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5 Issues Athletes Struggle With When Benched Due To Injury: #5 "I'm Letting People Down"

Issue #5: “I’m Letting People Down.”

Athletes are under a lot of pressure on the field. They put pressure on themselves to remember the play. They feel the pressure of their team counting on them to defend the goal. They feel the pressure of the coach counting on them to be a good role model. They feel the pressure of their parents wanting them to succeed. They may also feel pressure to impress scouts so they might be able to afford college. That’s a lot of pressure for an athlete to bear. When they are performing well, they get a sense of pride knowing they did what was expected of them. But when they perform poorly, this pressure can lead to an increase in stress.


But when an athlete was a star player and now they can’t play, they feel the burden of their absence. If the team suffers a bad loss, many times the benched athlete will feel responsible for not being in the game. They likely feel they are letting the team down. If the coach depends on the athlete to be a good role model, they may feel they are failing at this as well because they are not on the field. Your athlete may be showing amazing resilience, strength, and perseverance from the bench while encouraging other players to be their best. But your athlete probably doesn’t see that. Because they are not on the field, they feel they are falling short of the role model they wanted to be. They feel they are letting the coach down.

And because you are excellent parents that brag on your kids all the time, your athlete may feel they are letting you down. You’ve talked about the money you spend helping them keep up with the sport and maybe your athlete feels guilty about wasting your money. They may feel guilty about wasting your time driving them to and from games and practices where they just sit on the sideline. Your athlete may feel your burden of hoping they would get an athletic scholarship to pay for college. None of these things are your fault. In fact, your athlete feeling the burden of letting you down means they highly value your relationship and are exceedingly kind and empathetic. Its ok that your athlete is stressed about letting you down. But you can help them relieve all these stresses with a few strategies.

Strategies we suggest:

    A great way to encourage your athlete to feel like they are not letting people down is to help them show how committed they are to the team. You can encourage your athlete to be present at every practice and be helpful to the team. They can help coach set up, get equipment, decorate lockers, bring snacks. If this sounds familiar that’s good, it means you’re paying attention. Being present and providing services to the team will help your athlete feel connected to the team and this also demonstrates their commitment.

    They can also show the team that they are doing everything they can to get better. One way to do this is to perform their at home rehab plan during practice when they would normally be sitting out. This shows the team all the work your athlete is doing to get better. It shows the coach they are dedicated and focused. It helps your athlete be a role model of resilience and perseverance instead of feeling lost sitting on the sideline.

    You can help your child show their teammates and coaches that they are doing everything they can to get back into the game so they feel a little less like they are letting the team down. And if you haven’t done so yet, maybe it’s time to remind your child that they are not letting you down. Maybe that means choosing not to talk about how much the surgery, rehab, and extra classes cost. Maybe that means telling your child how proud you are of them for showing strength and persevere during this difficult time. Maybe that means telling your child about all the ways you are proud of them that are not related to sports. You know your child best, and only you know how to comfort them when things get rough.

At Return To Play Elite, we know athletes.

We know how injury happens and we know what it takes to get back to feeling 100%. But we also know how difficult that journey can be. All the strategies listed throughout this series are strategies we use with our athletes every day. We work very hard to provide a very positive, open, encouraging atmosphere. We help athletes set goals and overcome small obstacles in their rehab daily to help them build self-efficacy. This also makes rehab feel more manageable. Instead of feeling like this injury has stopped them, we help them to understand its only redirected them. We help them relieve stress through exercise and give them ample opportunities to express and deal with frustration during rehab.

We provide rehab programs that are meant to be performed during their practice times, not only so it fits into their schedule, but to help them stay connected with the team. And most importantly, we strive to be excellent adult role models for your athletes. It is our purpose not only to help them with their rehab, but to support their psychological and emotional health, to encourage them to grow into strong, committed, resilient members of society. If you are looking to help your athlete get back to being 100% in their sport, at home, and in their well being, we are excited to work with you to help make that happen.

If you have questions about how we can help you or your athlete, you can call us at (931) 854- 1177 or send us an email at We would be happy to talk with you.

If you’d like to see more from us you can find it on our website. You can also follow us on Facebook or Instagram @rtpelite.

Many strategies, especially conversational strategies, are based off the information provided in the book The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. This book offers strategies for parents and clinicians to help children deal with trauma, loss, and grief while taking their brain development into account. This book is a fantastic read and helps the reader understand the behaviors of children based on where they are in brain development. We highly recommend this book to parents, coaches, and anyone who works with children.