For the next few days you dwell on your performance, the coaches decision making, your past performances, and the season ahead which now seems awful. You do your best to rationalize the coach’s decision; maybe he decided to play
someone different because he is giving you a rest, maybe he wants to give that other player one last chance before relegating him to the bench, or maybe it is a test to see how you respond to disappointment or frustration. You try to block the thoughts of not be good enough. But these thoughts are on a repeated loop. You might lose sleep, have difficulty concentrating on the field, and anxiety overwhelms, all of which trigger poor play.
But what can you do? Most athletes take the emotionally dreadful approach of silence and try to read the mind of the coach to figure things out. But there is a much easier approach that is rarely considered by most athletes. Talk to the coach. Open up the lines of communication so the uncertainty that is causing more anxiety becomes clear. Unapproachable coaches who do not want players asking questions about playing time contribute to this
silence. Fortunately most coaches are more receptive. The simple act of asking the coach“why?” can alleviate anxiety caused by the unknown. However, consider the following tips when attempting this:
1. Timing: Do not attempt to talk coach in the middle of a training exercise or during a very heated game. Wait
for a time when things are calm and the coach is not busy. You want the coach to be calm and free of distraction so he/she can respond in a thoughtful manner.
2. Your tone of voice: Do not begin this conversation in an angry and accusatory manner. This is likely to
result in an argument because you are immediately forcing the coach in a defensive stance.
3. Ask for useful feedback. When you are asking about playing time or a starting spot you do not what to come
across as if you are begging or trying to pressure the coach in to what you want. You might ask why you are
not starting, but more importantly follow it up with questions of what you need to improve to be considered for a starting spot. This shows the coach that you are accepting responsibility for your situation on the team and that you are willing to work on weaknesses to become a stronger athlete.
The final consideration worth exploring pertains to why you are silent and afraid to talk to the coach? Are you afraid of maybe hearing the painful truth that you just are not good enough? If this is true, speaking up will allow you to understand your athletic weaknesses. Knowing what is holding you back can open the door to personal improvement. At least you know what the problem is rather than blindly guessing on what you need to improve.