Sitting on the bench is a reality of playing sports. You will probably have to spend some time cheering on your teammates from the sidelines at some point in your career. But if you dream of being on the court, how can you get more playing time?
Talk to Your Coach
The first thing you need to do if you’re looking for more minutes has a conversation with your coach. Ask to schedule a meeting and have an open discussion about your role on the team and your desire to play more.
The best thing you can do is ask “Coach, what do I need to do or change to help this team be successful?” If you frame your desire to play more around the team’s betterment, it shows your coach that you are a team player and are willing to learn and grow.
Often coaches will explain the role they see you filling for the team, or point out areas for improvement in your game. Once you have a clear guideline of what is expected of you, and what you need to do, you can set out on improving your game.
Put in Extra Practice
The next step is to put in extra hours. If you are behind on your conditioning, get some extra wind sprints in. If your skills need a bit of an upgrade, try to schedule an extra 10-20min a day of ball-handling or form shooting. If you’re having trouble getting the plays memorized, talk with your coach about watching film, or recruit some teammates to help you before or after practice.
The key is that this needs to be on top of your daily practices. The only way you’re going to earn more time is by putting in more work than the person next to you.
Have a Good Attitude
If you pout about not playing enough, you will most likely play even less. But if you are cheering on your teammates from the bench and spreading positivity, your coach is going to be much more likely to play you.
Maintaining a good attitude through adversity is a hallmark of a good athlete. Keep your head up.
Make the Most of the Minutes You Have
Be ready to make the most of the minutes you get when you’re put in the game. This means you need to stay involved when you’re on the bench. Know the offense and defense your team is running and know who you’re guarding. After that, focus on playing for the team and giving your utmost effort. You’re not trying to be a star player, but a reliable player.
Don’t worry about making mistakes. They’re going to happen. What shows the coach you’re ready to play more minutes is how you respond after a mistake. Don’t hang your head or mope. Make up for it with a big hustle play!
If you’re not the most skilled player on the team, you will most likely have to make up for it in effort. Everyone should have to work hard, but sometimes that’s not reality. Show the coach how much you want it by giving 100% effort at all times. Every team needs a player who can make hustle plays. If you can be that person, you will get more playing time.
Dive on the floor for a loose ball. Go in hard for a tackle. Dive for a line drive. These are the little things that go a long way to show the coach your dedication.
Transition to a New Position
If you’re not getting playing time because there are a lot of players ahead of you for a certain position, consider talking with the coach about switching to a new position. If the team already has four post players, can you work on your shooting and transition out to a wing player? If you’re the third string quarterback, could you transition to safety?
Taking this route means learning a new set of skills and taking up a new role on the team, so it might take a little longer for this to earn playing time. But it is something to consider if you’re really trying to up your minutes, as it makes you a more versatile player.
You May Not Get More Playing Time
Even if you follow all of these tips and do everything right, there may not be room for you to have more minutes. This is a critical point for an athlete because you can accept this fact and decide to enjoy the experience and be the best teammate possible. Or you can let it fester and come between you and your teammates and coach. I urge you to try and come to terms with your role on the team.
And, the beauty of sports is that things change quickly. You may unexpectedly get your shot because of a teammate’s injury or players graduating, or even a new style of play. No matter what happens, try to find joy in being part of a team, getting a good workout and participating in a sport you love.