You weren’t playing your finest (or maybe you were!), and now….you’ve been benched.

Is it the end of the world?  It can sure feel like it (but it’s not).

Is it permanent?  Nope, but again… it can sure feel that way.

Consider some different perspectives and associated tips to turn bench time into your secret weapon on the court.

  • Coach’s decisions are uncontrollable.  The sooner you accept this, the sooner you will play your best for you!  You could play perfectly, and he/she still might decide to bench you for whatever mysterious reasons.  Depending on their personality, you may be able to speak with them sometime after the game, but it might not change anything.
  • Practice mental skills during practice, not just during games. It will make it easier to tap into your best mindset during games, if you’ve done drills like the Mind-Body ABCs along the way.  You probably wouldn’t try a new kind of layup without practicing it first.  Why would you try a mental skill without trying it first?
  • On the bench, are you a “victim?” Or are you seizing this opportunity to prepare for whatever minutes you might get later (within this game or another)?  Seizing the opportunity means taking actions like using paced breathing, mental imagery, and fully engaging.     
  • If you did get benched because you weren’t playing well, you were likely either not amped up enough, or too amped up. Paced breathing (4 second inhales and 6 second exhales) can help you to be at the top of your inverted U.
  • Just like you can “practice” plays in your head (and on your couch) at home, you can use mental imagery while sitting on the bench watching the game. In a sense this is also just like when D1 teams watch scouting films to know what’s coming!  As you watch your opponents in action from a sideline perspective, learn their tendencies.  Watch your teammate, in your position, and picture (eyes open or closed) what it feels like to execute the offense or defense that you’d engage.  Feel it in your body, as if your teammate is your “avatar.”
  • Fully engage. Your body language on the bench (or standing cheering/sharing info with teammates) contributes to the energy you will experience once you’re actually playing…  And, as Coach sees you out of the corner of their eye, he/she is likely assessing how much you care, and whether or not you’re ready to return.  Whether or not Coach acts like you hope they will, it helps prepare you for the next time you play (whether today or a different day)!

So the next time Coach benches you, let it be your cue to shift perspective and embrace your mental skills.  Let the bench become your secret weapon.  With a little quality bench-time practice, you may even end up thanking Coach for this chance to prepare for whatever’s next.