As the spring sports season approaches, every athlete’s goals should include both individual and team success. Unfortunately, these two do not always happen together as you envisioned.
Let’s take a look at how you should and should not react when you are not given the opportunities or the playing time you believe you “deserve.”
What not to do:
Act like it doesn’t matter:
Caring is cool. Something I have noticed when working with young athletes, especially teenagers, is that many are afraid to fully commit emotionally to their sport. I think we can all agree that the harder you work for something, the more success you tend to have. However, we don’t always take that one step further and ask “why is someone willing to work harder?” Oftentimes it is as simple as caring more. Don’t carry yourself like you don’t care whether or not you succeed.
Single out specific coaching moves:
Never use a specific example of a time when you should've been in the game but weren’t. When it comes to playing time, there is a finite amount. Therefore, if there was a game you thought you should have played in, that means you also think one of your teammates should not have played in the game. Calling out these examples shows a lack of trust and respect for your teammates who likely have the same goals as you do, and it is counterproductive to achieving team success.
Get your parents involved:
If you want to vent about something that is disappointing or upsetting with those who you are closest to, please do. However, imagine this scenario: you approach your coach in a respectful way about wanting to play more and your coach says, “Can you tell your parents to talk to me instead?” This has never and will never happen. Coaches want to build relationships with you, understand what makes you tick as an athlete and speak to you directly about any problems you may have.
Compare your game to the player ahead of you:
Be the best version of yourself and try not to compare attributes. If you’re a pitcher and are great at inducing ground balls, but the guy ahead of you throws harder and has success getting hitters to chase fastballs up in the zone, that doesn’t mean that’s what you should start trying to do, because that is likely not how you are going to be successful. Be your own player.
What to do:
Be your team’s biggest fan:
It is difficult to be an athlete who is not getting the time you want when your team is having success. How can you justify that you should be in and others should be out when your team is doing well!? You need to embrace your team’s success, whether you are having an impact on the box score or not. Use it to motivate you into wanting to contribute even more.
Make it clear you want to play:
Every coach and athlete understands and respects the desire to compete and show what you can do on the field. There is no shame in wanting to play and contribute to the team. In fact, most coaches will lose respect for you if you do not make it clear you want more playing time. The key here is to communicate this in a positive way. Ask your coach what you can improve if you don’t already know. It is not enough to verbally communicate with your coach that you want to play more. You need to show it with extra work as well.
Do the little things:
Be the first one to the field. Take some extra ground balls or jump shots after practice. Better yet, a great way to help with the inherent selfishness that comes with wanting to play more is to grab a teammate and switch off hitting grounders to each other or rebounding for each other to maximize the work you are putting in. Making yourself better, showing the coach how much you care, while also helping out a teammate is the perfect combination.
Most good things take time and achieving your goals on the field is no exception. However, in order to let those goals materialize, you need to maintain positive relationships with your coaches and teammates in the meantime. My collegiate baseball career appearances and innings are below:
2012 - 1 start, 4 appearances, 7.0 IP
2013 - 14 appearances, 20.1 IP
2014 -15 appearances, 19.2 IP
2015 - 9 starts, 13 Appearances, 51.1 IP
I was pretty upset my junior year after not seeing an uptick in playing time despite some solid performances when given the opportunity. I did not let this affect my attitude towards my coaches, or any of my teammates and instead looked inward at what I could improve.
The following season, my teammates rewarded this patience by electing me as team captain, and my coaches put me in the starting rotation. I am confident my mental approach to this situation played just as big of a part in this result as any change in my actual abilities.