Some players say this is worse than getting an injury. Others say this is equivalent to getting an injury. Players have a point: being a backup lacrosse player sucks.
Most lacrosse players have been there once in their careers, not being on the field fighting for your team and anxiously waiting to be called for substitutions.
This post is for all the backup players who want to get better. As someone who was a backup and eventually made it to the lineup, I can assure you your day will come if you continue improving and never give up.
Understand your current level
The reality is there can only be 10 players from each team playing at a time. Not everyone will be the starter offensive or defensive player, not to mention each team only has one goalie.
What this means is if you aren’t starting, there must be a reason. Only the best, the most hard-working players deserve to be on the field because they have the best chance to win. So the first thing to accept and understand is you aren’t the best player yet but you aren’t far from it either.
Hence, as a backup, the first step toward becoming a starter is to recognize you aren’t quite ready. Drop your ego. And understand it’s ok if you aren’t where you want to be right now, as long as you keep working on it, the spotlight will come.
Continue working on your skills
Only with a good mental state, you can now move on to the most important thing, practice. You have to practice harder to outcompete other players.
There’s no magic; the only thing that works is a consistent effort over a period of time. If team practice consists of a 2-mile run and 100 wall balls, you will run 4 miles and do 200 wall balls instead. Remember you are a step behind the starter. The only way to outcompete is to outwork him/her.
First, be the hardest player during practice. Go above and beyond. Second, identify your weakness and strength by either watching other players closely during practice and games or asking your coach. If you don’t know what to improve upon, you can’t get better.
If your stick skills aren’t as good, wall ball is your friend. Whatever the number of wall balls other players do, you double. Come to the practice early or stay after the practice to finish. Put a rebounder in the backyard and never skip a day even on weekends.
If your shooting needs improvement, same story. In addition to regular training, work on your shooting. In summary, figure out what you need to work on, then go full force on improving it.
The best part? Even if you don’t see immediate change (you will eventually), your coach will notice and take mental note of your progress and hard work. When the time is right, they will give you opportunities. It all pays off in the end.
Be helpful to the team
As long as you are on the team, you are as valuable and important to the team’s success as anyone else. During practice, be a team player. You might think you are “in competition” with the others, but if you don’t have a healthy and working relationship with the team, you can’t go far.
Build respect by helping each other out. If other players are struggling with something, give them a hand. The success of a team is much more important than only focusing on gaining your own advantage.
On game day, cheer for your teammates as loud as you can and echo your coach’s instructions. Even if you are on the sideline, you can still contribute to the team by giving them mental support. If your team scores, celebrate and be happy for your teammate.
Some backup players have a very selfish mindset where they think they are only part of the team when they are on the field playing. In reality, there are many ways to add value and earn respect from others as a backup player. Once you built a great reputation inside a team, when your moment comes, you already earned everyone’s respect and support.
Be ready to play at all times
Lacrosse seasons are long. Players get tired and even worse, injured. So it’s pretty common for coaches to make changes to the lineup since things happen fast in lacrosse.
You need to be physically and mentally prepared because opportunities can happen in the blink of an eye. During warmup, put in 100% effort to make sure your body is game ready.
After the game starts, instead of sitting on the bench and spacing out, focus on the on-field action and developments. Trying to come up with your own interpretation of what’s going on in the game; and ask yourself if you are playing right now, what could be done better and differently.
Backup players who are physically warmed up and keen to monitor every action in-game will have a much better chance at eventually earning a starter spot.
The greatest virtue of any lacrosse player is the ability to be patient. Be patient with yourself to consistently improve your skills and be patient when waiting for the right opportunity.
I was on the bench for two seasons, but never did I lose hope. I knew as long as I continued to practice hard and be a team player, the opportunity would come. The best part? It would come quicker than you thought.
Because I have been consistently doing all the things I wrote above, the first game was like smooth sailing. I was prepared and ready.
Patience stems from self-confidence, knowing your time will come. Meanwhile continue to work hard on yourself. Find a partner on the team to get better together. This friendship will hold each other accountable and push each other to be a better version of themselves.
Check out the training page to hone your skills
Become a great offensive player: Best offensive guide
Become a great defensive player: Best defensive guide