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Baseball and softball players this article is for you. Have you found yourself on the bench and out of the line-up but are having a hard time understanding why? Everyone at some point will experience “sitting on the bench” in their career, it is only a matter of time. Whether it’s on a 10 and under travel ball team or playing in the minor leagues this will happen to you. This article is to help players take the steps to get themselves back in the line-up and earning their playing time. Not only will this article give you insight on what to do but hopefully will give you a better perspective on how good you actually are. You can also check out my playing time article geared towards parents!
Before you even think about talking with your coaches about playing time, your role on the team, or things you need to work on, take a good hard look in the mirror. What I mean by that is to honestly evaluate your own skills. Make a list of things you do well and things you do poorly. Take a look at your statistics because, at the end of the day, baseball and softball are both number games. If your statistics suck, well that’s probably why you're on the bench. Honesty is the best policy in this situation and you need to be realistic when evaluating how good you actually are compared to those who are in the line-up. To be one of the 9 players on the field you have to bring value to the team!
Having open communication is important to get a good idea of what your role is on the team. When you talk with your coach just be upfront and honest about what you're thinking. I do not want you to go asking for more playing time at all. You need to structure your words in a way of how you can earn more time or opportunity to play versus just asking “hey can I get more time?”. There are obvious reasons why you are not playing, don't pretend like there isn't. Be prepared for an answer that you may not like. Maybe right now your coach doesn't think you're ready or the right player for the job. Maybe the position that you play isn't available because the person who is in that spot is doing really well. Nothing is guaranteed and playing time must be earned. Finding out your role on the team and asking your coach what you need to work on is taking initiative and should motivate you to work harder.
After you have spoken with your coaches about your role and what you need to work on it’s time to get work! Developing a plan or routine to help you get back on the field is key. The seasons go by fast and before you know it will have come to an end. Therefore you can’t waste any more time. If you’re hitting is suffering then you have to know why. Maybe your stride sucks or you’re swinging straight down. It could be a ton of different things, getting a professional swing analysis done either online or in-person by one of Baseball Rebellion instructors is huge! Check out one of my other articles about “deliberate practice” to give you better insight into why you can’t just practice to practice. Find out what you need to work on and how you’re going to work on it.
Let’s say you’ve been working hard putting in extra work on and off the field. Whether it’s in the weight room or getting some private lessons. You’re starting to feel good and are itching to get back out there. Maybe your coaches notice your improvements, maybe they don’t. That’s fine and it doesn't matter anyway. The only thing that matters is that you stay ready. While you’re sitting the bench you can't worry about the opportunities that you're not getting. This is not a time to sulk or whine so don’t be negative. That will drive you insane and will only hinder your performance once you do get that chance. Anything can happen at any time, so you better be ready.
Finally, the day has come and you’re in the line-up whether its because the player in that position is now doing poorly or maybe you’re given the chance because you have truly earned it. But hey guess what it doesn't matter, you're in the line-up and it’s now time to prove and show why you should be in that spot every day. This is the time where you capitalize and maybe play with a little chip on your shoulder. The goal should be to play so damn good that there is no reason why you should be on the bench. Make that diving play to save some runs, hit that double in the gap to start of the inning. Bottom line is you have to go out and produce! To play every day and be that player who deserves to play you have to do it well. If you still are not producing in the game well guess what you have got to keep working and get better plain and simple.
Your season is now over and it’s time to look back and reflect on what you did or didn't do. After taking a break to rest up physically and most importantly mentally it’s time to get to work even harder. First things first it’s the off-season and it’s time to train so that when the season comes around again you are a better player than you were before. The importance of weight training is huge, get bigger if you’re small, get faster if you’re slow, lose some weight if you need to. Go make yourself into an absolute beast of an Athlete. Make some goals and go out and achieve them. If you're not doing these things in the off-season then don’t be mad when you find yourself performing poorly for another season. You have to take the time to build yourself into what you want to become. It is a process that many fail to achieve but those who are consistent and relentless with their off-season training are usually the ones who are playing when the lights come on!
As you get older this will become even more relevant because starting in high school and maybe even sooner depending on where you play coaches want to win games. The thing is you can't blame your coaches for wanting to win, it's their job to put the best players on the field to go out and compete. Their jobs depend on this, especially in high school and college. Does this make things unfair for some players, maybe or maybe not depending on how you look at it. All I'm saying is that if you are playing any sport on any team, the goal is to win bottom line. If you are not in a position to help the team win then don't be surprised if you're on the bench!
I really hope after reading this article it motivates players to take the initiative to get themselves back in the line-up. The first step is always to ask and evaluate yourself. Often times that will show you what needs to be done. After that talk with your coaches about your role and what they want you to get better at. Lastly, the most important thing is to get to work on exactly what you need to do. Nobody is going to do it for you, be selfish with your time and how you spend it. Ge to the field early to get some extra work in, hit the gym harder than normal. Take control of your career and surround yourself with people who will help you get to where you want to go!