Mindset for Practice When You’re Not Starting
It is easy to be motivated when you are in the lineup every day. When you are a starter, practice sessions seem to have a purpose as you game plan each week for your next opponent.
But how about when you see little playing action during games? How can you sustain motivation throughout a long season when you feel you will never play in a game?
We recently received a question from a varsity high school soccer player who has seen limited playing time during her sophomore year:
“I work hard in practice but don’t get any playing time. I think I’m good enough to be a starter, but as the season progresses, I am slowly losing my motivation. How can I regain my motivation and improve my game?”
You have the choice between two mindsets as a non-starter.
One mindset is the belief you lack the talent to be a starter or earn significant playing time. When you believe you lack the talent to play, you see your teammates as better than you.
As the season progresses, you lose confidence and no longer have the motivation to work to improve your skills. Most of the time, you feel you need to drag yourself to practice, don’t want to be there, or count the minutes until practice is over.
During games, you feel more like a spectator than a player. This mindset interferes with your ability to grow your game.
The other mindset is that you believe you have the talent and know you can improve and become stronger, more skilled, and faster. You see “work” as the key to success and are motivated in practice.
You race during practice runs, focus during drills, listen intently to your coach’s advice, and play aggressively in scrimmages. You are actively engaged on the sidelines and mentally prepared for when your number is called during games.
In other words, you bring it every day. Not only will you notice the improvement in your game, but your teammates and coach will notice your positive attitude.
Mindset is a choice.
You can actively choose to stay engaged and put in the work. This mindset, also known as a growth mindset, rejects the notion that talent equals potential.
There are many talented soccer players who never came close to their potential and dropped out of soccer at an early age.
A growth mindset recognizes that talent is part of the equation, but it is focused effort over time that ultimately leads to athletic achievement. Only with this growth mindset will you be prepared and confident to play your best when your number is called.
USWNT forward Ashley Hatch is an excellent example of an athlete with a growth mindset. As the USWNT prepares for the World Cup, Ashley Hatch stepped up as a starter in a friendly against New Zealand.
Forward Alex Morgan was removed from the starting lineup due to muscle tightness minutes before the start of the game. In addition, Sophia Smith, the 2022 National Women’s Soccer League MVP, was out due to a minor injury.
Next up was Hatch.
Hatch had not started in over six months and is attempting to make her first World Cup roster. Hatch’s preparedness and growth mindset paid off as she scored the opening goal as the U.S. squad pulled off a 5-0 victory.
HATCH: “It’s the opportunity that everyone wants to start for this team. So, just always ready and always prepared.”
U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski views lineup changes as opportunities for players who haven’t logged many international minutes.
ANDONOVSKI: “The way we see it, it’s just an opportunity for us to see someone else, but also an opportunity for someone else to showcase her ability and hopefully earn a spot for the next one.”
When you see each practice and training session as opportunities to showcase your skills, your determination, motivation, and willingness to prepare will intensify.
As a result, your skill set and conditioning will improve, putting you in position to make significant contributions when your number is called.
Adopt the mindset of a starter. Ask yourself, “If I was a starter, how would I train? What mindset would I have? What effort would I put forth?”
When you take on a starter’s mindset, you will take your game to greater heights.
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