Becoming a bench player can be one of the most frustrating things for any athlete. In that situation, it’s critical to stay positive and examine why you are no longer a starter – are you lacking work ethics, made too many mistakes in a game, played terribly, coach’s decisions because of game tactics, etc.
Before the 2020/21 season, I was always a starter, but this year was different due to many injuries. They were the main reason I lost my starting spot on the team. At first, it was hard, but later I embraced it. It helped by putting my ego on the side and thinking only about the things I can control – that is how I manage the recovery from injuries and perform on practices or when I got the chance to play in the game. When I got the opportunity to play, I always took it, like it was the last game I would ever play, and left it all on the court. We play in a team sport, where every player got a specific role; he needs to accept and do his job – if players don’t do that, the team cannot function optimally.
As the season was ending, I was getting a little bit frustrated because I didn’t get any real chance, and my injury was bothering me all the time. I was waiting for the surgery, which I had scheduled in April, and I had already a surgical table in mind. My team has made it to the finals of the Slovenian championship, and there were no expectations that I would step on the court whatsoever.
So on practice, two days before the second game of the finals, something happened that no team wants to experience. Our first libero Kyle Patrick Dagostino got hit in the head and suffered a concussion. It was tough because he had a great season, and he was an essential player on our team.
At the time, my injury wasn’t bothering me that much, which was rare, and I put in a few good practices. With our first libero out on a concussion protocol, I got my chance to play in the finals. Not the best way to get an opportunity, but it was finally my chance to prove myself and show everybody how I can play when feeling healthy. I didn’t want to let my teammates down.
On a game day, I didn’t feel any pressure. Like any other regular game, I took breakfast, morning practice, lunch, and 45 min nap—my usual routine before games.
In the game, I played great, and what’s the most important – we won.
That you should be ready to take every opportunity you get. Work your ass off on the practices in the weight room, and once your chance comes, grab it and leave everything you got on the court. Hard work always pays off.
So, if it happens to you:
Take it positively. No matter what, you have to take any failure as a learning experience and take something from it. The road to success is a marathon with many setbacks on the way. The important thing is to remember that we only have control over how we react to a given situation.
Why would you care for something you don’t have control over? Care about what you can do about it, whether in your sport or outside the gym. Train even harder as nothing happened. Make sure to stay the same person without letting your ego and emotions take control and complicate things even more. Embrace your role on the team!
Put your ego to the side. Every person has EGO hidden in them, especially athletes. Before this season, mine was just crazy, and if something happened that I didn’t want, I immediately became a different person seeking revenge. Now it’s a bit different, though I admit that sometimes it’s hard to control.
Have a conversation with a coach and ask him why he benched you or why you don’t get much playing time. Maybe it’s just team tactics for the game, and perhaps he can point out some of your flaws that you need to work on. Patiently wait for the opportunity because it will come if you work hard enough.
Like Jakov Fak, one of the best biathlon athletes is always honest and genuine. Every day will show you a mirror picture of yourself.