Basketball is one of the sports which requires a certain number of players. Unfortunately, you cannot let all the players into the game all at the same time as only five are allowed on-court. These first five players are usually the most talented ones in the team and when they ran out of gas, a coach can bring in his second or third unit. At times, the second, or third, unit of the team can be given ample amount of playing time if they are playing more effectively than the first unit.

However, if the first unit has been playing so well, the chance of bringing in players other than this unit is low. Those who are not given the chance to play are said to be bench players. From the word bench itself, it implies that these players have longer time of sitting on the bench rather than playing. People think that bench players are not good enough. Is this true? Well, if you are a bench player, do not succumb to this idea.

For coaches who want to encourage their bench players, here is what you should do:

1. Take the time to teach them individually
Do not focus too much on your star players. As a mentor, you have to be equal among your players. Your starting players may take your teachings faster than the others and you may leave and let them practice on their own with minimal supervision. At these times, turn your attention to your bench players. Teach them what you have taught the other talented players of the team. You can spend time with them individually so that you can apply an approach suitable for each of the bench players. When you do this, they not only learn to develop themselves, but they also feel that you are drawing your attention to help them and making them an important part of the team. It gives them the sense of relevance in the team.

2. Follow their progress
Continue to follow how they are progressing as a player. Observe how they play their game, and make necessary adjustments. Your bench will be motivated to execute good basketball because they know that you are making observations. Bench players will love to show off their skills to their coaches so that they can be given the opportunity to play even minimal minutes during an actual game or even advance to the “Starters”.

3. Recognize their skills
Any player will feel a sense of satisfaction when they are being recognized. You should try to recognize their skills and if your bench player is good in ball handling, recognize and appreciate it by telling him. He will be inspired to continue executing good ball handling skills because you have appreciated such skill. This is the same with other bench players who have certain basketball skills. The advantage here is that you get to increase your options in having players who are good dribblers, shooters, or rebounders.

4. Motivate them to improve their game
Motivation is the driving power to let players do their thing. As the head of the team, you are one person who knows your players well. Motivate them to play their good basketball and communicate with them in a manner that you get into their hearts. You see, the nicest thing about motivation, or even inspiration, is that you try to get into their hearts of the players to control their minds enabling them to do their best they are capable of.

5. Listen to them
Do not do it all by yourself. You need to let your players say something about themselves. Listen to every single concern they have regarding their struggles in the game. When you listen to them, you have the chance to understand your player better. Sometimes, players will tell you, “I can play good basketball. Let me play”. Do not ignore it. If they think they can play, see it yourself before making any decision. If you disregard this, you may bring your player down. Listening and giving opportunity to add to the team performance is a way of letting your players feel valuable for the team.

6. Give them the responsibility
Each player of the team, including the bench players, must have a corresponding responsibility. If your bench player has potential of a good rebounder, assign him that responsibility. This is one way of giving him your trust and your bench player will be encouraged to do necessary strength and conditioning exercises, and practice more on the skills that he needs to carry out the assigned responsibility. In addition, you stress out that he has the responsibility to take over if his teammates get fouled out, or are tired to play effective Basketball.

7. Let them feel that they are important to the team
Your bench player will be encouraged to improve his basketball game if you give him valuable importance to the team. Otherwise, he will feel useless and neglected. He cannot be driven to grow professionally, as a basketball player, if he feels this way. There are many ways you can let him feel important to the team. As what I have enumerated above, you can give them your attention by recognizing his skills, spending time to teach him and follow his progress, giving him responsibilities, motivating him, and giving him the chance to play.

8. Take chances on them: Let them play
Taking risks can influence success. They say the most successful business men are those who take risks. This should be the same in sports. Take chances on your players. Let them play. Your bench players will be happy and excited to go on practice games. They’ll do anything to get the opportunity to play in real games. In addition, you may not know what your bench players are truly capable of, if you do not give them the chance.

As a coach point out that even though a bench player, a player is still part of the team because he is meant to contribute. The time will come that his skills will be highly needed.

If you are a bench player, when you get the chance to play, play it all out. Prove to others what you are capable of doing. At times, the most underestimated players are the ones who are driven to play good basketball and prove other’s perception wrong.

Picture credit: jeffkCreative Commons Attribution