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Earning Playing Time

By Dr. Chris Stankovich

Playing time Considerations

The amount of playing time you will receive is in direct proportion to a number of related variables, including your athletic ability, motivation, hustle, and ability to be a good on-field leader. Other factors may also enter in, including rank in class and experience, as well as “politics” (unfortunately, but a reality in some instances).

While it is important to work hard to become a starter, it is also equally important to be realistic with your expectations. For instance, if you are a freshman and have never played varsity before it might not be a bad move to play JV or freshman and really hone your skills (and increase your self-confidence, too). I have known some athletes to make the varsity level prematurely, only to end up sitting on the bench and left to feel uncertain about their athletic skill abilities and future.

The main point is that you work to get into a position where you can earn adequate playing time and compete against competition that will help you improve your athletic skills!

How to Improve Your Playing Time Chances

The most important thing is that you only concern yourself with things under your control! In other words, rather than spending time getting caught up in decisions made by the coaching staff that are out of your control, instead work on improving your skills, keeping a good positive attitude, and doing everything you can to help the team succeed. When you expend wasted time thinking (and getting frustrated) by why you are not playing as much as you would like, you actually end up draining your personal energy, promoting a negative attitude to your teammates, and may even be viewed as a problem to the team!

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying – being passionate about playing more is a very good thing! The problem begins when you take things too personally and instead of focusing on things you can control (i.e. your motivation level, your conditioning, knowing the plays, etc.) you spend too much time complaining about what “should” be going on with the team.

If you are uncertain about why you are not playing more, ask! But make sure when you do ask that you are polite and respectful toward the feedback the coach may give you. Thank the coach afterwards then go out and work hard to improve in the areas he/she told you to work on in order to earn more playing time!

Playing Time Tips

• There is no substitution for hard work and athletic skill improvement. Ask your coaches where your areas of weakness are and how you can improve in those areas.

• Be patient. Many great athletes didn’t start out that way – in fact, learning discipline by watching other great athletes can pay big dividends down the road.

• Never compare yourself to another teammate when talking to a coach, and never bad-mouth a player starting in front of you. Instead, try to learn how you can get better so you can earn more playing time based on your talent – not because you made enough commotion bad mouthing another player or coach’s decision.

• Hustle, hustle, hustle! And never underestimate the importance of being a good team leader, either. Most coaches I know always look to play athletes who display these qualities – even if their skill level is not the best on the team. Consistently be the first one to practice and the last one to leave and watch what happens!

• Always respect the coach’s decision, even if you don’t like it. You can always talk to the coach about how you can earn more playing time, but in the end whatever the decision is it is most important that you entrust the coach’s appraisal system. Keep working hard and maintain a good attitude and your time will come, I promise!