of each game during the three years I was on the varsity. However, during one game when I was a sophomore, I got off to a bad start and missed my first five shots. The coach benched me and put in a senior who very seldom played. The sub couldn’t score either, and I kept waiting for the coach to put me back in the game . . . to give me another chance. It was not to be. I sat on the bench the last three quarters. We lost. After the game, on the ride home with Dad, I told him I was done with basketball. I wanted to quit the team.

Fortunately, my father had “a little talk” with me that night. Quitting the team was not an option. I was to stick with it, practice even harder, and keep a positive attitude. He was right. In the next game, I was the top scorer, and we won. During the next two years, I practiced my shooting all year round. I jogged to town (five miles round trip) two or three times a week in the summer to build up my stamina. I worked, detasseled corn and helped farmers bale hay . . . and gained muscle. And in my junior and senior years, with the help of teammates and their assists, I reached my scoring potential.

After that incident during my sophomore year, I started thinking more about my teammates who very seldom played during games. They came to every practice. They ran the wind sprints and performed the drills. They followed the coach’s training rules. They dressed for the games . . . and then . . . they sat on the bench . . . hoping to play . . . but most of the time . . . just watching. And these teammates of mine never complained.

When I look back on this now, I believe that the subs were just as important as the starters. And I truly believe that these boys enjoyed being on the team, even though they had very little, if any, playing time. They were proud to be a “Darlington Indian” representing our school and community. Even though they didn’t get to play much, the fans appreciated their hard work and effort. And it was the same at every school in the county, whether it be Crawfordsville, Waynetown, Ladoga, New Ross or any of the other towns. I also am convinced that being a substitute builds character. Such traits as dedication, determination, loyalty and work ethic bode well for anyone when they leave high school to enter college, join the workforce or start up a business of their own. I know Darlington subs who became very successful farmers, businessmen, and skilled tradesmen. One became a CEO, another a computer expert, and one even became a doctor . . . just to mention a few of their careers.

To all of the athletes, whether it be boys (and later on . . . girls) who “held the bench” while the others played, the community and school fans are proud of you. You were dedicated and loyal to your team and school. You were not a quitter. The community and the fans appreciated you, and you deserve a big pat on the back . . . and a much overdue “THANK YOU!” You are what makes a group of youngsters . . . a true TEAM.

John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 30 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.