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Always Get Better   

BEING A READY RESERVE - one of the hardest jobs in Sports

from an article by Dr. Alan Goldberg

The hardest, mentally and emotionally grueling and most underrated position to play on any team is that of reserve. Whether you’re thought of as a role player, back-up, 3rd stringer, bench warmer, pine-time player, substitute or scrub. Not being in the line-up takes tons more character, determination, guts and discipline than is needed than when you’re fortunate enough to play every game.

It’s not the regular players that are the real warriors on a given team. Anyone can handle knowing they will play. It takes less character strength, courage, resilience or mental toughness to be in the limelight day in and day out. How you manage the good times doesn’t ever determine what you’re really made of on the inside. Any Joe Schmo or Martha Marvela can look and act like a winner when the coach is smiling down upon them and giving them the nod. The real test, the true test of what you’re really made of comes when things don’t go your way, when you don’t get the assignment got play, when you feel like you’ve been forgotten on the pine, when the coach looks down the bench and seems to look right through you. The mark of a true champion comes with how well you play this back-up role on your team.

The strength of a championship character is determined by how you deal with the lack of glory and the invisibility that inevitably comes from sitting when you’d much rather be playing.

If you are lucky, you will be surrounded by sensitive coaches and caring, respectful teammates. They treat you as a “role player”. They are clear that your job is to “play” a certain role on the team.

Here’s the interesting thing. You may feel like you’re a fifth wheel. You may feel like you make no significant contribution to your team. You may believe that you are nothing more than an afterthought, unimportant, superfluous and unnecessary. You may even feel that you are not as worthy as the regular players. However, for your team to go as far as possible, for your team to be as good as possible, for your team to be successful, YOU ARE NEEDED! YOU are absolutely vital to your team’s success regardless of what folks say on Twitter. Good teams do not become great without the efforts of their role players.

Many reserve players battle inwardly with self-doubts, negativity and intense feelings of unhappiness. This is the real test of the reserve. Handling the feelings of unhappiness, frustration and the low self-confidence that frequently come from not getting a chance to prove yourself. Maintaining your motivation to go hard every day, in every drill even though you can’t escape the fact that you probably won’t see any playing time is not easy to do. However, for the good of the team and their teammates, these reserves did the very best that they could. This is the only way a team can truly be successful. Without the role players doing their assigned jobs well, the entire team will suffer.

Playing time is a very selfish issue. It’s all about ME. Being a true team player is all about WE and if you’re a team player, then you have to be willing to sacrifice your ME for the team’s WE. Is this easy to do with grace and dignity? Heck, it’s not easy to do period! However, being on a team means that you have to be willing to accept the role that has been assigned to you. If you are not willing to play your role to the best of your ability then the entire team will feel it. Whether you like your role or think it’s fair is totally irrelevant. Your job as a team player is not to second-guess or criticize the coaching decisions. It is not to critically evaluate your teammates’ play in an attempt to try to determine whether they deserve their PT over you. This is NOT how a real winner conducts him/herself on a team.

It’s perfectly fine for you to be unhappy with your reserve status. However, how you deal with your unhappiness is what separates the winners from the losers. A winner will constructively channel his unhappiness into the team. He will work harder, cheer louder, be more supportive, and in every way he can, just do more. A winner will also take his frustration with his lack of playing time and use it as a source of motivation to improve. He will channel it into extra training sessions and longer workouts. He will do whatever he can to try to improve his chances for playing time in the future by trying to get better every day. Remember, just because you start doesn’t make you better than your teammates who don’t. Just because the coach looks to you when the game is on the line doesn’t make you a winner. A winner is someone who handles adversity with grace and dignity. A winner is someone who is willing to sacrifice his needs for the team’s greater good. There are many starters who would immediately crack if they were subjected to having to sit on the bench the way the reserves have to do game in, game out.

What really puts you in the GREAT category, what separates the truly great athletes from everyone else is that they make everyone around them better.

A winner makes his teammates better. He/she brings up their level of play. He/she makes them feel better about themselves. He/she understands that for a team to be successful everyone must play their role to the best of their ability. Therefore the champion treats his/her teammates with respect and importance. He/she values their contribution to the team regardless of how small their role may be.