If you’ve read this blog you know I’ve always been a fan of playing a lot of guys. It probably started when I first became a head coach, because I had a lot of good players. There are a lot of benefits to playing a lot of guys, the biggest being how much it helps your practices – when your players know they can earn minutes in practice every day, it makes practice that much more competitive. I always generally played 10 or 11 guys regular minutes.
A lot of coaches don’t like to play a long rotation. They are more comfortable playing 7-8 guys and keeping their best players on the floor as much as possible. The fact is, it’s not easy to play a lot of guys, there are a lot more decisions to make. If you are going to play a deep bench, it takes some thought and preparation.
Don’t Start Your Five Best Players
Your best point guard should probably start. Your leading scorer should probably start. And your best post player should probably start. But in the other spots you can benefit a lot by starting some less talented role players. Put your best individual defender in the starting line-up. Play a glue guy who is a ball mover. It’s not always beneficial to have 5 guys who need the ball to be good. A role player or 2 in the line-up will bring you some energy to start the game, and give you some talent that can make an impact off the bench.
Mix Up The Teams In Practice
Allow your guys to play different positions. Find different combinations that work. Don’t always play your first team against your second team. Challenge your guys to find different ways to help the team. You will learn more about them, and get comfortable playing them in different line-ups.
Find A Specialty Group
Maybe you’ve got 5 guys that can run and press for 2-3 minutes and change the tempo of the game. Or maybe it’s a bigger line-up with 2 or 3 subs who can play zone and funnel the ball towards your big in the middle. Your bench players might not have the complete skill set that your more talented players have, but figure out what they are good at and maximize it when they are on the floor. Give them a specific role and count on their energy to change the game.
Don’t Make Reactionary Subs
Show some patience. Your bench guys aren’t going to give you anything if you take them out after 20 seconds because they made a mistake. They need your confidence more than your best players do. Give them some freedom to make plays. Stay positive with them while they are on the floor. Don’t react to one bad play and start making subs.
Mix Up Your Rotation
Reward different guys for the job they do in practice by getting them into the game early. Keep everyone on their toes. Don’t let your guys settle into the same rotation every single game. Keep things fresh and make sure you show them that playing time is based on merit. The guy who doesn’t play in the first half of one game might be the first guy off the bench in the second game. Getting out of a rotational pattern will make it easier for you to play more guys.
Don’t Focus So Much On Position
You can play two point guards together. You can play 3 or 4 guards with one big. You can go with two post players and have one of them guard a wing. Or you can switch to a zone. Don’t feel married to playing a a 1-5 all of the time. Give your guys the opportunity to guard different positions in practice and they’ll show you something. Sometimes different positional line-ups can be hard to match-up against. The other team has to guard you too.
Have One Basic Offense With Some Freedom
If your system is position-based, and you have to have certain guys out there at certain positions to make it work, you really limit what your team is capable of. If you run a strict system have at least one option as a counter that you can go to with a different line-up – motion, flex, a 5-out. Don’t cripple yourself by only having certain players who can play certain positions. Give yourself the freedom to play different line-ups.
Give Your Guys The Why
Get your team to buy into the idea of playing a lot of guys by explaining the benefits to the. It will make practice more competitive. We have a lot of talented players, and it gives everyone a chance to contribute. It makes us more versatile. It keeps us fresh, so we can own the last 5 minutes of the game. Everything will be earned every day, it’s all based on merit.
Your players will love the fact that all of their teammates can contribute. They want to see each other do well. Make sure they know why you are playing a lot of guys and mixing up your rotation, so that it doesn’t seem random to them.
Playing a lot of players has a ton of value. But it also takes some thought and preparation to handle it correctly. Take the time to figure out your team and find the right way to get the best out of all of them.