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How I Developed a Growth Mindset From the Bench

As athletes, there’s always that one key element of the game that we all want more of. It’s why we train tirelessly, working to improve ourselves mentally and physically. It’s our chance to play and help drive our team to victory.

You know what I’m talking about; it’s player playing time.

You’ve probably heard an athlete complaining about how they didn’t get enough time in the game. You may have even felt that way yourself; I know that I have. It can feel like the coach is being unfair, arbitrary, and even spiteful. You’ll even see parents getting involved, complaining to the coach that their “messi” is being treated unfairly and that their child’s confidence may suffer for it.

As athletes in that situation, we have two choices. We can let these situations cripple our confidence and spirit, or we can see the opportunity for growth presented before us.

After spending some time on the bench myself, I chose the latter. Whether you choose to see it this way or not, being on the bench is a chance for growth. Let me explain.

First things first, why do we hate being benched?

  1. We feel like we’re not talented enough and begin to doubt our abilities.

  2. We feel embarrassed in front of our teammates, friends, and family.

  3. We feel like we’ve lost the respect of our coach and teammates.

  4. We worry about the next time we’ll get to play and whether we’ll be benched again.

We grow frustrated, wondering why WE were singled out among the rest of the team.

All of this self-doubt and negative self-talk can lead to anger and resentment. We feel like we’ve wasted our time, put in the work, and believed in ourselves…but where’s the reward? With this frustration comes sadness, and we often lose our confidence which further damages our ability to play.

So what would happen if you were to change this thought process? What if you saw the bench as an opportunity to learn and grow instead of as a punishment or setback?

My time on the bench was genuinely transformative. I became a student of the game, watching for patterns on the field. I watched my teammates, taking note of their unique strategies. I celebrated their triumphs and provided positive feedback to help drive my team to success. I did not realize that sitting on the bench would teach me so much about myself!

The bench helped me develop the courage, strength, communication skills, and team skills that really helped me become a more well-rounded athlete and team player.

Let me share what helped me along the way, and I hope it helps you too.

Positive Introspection

As I sat on the bench, I took some time to reflect. Did I ask myself 3 questions that encouraged me to focus on the positives moving forward rather than asking myself: why me? What did I do wrong? Why not them?

These are my 3 questions and the answers that can help you develop your growth mindset:

What is your goal for your team?

I will help them win. Focus on your team instead of your own personal goals.

I will support my team, on and off the field. Whether you’re playing hard, cheering from the sidelines, or fetching waters, you’re there for them.

I will keep my ego out of it. You’re playing a team sport; there’s no time for egos on the field.

How do you approach team practices?

I will arrive on time. This shows your dedication and respect for your team and your coach.

I will put in 100% effort. No one is too talented for practice. Working towards becoming a better player and teammate is the key to a growth mindset. You are more than your abilities.

I will learn from my teammates. Every player has their own unique strengths and playing style. There is always something you can learn from your peers, and this can help you realize which areas of your game have room for improvement. Great teams come together to form a greater whole.

How is your mindset during the game?

I will start each game with a team-focused attitude. It’s not about being the best player in the game; it’s about being the best teammate on and off the field.

I will start each game with a positive mindset. Go into each game with a winning mindset. This means that you are motivated to win, not fearful of losing.

I will not focus on playtime. Don’t worry about how much time you spend on the field; focus on how you will use that time to best help your team achieve a victory.

I will not worry about whether I will start. Again, this is part of a fixed mindset where you believe that your talent determines whether or not you should play. Apply a growth mindset where every experience on and off the field is an opportunity to learn and improve.

Effective Communication With Your Coach

When you get benched, your coach is often the last person you want to talk to. Depending on the circumstances, their decision to bench you can be frustrating and even hurtful. While you may want to vent to your friends, family, or teammates, your coach is the best person to speak to about the situation.

In a growth mindset, you are focused on learning from your time on the bench to see how you can improve as a player. Who better to help you on that journey than your coach.

Here are some tips and questions to help you communicate with your coach and learn from this experience:

  • Be truthful in letting them know how being benched has affected you.

  • Be vulnerable and let them know your fears as they may be the right person to guide you and, in fact, help you!

  • Ask them if it was a specific incident or a culmination of factors that put you on the bench.

  • Ask your coach what you could have done differently.

  • Ask what they would like to see you improve upon in practice and on the field so you can prove yourself.

If you need inspiration, look no further than Michael Jordan. His growth mindset helped him succeed even after he was cut from his high school basketball team, wasn’t recruited for his top college basketball team, and wasn’t even picked during his first 2 NBA drafts. You can’t even say that Michael Jordan was a naturally talented basketball player — he wasn’t. He achieved greatness through practice and hard work.

If you want to discuss more or have suggestions, please feel to drop an email or check our recommended books on how to bounce back mentally by clicking on our Mindset Resources Tab.

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