In an earlier round of the NBA Playoffs, analyst Doug Collins said something I had never heard phrased that particular way. The play-by-play person asked him how a certain team could dig out of a fairly significant deficit and among the few items he mentioned was “the players needed to star at their roles.” I instantly thought that was such a great approach for any player but for someone like Doug Collins to say it about professional players was even more impactful because if NBA players willingly perform roles for the sake of the team, why wouldn’t players at lower levels do the same more often and more easily?
So, this article is directed at players themselves and contains thoughts specifically for them:
- Some of you see little or no game time. If you’re in this group, pouting, grousing or any other type of negative behavior likely won’t get you on the floor. If anything, it might just dig you a deeper hole. Even if you are “right”, and the coach is “wrong”, plotting and executing a sound strategy is the way to go.
- Some of you might argue that nothing will make a difference. Certainly, there are situations where the deck is stacked with a number of better players in front of you (this actually happens a lot). There are also coaches who have a set number of players 7, 8, 9 etc. and only play others sparingly in games that have been decided one way or another. Then, there are probably coaches who play lesser players for one political reason or another (school board member son or daughter-as an example). Coaches have many other reasons for establishing a playing rotation. You may agree or disagree but the bottom line is the coach has “the hammer”-the final decision maker and you have to figure out and execute a strategy.
- The truth is many players give up when things aren’t going well. This choice guarantees failure.
- Communication with the coaching staff is key. The age-old “what do I need to do to get (more) playing time” meeting with the head coach might not be the answer. Very often, going to a favorite assistant coach in a non-whining manner might be the ticket. He might have some insight for you, might act as an ally and might work with you individually before or after practice.
- If you see little or no game action, it’s likely you don’t have a role or you do and there are several people in front of you who the coach thinks are better. As with most players in this situation, there is a tried and true solution. “Make practices your games.” Because, until you get into the playing rotation, they are.
- Get noticed at practice. Be the best player on the team in one or more areas; for instance, be the smartest on the scout team, the loose ball or long rebound leader etc. Choose attainable goals and then get after it on a daily basis. If you’re not noticed immediately, don’t get discouraged. Eventually, this approach will pay dividends.
- To the best of your ability, tune out team outsiders who might be telling you that you deserve better. Maybe you do, but negative talk won’t solve your problem; it will feed into it.
- During games, stay away from players who might be negative themselves. If players aren’t actively engaged on the bench in a positive way, it’s obvious to anyone who watches and it will get back to the staff. Players who think they’re invisible on the bench are almost laughable.
- After you’ve been noticed by the coaching staff for your efforts, you will still need game opportunities. You don’t wish for opportunities to be the result of unfortunate events, but they do happen. Injuries, illnesses, academic issues, foul trouble and many other issues arise that create opportunities. Be ready at all times and execute your practice plan in the game. After all, you’ve prepared for it on a daily basis.
- Another way to get noticed for some players if they can’t be the “best” at one or two things is to be competent at many facets of the game.
- Once you have established that you have a skill or trait that your team needs and you make the best of your opportunity, choose one or two more attainable traits to add to your repertoire.
- If you already have a role on the team and want to expand your role, all the previous bullet points apply to you also-only you have had a head start and operate out of a better sense of security. STAR AT YOUR ROLE. Players who star at their roles get playing time which creates opportunities to expand their roles, which in turn leads to more playing time. Players who understand this premise are on the right track. Players who miss this point are only limiting themselves.
1) Identify a role or expand a role.
2) Practice your role.
3) Be ready for your expanded opportunity and do in the game what you did in practice.
4) Be positive and be team oriented.
5) Be a star in your role. Everyone can!