At some point in your athletic career, you will sit on the bench. It’s just part of being an athlete. While this can be tough to deal with, the important thing is to keep a positive mindset. Whether you’re on the bench because of players ahead of you, injury, or other reasons, you still play a huge role in your team walking away with a victory.

Here’s how you can step up to the challenge of being a bench player and embrace the important role you play for your team.

How to Contribute at Practice:

Push the Starters

The best thing you can do as a bench player is play hard in practice. This is great for two reasons. First, you’re pushing the starters so that they’re more prepared for tough opponents in games. This raises the level of the entire team. Second, it makes you a better player as you strive to compete against and learn from your teammates.

Show Up

Show up. To everything. Every practice. Every team event. Every film session. These are all opportunities to show your dedication to the team, as well as build team cohesiveness. If you are hoping to earn more playing time, showing up to every event sends a message to the coach that you are engaged and dedicated to the team.

Encourage Team Camaraderie

Sometimes not being a starter can cause players to resent their teammates. This attitude can quickly tear a team apart. Go the opposite direction and do what you can to encourage team camaraderie. In practice, give high fives, call good play, and always be encouraging. Even outside of practice, consider hosting team dinners or study halls. These are all great ways to bond with your teammates so everyone plays better together.

How to Contribute During a Game

It can be excruciating to sit on the bench for the majority of the game. But this is a key moment for bench players because there is still an opportunity to contribute so much to the game. If a player sulks or pouts or doesn’t pay attention because they’re not playing, they take away from the teams chance of success. These are all great ways to give back to your team, even from the bench.

Cheer On Your Teammates

Positive energy is one of the best things you can bring from the bench. Cheering as loud as you can for your teammates not only makes them feel great, but also keeps the entire team’s energy high. There’s nothing better than having your team share in your success. If you cheer on your teammates for a big rebound or a nice shot, they’ll return the favor when it’s your time to shine. Get loud and get hyped.

Stay Engaged

Communicating on the sidelines isn’t merely cheering. Players on the bench are pivotal for helping things run smoothly. Play calls and shot clock countdowns are easily missed in the craziness of the court. Repeating the play calls, keeping an eye on and counting down shot clocks, and calling out important information can help to make sure your teammates on the court don’t miss a thing. But you can only do this if you’re staying engaged and interested in the game.

Have Good Body Language

Some players will slouch, pout, look into the stands, chat with teammates or relax into their seats when they sit on the bench. This tells your coach and teammates that you don’t care about the game or the team. It is okay to come off the court frustrated and upset, but cool off quickly and get your head back in the game. Be focused on the match, prioritize cheering on your teammates and get excited for your team.

Know the Opponent

Pay attention to the other team. Know their plays, their players and what they run. If you do this, not only will you be able to help your team from the sidelines by calling out screens or different key information, but you’ll also help yourself. The time will come when it is your turn to play, and being prepared for you opponent will make huge difference in your ability to succeed.

Make the Most of Your Minutes

Whether you get three minutes or fifteen, make the most of your time on the field. You can do this by staying engaged in the game, knowing your role, and working hard. Starters will never be able to play the entire game, so your chance may come in a pivotal moment. Make sure that you’ve done the work ahead of time to be ready for your chance.

When you’re on the bench, your role is to be the best teammate possible. You’re a hype man. You’re a cheerleader. You’re a support system. Whether you’re a starter taking a break or a player who has never left the pine, you play an important role in the team’s success when it is your turn to sit the bench.

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