What to Do When You’re Not Getting Any Playing Time
Jordan Patterson’s Story
Jordan spent her first two seasons as the backup catcher for the University of Alabama softball team. Coming to Alabama, she knew she’d have to pay her dues and earn a starting spot. So, she showed up everyday with a positive attitude and worked really hard: Coming early, staying late, and looking for those extra reps. She was a great teammate; she was coachable, and she was grateful for the opportunity to be part of the team.
Going into her junior season, she thought her time had come. The players ahead of her had graduated, and she had put in the work to earn the starting spot.
Except, her coach didn’t share the same vision, and in the off-season, he recruited another catcher. It didn’t take long for Jordan to realize her coach intended for this talented, new recruit to be their starting catcher. So, Jordan was gutted. How could he do this to her? Did he not believe in her? Was all her hard work over the last two years for nothing? Had she been fooling herself all this time, thinking she was good enough to play at Alabama?
Every day, we face adversity from the second we wake up. Simply overcoming sleepiness to get out of bed can be a challenge!
Now, if it’s our own doing—like we stayed up late, watching TV—typically, we can get over it pretty quickly. But, if it’s someone else’s doing—like our coach planning a 6 AM —practice, negativity and excuses can creep in. It’s easier to embrace and fight through adversity we have brought upon ourselves. But, when others’ choices create adversity for us, it’s a great deal harder to stay positive.
The adversity Jordan faced by remaining a reserve player—even after doing all the right things—is not uncommon. In fact, every team in the country at every level has a few Jordans of their own. You may even be that player! Let’s be real; being a reserve is the hardest role on the team! It’s one thing to work hard and have a good attitude when you are rewarded, but when you aren’t rewarded, it’s a whole different story!
The Hardest Moment
“Sometimes, you are going to put every ounce of your being into something, and it’s not going to work out exactly the way you wanted it to. You know what? That’s life. Get over it.” - Jordan Patterson
Reserves face some really hard moments: The games you realize you aren’t going to get “your chance”, the days you feel unappreciated by your teammates and coaches, and even those moments when your team wins big and everyone is happy, but inside, you feel you don’t matter because the world has told you that your value as a player comes only from the minutes you play and the numbers you put up.
In these moments, you have a choice: ME or the TEAM.
Let’s get something clear: most athletes believe they are a team player! But, more often than not, they are only a team player when things go their way. The problem is things don’t always go the way we want them to life. So, the question you must ask yourself is: Will you choose to serve your team—even when you don’t feel like it?
“I kept working hard: Still came early and stayed late, but my motivations for doing so began to change. Instead of being motivated by the desire for personal success, I was motivated by the desire for team success.” —Jordan Patterson
If you ask Jordan, you can still have one of the best experiences of your life if you choose “team” before “me”.
In her last two seasons at Alabama, Jordan made the choice to:
- Believe she was a part of something bigger than herself.
- Realize the positive impact she could have on others as a reserve.
- Use the experience to shape who she was as a person.
So, you have two choices: You can reject your role and quit on your team, or you can embrace your role and keep fighting!
8 Ways to Embrace Your Role and Keep Fighting
Regardless of your role, the team needs you to do two things:
- Embrace your role.
- Keep fighting.
These two things can appear to contradict each other. So, let’s break them down by first talking about what they are not:
Embracing is not believing:
- The coach is an unfair jerk who doesn’t realize you’re the better player.
- You’re never going to get your chance, so there is no point in working hard.
- The other players were just born more naturally talented than you.
Fighting is not:
- Refusing to accept any feedback or be coachable.
- Choosing a negative attitude to make sure everyone knows you are upset.
- Resenting your teammates who are playing instead of you.
Embracing is about what we choose to believe. Fighting is about how we choose to act.
Embracing your role is choosing to believe:
- The coaching staff is making the best decision they can, based on the information they currently have.
- Your job as a reserve is critical to the success of the team.
- Your teammates have put in the effort needed to be the player they are today.
- Your moment may come.
Fighting is choosing to:
- Show up and give your best every day, so you can make a better argument to get more playing time.
- Provide value to your team by pushing the starters in practice and encouraging them during games.
- Be grateful for the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than yourself.
- Train and stay ready for the moment your team may need you in the game.
So, what will you choose to believe? How will you choose to act?
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