Let's face it. We love to play & we love to make an impact on the game for our team. So it's disheartening when you lace up, warm up, and get mentally prepared, but as the game progresses, you find yourself still on the bench. It's natural to wonder, "Why isn't my coach playing me?" Let's take a look at a few different reasons from tactical to technical that might be areas you can look to improve:
1. **Strategic Play**: Sometimes, coaches make decisions based on strategies that counter specific opponents. It's not about your skills but rather about a particular approach they want to employ for that game.
2. **Developmental Reasons**: Coaches might rotate players to give everyone a chance for game-time experience. They might be holding you back now to expose a less-experienced player to a particular game situation, or vice-versa.
3. **Performance Fluctuations**: Everyone has off days. If you've been struggling during practices or recent games, or looking a little more sluggish than normal [aka, under-recovered] the coach might think you need a small break to reset so they can put you back in there.
4. **Team Dynamics**: Hockey requires the synchronization of all players. If certain line combinations are working well together, a coach might be hesitant to break up that chemistry, even if you're a great individual player. The saying in boxing holds true here - it's all about 'match-ups'.
5. **Communication Gap**: Sometimes, it's as simple as a miscommunication or a perception gap. Maybe your coach sees an area of improvement you're not aware of or has certain expectations you haven't fully grasped. If this might be it, both an open line of communication with your coach is important, as well as being able to have outside experts you can lean on & ask about your performance is important too.
If you're frequently finding yourself on the sidelines and it's affecting your morale, the approach I can recommend is a candid conversation with your coach. It will provide clarity, help you understand their perspective, and give you insights into areas of potential improvement. The second thing is to take an honest look at your own approach - because you always have that under your control. Are you training as hard as you can? Are you fueling properly for each session, or just getting by? Are you bringing energy to the team, or are late nights minimizing your 'spark'?
Hockey Development is a long journey - so every player goes through this at some stage or another. It's better to start identifying & addressing areas of improvement now vs waiting until it's too late to make changes.
Remember, it's about the journey, the growth, and the love of the game. Stay persistent, keep improving, and your time in the spotlight will come.
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