Basketball on the Edge – 11 Ways to Earn More Playing Time

1. Schedule a meeting with your coach and ask what you can do to help the team.

It is amazing what you can learn about your role on the team by communicating with your coach during the season. Your coach will appreciate your initiative and you will have a much better understanding of what your coach wants you to do out on the court. The key to a successful meeting is to be open minded, listen to what your coach says, and most importantly, try to do what the coach asks you to do from that point forward. At the end of the season, ask your coach what you need to work on during the off-season to earn more playing time the following year.

2. Know your role and be honest with yourself.

Do what you’re good at. Not everyone can be the star and get the most shots. If you try to do things that you’re not good at, you’ll find yourself sitting next to your coach. If you’re great at rebounding and playing defense, do those things when you’re on the court. I was strictly an offensive player in high school, but when I got to college I realized that I could earn minutes by becoming a great defender. I sacrificed for the team and got my coach’s attention. As a result I started every game as a sophomore, junior, and senior. Be smart as a player and take advantage of opportunities where they present themselves. Do what you can do, not what you can’t do. Strengthen your strengths and work on your weaknesses in practice.

3. Work hard and hustle.

Trust me when I say that coaches notice this. They notice it in practice, in games, even in open gym. It’s somewhat sad that hustling and working hard can set you apart, but it does. Force yourself to give great effort at all times. No one gives 100%, but keep pushing yourself closer to that standard and you’ll catch the attention of your coach. I can walk into a gym and pick out the kids who play hard after a couple trips up and down the court. I want those kids on my team and so does your coach.

4. Set screens and take charges.

These two skills are often overlooked by “average” players. Both involve giving up your body to help your team. A great screen gets a teammate open and will often free you up as well. A charge gets your team an extra possession and can also get in your opponent’s head and make them more hesitant to drive to the basket later in the game.

5. Play defense with desire.

Defense is half the game. Many players forget that. Don’t be one of them. Defense comes down to desire. Do you want to stop your opponent or are you happy to trade baskets? Not everyone will be a great shooter or have tremendous court vision, but every player can be a good defensive player. Are you willing to play hard on the defensive end of the floor and shut down your player while helping your teammates? If you can do that on a consistent basis your coach will find a way to get you on the court regardless of your other skills.

6. Box out on every possession.

Few players box out on any given shot. Your coach will notice if you do. Make boxing out a priority. Don’t be afraid to be physical. Pick up a foul boxing out. I can almost guarantee that your coach will crack a smile and encourage you to keep boxing out hard.

7. Take only good shots.

First, you should know what a good shot is for you, based on your ability to make different types of shots in practice. Then, you need to know what your coach considers a good shot. In general, a good shot is an open shot that you can make at a high-percentage when nobody else on your team has a better shot available. If a teammate has a better shot pass them the ball. If you take bad shots, you’ll be on the bench next to your coach.

8. Share the ball.

Be the player that makes the extra pass to help get your teammate a better shot. No one likes to play with someone who shoots every time they get the ball. Your coach will hesitate to play someone who only wants to shoot, even if they are a good shooter. The extra pass builds team chemistry and trust. A team with selfish players won’t be very successful. Help your coach build a culture of sharing the ball on your team and watch your minutes increase.

9. Listen and nod to your coach.

When your coach gives you instructions, encouragement, or criticism, nod when they are finished talking. This lets the coach know that you have understood their message. It is amazing how many players today don’t acknowledge the coach in this manner. Make this a habit and your coach will notice. When your coach calls your team together always sprint to the front and make eye contact with your coach while they are talking. You want to be front of mind when the coach thinks about who should be out on the court. Create habits that make you impossible for your coach to ignore.

10. Be a player that others want to play with and that your coach loves to coach.

Bring effort and enthusiasm every day. Your coach shouldn’t have to coach effort. Your enthusiasm is contagious and will help inspire your teammates. Do the little things that only coaches notice and that help your team win games. Be a leader, both by example and by being vocal. Teammates and coaches love the player that rallies the team at critical moments.

11. Communicate.

Be the loudest talker on the floor. Not trash talker, but the kind of communication that helps win basketball games. Talk to teammates on defense, call out screens, let a teammate know they have help, call ball when stopping a fast break. Talk to teammates on offense, let them know you’re screening, tell them where to cut, remind them to get a good shot.

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