Sad Benchwarmer

Tired of Sitting on the Bench on Your Team?

My future in sports was over before it began.  Here I was, a senior year in high school, and still on the bench of the varsity team.  What was I doing wrong?  I was one of the most skillful players on the team, worked hard during practice, and did well academically.  Here are my tips to increase your chances of becoming a regular starter on any high school or college sports team.

  • Embrace what's special and different about you.  Do you excel technically?  Are you able to concentrate better than others?  Maybe you're a hard worker, persistent, creative, intelligent…  Focus on whatever makes you stand out from the rest and spend most of your energy on harnessing and selling these attributes.
  • Identify who your "haters" are on your team, and life in general, and distance yourself from them as much as possible.  Why waste your energy on negative thoughts and behavior?  Distance yourself from the negative influences so you can spend most of your energy on your strengths.  Many times your biggest detractor can also be your closest friend!  If you don't want to lose your friend, tell him or her that unless there's a change in the behavior toward you, you will no longer be friends.  Do this as soon as possible.  What if your coach is a detractor?  Read on…
  • Raise your visibility by promoting your strengths to your coach authentically.  It may sound difficult if you're the quiet type, but you have nothing to lose by meeting with your coach.  I'm not talking about bragging!  Explain yourself in an honest and genuine way.  You are simply providing he or she with a mental list of what you are good at in sports, academically, extra-curricular activies, and so on.  Coaches often have no clue whether you're a smart kid, stay out of trouble, artistic, and so on.  Their interpretation of who you are as a person may lead to managerial mistakes such as constantly playing you out of position.  For instance, if you are not the biggest and strongest but rather more creative, you should be playing a play-maker role on your team, not a strength-based defensive role.  Sound familiar?
  • Take credit when it's due to you.  Coaches can't see everything.  There will be times when the team will benefit from your actions and someone else will be credited for your work.  At team meetings, don't be afraid to take ownership of accomplishments!   State your ideas to improve the team.  State facts to your coach.  For example, "Coach, the team has won 90% of the games when I was a starter, versus when I came on as a sub or didn't play."  Tough to argue against that.

All the tips above helped me achieve my goals in high school sports.  The one that made the most immediate impact was the one-on-one meeting with my coach.  I simply asked him to give me some tips on how I could get more playing time, and made sure I laid out my strengths on the table so he could make a better decision about me on the field.  

I ended up actually starting the most important game of the season - the state final!  I'll never forget it.  We won and thankfully I was influential in helping the team win.  But what I remember the most is the parents that came up to me afterwards and told me how they thought I should've been a starter all along.  No one spoke up for me!  I had to do it myself.  I went from being a high school bench-warmer to a starter as a freshman in college!  How?  I'll write another article on that soon...