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How To Earn More Game Time – Coach Jo Milling

In most competitive sporting environments many athletes are challenged with the realities of game time. In a game situation, there are so many factors that can impact a coach’s decision to make a sub; match ups, positions, balance on the floor, style of play, foul trouble, managing fatigue, game tempo and finding the right 5 players for the right time in the game. This decision-making process is often out of the control of the athlete, but what can you do to increase your playing time? How can you maximise your time on the floor?

Athletes need to focus on elements that they can control. Check out the GAME TIME guidelines for earning more court time below;

G – Good Team Mate

Basketball is a team sport, comprising of 10 athletes on a team, each player needs to know how they can contribute to their team’s success, if you’re not sure, ask your coach to help identify these things. Coaches always respond well to athletes who put the team first before themselves. After all, if your team doesn’t succeed, you can’t.

A – Attitude

A coach will always play an athlete with a positive attitude over an athlete who displays negative and self-centred behaviour. It’s a no brainer! A good attitude is displayed by our actions and words; positive body language, encouraging language and being a problem solver not problem maker! Many of these traits align with athletes who display a “Growth Mindset”. For tips on how to adopt a growth mind set check out this link.

M – Mistake? MOVE ON!

Mistakes and failures are a critical part of the learning process, everyone makes them! However, it’s how we respond and react to these mistakes that is key. Basketball is a fast-paced game, we often think in ‘possessions’ or phases of play. Try to adopt a “what’s next attitude” to overcome dwelling on mistakes. For instance;

  • When a mistake is made, it’s over, it’s in the past and now out of our control. Nothing can be gained by getting upset, shifting the blame or even reacting with emotion.
  • Think “what’s next” this is what you can control and focus on the next possession. Live in the future don’t dwell on the past!
  • When the time is right, some reflective thought can assist with analysing errors, try to identify some strategies to minimise errors for future games.

E – Execute and Evaluate

Execute Execute Execute! If your coach asks you to do something, do it! And yes, the ability to execute does involve the team unit working together. However, the ability to execute DEPENDS on your capability to listen and communicate! Be an active listener, focus on your coach’s instructions and use ‘down time’ or breaks in the game to communicate with team mates. For example, if the coach has just made a defensive change out of time out, when you are walking back on to court, use this time to affirm this change with your team mates. What does this sound like? “So, we are in full court man right? I’ve got number 12.”

Evaluate your decisions and make adjustments. Have you ever heard a coach say, “we need to make better decisions.”? The coach is usually referring to turnovers or shot selection. If you have committed a poor pass resulting in a turnover, you need to evaluate this pass and perhaps use a differing option for the remainder of the game. This also relates to shot selection, if you have attempted 3 outside shots with no success, look for other scoring options. For example, drive and dish, pass, create scoring options for a team mate with a screen.

T – Take Care of the Little Things

Scoring is not the only component to a basketball game, there are 5 people on a court and all players must contribute to ALL areas of the game. The most important thing you can focus on is taking care of the ‘little things’. These elements are often the first components of the game to get abandoned when the game gets tough and fatigue sets in! And… these ‘little things’ win games;

  • Rebounding
  • Boxing out
  • Early pick up point (finding your man on defence early)
  • Intensity on defence (ball pressure, carrying a hand to open shooters, denying passing lane)
  • Take a charge
  • Getting open (making a solid lead)
  • Getting team to ‘huddle’ in breaks of play

I – Identify Strengths

Prior to the season, allocate some time to identify your strengths. This could be a discussion that you have with your coach.  Set 3 goals for each game, for example;

  • Be a scorer, penetrate with confidence. GOAL – 5 shots in the paint off the dribble.
  • Be a presence inside, box out. GOAL – 4 defensive rebounds.
  • Be a team player, create for others. GOAL – 5 kick ahead passes/assists.

M – Make it count

At times when an athlete comes off the bench and into the game, they feel like they need to make an instant impact. This might have a negative effect resulting in; poor shot selection, rushed decisions and even quick/silly fouls. How can you make your time on the court count?

Many years ago, as a junior player, I had the opportunity to play in the Waratah League (NSW Semi Professional League). I was the youngest player in the league and knew that my role in this team was not a dominant one. I was there to learn and develop from my team mates, coaches and other professional athletes in the league. When it was my time to “make it count” coach would sub me in and say, “let the game come to you.” She would then rattle off the below 3 things;

  • “Take care of the ball” (meaning…don’t turn the ball over!)
  • “Don’t get scored on” (meaning…defend with pride)
  • “If you have an open lane-take it” (meaning…best scoring option is drive)

E – Effort is Everything

Coaches reward athletes who give 100%. Remember, it doesn’t take a great amount of skill to sprint after a loose ball, pick up your player early, box out and rebound. It’s all about effort, don’t get out-hustled!

TIP- If you find your self coming off the bench, make the effort to be an active watcher;

  • Defensively, identify who you might be guarding. Are they left/ right handed, weaknesses? how are they a threat?
  • Can you identify any patterns (offensive structures) of the opposition? Are there any opportunities for you to take advantage of?
  • How is your team scoring? Transition, drawing fouls, outside shots, driving.
  • What defence is the opposition playing? Make sure you are prepared with the offensive sets. If you are not, ask a coach/team mate to draw them on a whiteboard.
  • Make sure you know what defence your team is playing BEFORE you get on floor!