posted Feb 16, 2018, 12:56 PM by Cynthia Dang   [ updated Feb 16, 2018, 1:04 PM ]
Imagine you've worked your tail off to make a team and come game day you never see the court. Frustrating right? I know every single player wants to be on the court. They want to be out there showing their team, their coach, their friends and their family exactly what they're made of. 
At some point in every athletes life they will become a "bench warmer", or not get the same playing time as someone else on the team. What most people don't understand is that those bench warmers are just as important to the outcome of the game, as the kids on the court. Most kids don't think there's such a thing as a "great bench player", and even some coaches miss the value in their benches... but it's super important to ME as a coach. 

Here are some tips to become a "great bench player" and maybe even earn yourself some more court time: 

1. STAY READY: If as I coach I look down the bench while considering a substitution I am not going to choose the athlete that doesn't have their knee pads up and hair pulled back, or that's looking across the gym instead of at their own game. 

2. PAY ATTENTION TO THE GAME: Along the same lines at point number 1, but what I want to see and hear as a coach is that you are fully engaged in the game. What is the opponent doing on offense or defense? Are you helping your team identify weak spots? If the ball comes at you on the bench were you paying enough attention to see it coming to get out of the way? 

3. BODY LANGUAGE: Again, this goes back to point 1 & 2. If you are sitting or standing with crossed arms, scowling face, rolling eyes or giving the death glare to someone on the court I am NOT going to put that energy into the game. I want to see you engaged, on the edge of your seat, jumping with excitement when your team does something well.

4. DON'T RUIN YOUR TEAMS FOCUS: I feel like this speaks for itself, but I'll elaborate a little bit. You are at the game so be a part of the game. Bench discussions should be about the game, not what happened between you and your BFF this week at school or what you're doing later that night.

5. BRING LOTS OF ENERGY: Energy is the MOST important thing in any game and bench players have the ability to add more of that than almost anyone else in the game. Be loud, shout encouraging things to your teammates if they're struggling, stand up and cheer when your team scores a point or makes an amazing play. If the coach calls a time-out bench players should be the first ones ready in the huddle. High five the players coming off the court or on their way back out. 

6. REMEMBER YOU ARE STILL A PART OF THE TEAM: The feedback coaches often get from benched players is they don't feel like they're a part of the team. You have to remember that if I never intended to allow you on the court, you wouldn't be on the team at all. If you've made a roster (for our club anyways) it's because at some point you EARNED your spot and we see value in having you as a part of the team.

7. REMEMBER THIS IS A TEAM SPORT: Volleyball is a team sport. HS Varsity volleyball, and club volleyball are COMPETITIVE team sports. While our club's #1 focus isn't necessarily winning, we must still push our teams to be successful while accomplishing our other goals. If Suzy Q is having a crappy day we're going to replace her with someone else that maybe gives us a better chance at success. If the defense has our hitters number and we can't put the ball down, then we're going to put someone else in that maybe has a different skill set to help us find the floor. Or the flip side of that is EVERYONE on the court could be doing a great job and we're simply not going to disrupt the flow of the game and risk breaking our momentum.  Remember it's not always about being the best player on the team, it's about being the best teammate on the team. 

So to all of the "bench warmers" don't forget that your time to shine WILL come. Keep working hard and being the best teammate you can possibly be no matter if you're on the court or not;  if you follow the advice above it may find yourself on the court sooner than later.