1. Get to practice early
Bring some balls or cones and work on your core weaknesses. Whether it’s your left hand, dodging, footwork, or otherwise, make sure you pinpoint each weakness and come up with a plan to eat away at them, one by one. Make an impression on your coach by showing them that you care and want to improve (and you most likely will).
2. Surround yourself with good company
When it’s time to pick a line, a group, or to partner up at practice, pick someone who is better than you—someone who is focused that will push you to be your best laxer. Pairing off with someone that is going to distract you or who gives minimal effort will reflect back on your performance. Look to the leaders on the field as partners and ask them questions—it’s a great way to get ahead on your own skills.
2. Push your very hardest in the next practice
The teammates who played a lot in the game the night before are going to be in recovery mode at the next practice. If you didn’t play very much, then you’ll have extra energy that can really make you stand out. It may be difficult to get over the fact that you didn’t play last night, but use that as fuel to drive you to greatness. The practice after games is your time to shine. Get your coaches’ attention and step up to the plate!
3. Be coachable
Coaches love it when players ask them after practice what they need to work on. It means they care and that they want to put the time in to improve their game. Take some risks and try the skills or drills the way the coach asks you to, even if it’s outside your comfort zone. Nobody got anywhere by being comfortable. Risk the dropped ball or the missed shot and get the mechanics down. The rest will work itself out with enough repetition.
4. Become a student of the game
Instead of chatting it up on the sidelines, study the players in your position that are getting the most field time. Try to copy the moves they make and their field position. Analyze their mistakes and learn how to best avoid them so that when you get out there you are not repeating the same errors. After games, take some notes about things you can improve.
5. Be committed
Schedule your other activities outside of practices and games. Players who miss a lot of practice will struggle to get playing time because they miss critical instruction. It would be great to be in all of the activities that one loves, but honestly assess your schedule. If you are committed to too many things and it’s hindering your academic and athletic development, it might be time to prioritize.
6. Do things for the benefit of the team
If your field time is all about getting your own goal or attention, then you put the spotlight on yourself. That’s wonderful if you do something stellar, but in many cases, it’s just going to highlight your weaknesses. Instead, focus on doing something that makes the team look amazing. Set someone up, make space, pull off a great slide, get in solid 1-on-1 body positioning, or execute a double team. If your stick work is weak, work on distracting defenders to open up lanes for the shooters versus driving in and demanding the ball repeatedly. Coaches tend to bench players when they deem them a turnover risk, so your contribution in helping the team minimize risk is part of becoming an indispensable player on your squad.
7. Be honest with yourself and don’t play the blame game
Take a good, honest look at where your skills are and whether you are giving your all every single day. If you focus your frustration solely on the coaches, then your growth mindset closes. There is always something that can be improved upon. Maybe it’s skills, conditioning, or even attitude.
Learn to find your strengths and use them often. If you don’t know what your strengths are, ask the coach what you are doing well, not just where you need to improve.
9. Remember that playing time comes with being a part of a team
Everyone loves to play the game; that’s why they’re there. On a club team, usually the best players get the most field time. You’ve got a chance to let that push you to be a better player. Play like you’re at tryouts every single practice and game. Embrace being a part of a group that is working together to become great. Celebrate your teammates’ successes, push the teammates around you that need help. Give your all 100% of the time. Players that pout after a win because of their own playing time or performance are still learning the meaning of team.
10. Keep in mind that success doesn’t come from one great play or one great practice
Success comes from little repeated efforts during practice and games over the course of the whole season. When you’re bummed, remember why you tried out for the team in the first place, how it felt when you made the team, and wear your jersey with pride. You earned your spot, now get out there and earn that playing time!