In youth sports, you may not find yourself on the bench for full seasons, but playing time is always an area of focus, especially as you move up the ranks to become an elite player. Although being on the bench can feel like punishment, or really be a threat to your confidence as a player, almost every player deals with this situation in their career at some point.
Nicole Barnhart, 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist and Techne GK coach, has some valuable insights to share. She experienced a period of 699 days between times she saw the field. That's nearly TWO YEARS of training, traveling, and watching games from the bench. And this is a player who has previously played for the U.S. Women's National Team at the highest level of the game!
Here's what she has to say about it:
699 Days.......That sounds like a long time, doesn't it?
I played in my last NWSL game on July 11th, 2021, and was waived (cut) from my team soon after. I quickly made the decision that I was not ready to be done playing soccer. I wanted to continue my dream job.
After 6.5 months away from a team, I was signed by the Washington Spirit at the start of the 2022 season. At first I wasn't selected for the roster for many games, but I continued to work hard each and every day to keep improving my game.
My hard work earned me the 2nd-string goalkeeper position for the 2023 season. And on June 10th, 2023, 699 days after my last game played, I was called upon to come into our game in the 89th minute and play out the remainder of the regular time plus 10 minutes of injury time. We fought off the constant attacks, and kept them from scoring, to hold on and win the game 2-1.
Wow, did it feel good to be back out on the field playing in a game! I could have given up at any point in this process. The last few years were definitely challenging, but I chose to keep working hard and give myself a chance. I never sulked about my circumstances. I never stopped working because I wasn't getting my chance. In fact, I worked harder because of those things. And when the moment came to help out my team when they needed me, I was more than ready. Even though I hadn't played a game in quite a while, I stepped back into my comfort zone out on the field and my natural instinct took over.
How would you react in a similar situation? Are you doing your best to prepare for when you do get your big chance? I hope this inspires you, and teaches you to never stop chasing a dream.
Have fun! Challenge yourself! Own your journey!