Earn the playing time you deserve!
By The Morris Basketball Program
In the game of basketball, there are key players, role players, utility players, STAR players, and practice players. Although each and every player must serve a different role on their respective team, these roles do not have to be permanent. Early on in your career, you may find yourself in any one of these categories (obviously you would be happier being a STAR/key player rather than a role/practice player). The beautiful thing about this game is that year after year, situations can change and you can find yourself either in a better role or quite possibly in a weaker role. Even if you are waiting for your chance next season, there are things you can do at the end of your current season to put yourself in a better position for next year. There are many different factors that can influence your role on your team. One of the main things that help you transition UP the ladder is realizing that there are some things you may not be able to control in your situation with your team (don’t worry about these), but there are MANY things you CAN control that can affect your value as a player. My personal advice to all players (especially the younger players) is to not worry about your current situation, and continue working and practicing for the role you want NEXT season. ALOT CAN HAPPEN IN ONE YEAR/SEASON. TRUST ME.
I have known players that have gone unnoticed for years finally reach their potential and get that college scholarship everyone desires so much, some even making it to a professional level. On the other hand, I also personally know some players that were dubbed “the next best thing” that never panned out throughout high school or college, and were a huge disappointment based on the hype they received as a youth, and now are only legends at the park during the summer.
Below are several tips I have learned throughout the years that can IMMEDIATELY get you more attention as a player and eventually gain the respect of both your coach and teammates on your way to earning significant amounts of playing time.
1. Don’t Worry About Things You Can’t Control
One of the most frustrating things in basketball (and in life in general) is fretting over things that you have no power over. If you have a coach that doesn’t like you, there may not be anything you can do to make him/her like you. But in basketball, it’s not your job to be best friends with the coach. Even at a young age, players must realize that coaches are human too, and naturally might have a favorite player, regardless of skill or production. YOU CAN’T CONTROL THIS. Let it go. If you are only worried about the coach, your teammates will see this, and label you as a “selfish player”. The last thing you want to be known for is being all about yourself. Continue to work on yourself, your own skills, and your ability to be a play maker.
If you don’t get any playing time at all, guess what? You can’t control this. You are not the coach. You are the player. Players play, coaches coach. Worry about changing your style of play to be more efficient and attractive to playing time, even if it’s only in practice, in the gym by yourself, or at our Sunday Workouts against and with other area players. A good way to combat this is to change your perception, and view practices as your “game time” and make the most of each and every practice like it is an actual game. The players who find the most success in the game of basketball let go of everything they can’t control, and grab everything they CAN control by the horns and dominate it.
2. PUT IN THE TIME!!!!!!
There is absolutely no substitute for hard work. They say putting in 10,000 hours into any focus will make you a master of your craft. So imagine how many hours professional players put in just to keep up with the competition. If you are not working on your game, I can promise you someone you will play against during the season is probably in the gym right now. The players I described before, who were pretty much unknown and not respected, and reached success as a player, PUT IN THE TIME. Hours and hours and hours in the gym. Blood, sweat, tears, effort, and passion. There is no shortcut for this. If you want to improve your ballhandling, you must handle the ball repetitively. Struggling at the free throw line? Learn how to shoot a perfect free throw (which is one of the few ways to GUARANTEE playing time, especially when the game is on the line). If you want to improve your shooting, you must get hundreds of shots up regularly. If you want to improve your defense, you must work on your lateral quickness and defensive footwork. Unfortunately, this is where most young players fail, and they don’t even know why they aren’t finding success. If you are having trouble finding gym time to practice or don’t know how to improve, Morris Basketball Program can help you.
3. Have A Game Plan
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Nowadays, when I walk into a gym, I usually see the same young players in there, putting in hours and hours in the gym, day in and day out. Although this is exactly what we said you need for rule #2, you must have a game plan, and execute this game plan during your hours in the gym. These young players I see day in and day out are putting in the time, but most of them are wasting the same time they are putting in. Taking a shot and jogging after the ball just to shoot around some more for 4 hours IS NOT WORKING ON YOUR GAME. This is simply shooting around. This does not make you better. In fact, it actually can make you worse. The only thing shooting around is good for is to warm up for a real work out.
Every time you walk in the gym, you must consciously know exactly what you want to improve on for the day, how you are going to work on it, and specific drills or methods that can help you achieve this. There have been times where I went to the gym wanting to improve my footwork and literally spent 2-3 hours on my jab step, pivot, step back, etc, without even taking a shot. There are so many different aspects to the game of basketball, that you must break down everything you need to improve on to a granular level and work on very, very, specific aspects to the game, one aspect at a time. If you have a proper game plan when you work out, you will start to see exponential results in your style of play.
4. Do The Little Things
We all know that one player that everyone hates to play with, because he/she seems to always find himself in a position to succeed on the court. Whether it’s because he outworks everyone, is aware of opportunities in the game that everyone else misses out on, or because he’s the coach’s favorite and plays the entire game. We all know at least 1 player like this. Excluding being the coach’s favorite, there is a reason he/she finds themselves in a position to score, grab the key rebound, or make the game changing play, while others don’t/can’t.
Great players always find a way to be either around the ball, or available to the ball. Players who take true pride in playing defense tend to get more steals than players who don’t. Players who go after every rebound like their career depends on it, tend to have a much higher rebounding average than a players who don’t. Players who know how to get open effectively, and make themselves available for the ball, tend to get more passes from their teammates (and eventually points) than players who don’t.
Not getting the ball enough? Feel like your team doesn’t want to pass you the ball? Who cares? Go get every offensive rebound. The best shooters in the world (example: Steph Curry) only shoot 45% or less from 3 point range. What does the mean? That more than half of his shots will not go in. A missed shot is as good as a perfect pass to a player that isn’t scared to fight for a rebound. And if you get that rebound, you have every right to take a shot if you feel like it. You are the one who fought for the rebound. You earned the shot. Most players take this for granted.
5. Be A GREAT And POSITIVE Teammate
This needs no explanation. If you want the respect of your teammates, you must give respect. No matter what your situation/role is on your team, being a good teammate always comes first. Because without your teammates, there is no team. You need them as much as they might need you. If you can’t be a good teammate, go player a single player sport such as wrestling or golf. Your success as a player is directly related to the level of respect you receive and give to/from your team.
6. CONFIDENCE AND PATIENCE!!!!!!
If you successfully follow rules #1-5, this will be a natural change. Confidence comes with knowing you are working harder than your competition. A confident player doesn’t care about what the coach thinks, because he realizes the coach’s stat line for the season will always be 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists, etc. The coach can’t play for you. You control how hard/smart you play on the court. If you have put hours upon hours (with a game plan) into your game in the gym, you have no choice but to feel new found confidence in your abilities. If you do all the little things that might show up on a stat sheet, you will carry confidence over from each game. And if you are a good teammate, your teammates will have confidence in you, which will give you even more confidence!
In terms of patience, most players think they will always see immediate results. This is not always the case. Sometimes you must put in 100 hours of work just to see a 2% improvement in your game. But it’s worth it. Like we said earlier, ALOT CAN HAPPEN IN ONE YEAR. If you follow these steps, you will start to find yourself in a situation where you are tired from too much playing time instead of sitting on the bench fantasizing about the joys of getting consistent playing time!
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