Coaching Management 23.2

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COVER STORY After the University of Southern Indiana lost a winner's bracket game in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional last season, senior A.J. Dokey addressed the squad. "He said, 'It's my fault we lost. I wasn't energized, and I didn't get us going,'" USI Head Coach Tracy Archuleta recalls. "He told the guys he'd do better the next game." While a limited number of players can be in the lineup at any one time, the rest of the squad still plays a large role in your program's success. Top coaches explain how to get the most out of bench players. | By Patrick Bohn heroes in waiting An athlete accepting blame after a loss is hardly unique, but the circumstances behind this admission were different: Dokey never played in the game, spending all nine innings watching his teammates from the dugout. "What A.J. said that day has stuck with me," Archuleta says. "I've always believed in the importance of a strong bench, but he really drove home the point that backups play critical roles in the success of a team in unseen ways." Although Dokey appeared in only 18 games for Southern Indiana last season, he provided a steady, veteran presence in the dugout. And when he was called on, he also delivered on the field—entering as a defen- sive replacement in the 12th inning of the Division II title game and recording the final out as the Screaming Eagles won their first national championship. Few bench players will end their career on such a high note. But by defining and valuing their roles, you can maximize their contributions, regardless of how often they take the field. ROLE PLAYING The first step to helping bench players thrive is ensuring they understand and accept their assignments. Some coaches find that individual preseason meetings are great times to start those conversations. While it's never easy to tell a player he won't be a regu- lar in the starting lineup, these sit-downs are essential to getting the most out of your bench players.

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