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Bench Time: A Positive Experience!

How to use this time to the greatest advantage of the individual and team:
Everyone on a basketball team wants to be out on the floor every minute of every game, but only five of them can be on the floor at any one time. The rest of the players have to expect to spend time on the bench.

Some players will sulk, others will just sit and watch. The real team players will use it as a learning experience, an opportunity to pick up a lot of information that can help their game and enable them to be productive when they do get into a game. In short, they do not view bench-sitting as a negative experience. They use it positively and constructively to watch, pull for their team, and prepare to make the most out of every opportunity they get to play.

How to make the most out of the time spent on the bench:
1. Concentrate on getting the feel of the game. If you have listened to your coach's pre-game directions, you should have a good idea of your team's game plan and what the opponents may try to do.

Team characteristics to observe:

  • What are your opponents trying to do vs your defense?
  • What kind of pace are they setting?
  • What is working for them and what is giving them trouble?
  • What is your team doing offensively?
  • What plays are they running?
  • If your team is running a motion type of offense, what two- or three-man plays are working?
  • Can you see any other ways of taking advantage of a weakness in the opponents' defense or offense?

2. Observe your opponents as individuals. Try to profile each player, with special emphasis on the players you may have to guard or who play in your area of zone defense.

  • Does the player have a good outside shot?
  • Does she have a good jump shot?
  • Does she like to drive?
  • Can she go both right and left?
  • Can she "finish?"
  • Is she quick, slow, big, or small?
  • Does she demand your undivided attention, or does she allow you to give your teammates a lot of help?

3. Closely watch the player who may be defending against you. Assess her size and quickness.

  • Does she battle for position?
  • Can you drive on her?
  • Does she play soft, giving up the outside shot?
  • Does she gamble a lot defensively?
  • Does she box out?

4. During most games, constant adjustments will have to be made. Be aware of them. Observe what is happening and listen to the interaction between your coach and teammates. What is your coach emphasizing in terms of what has to be done?

What corrections are being made? You can gain a lot of knowledge by listening to the corrections of other players. If you are unclear about something, question your coach, assistant coach, or teammates on the bench.

5. When entering a game, always try to give your team a lift. Being fresher than the players on the floor, you can use your hustle to spark your team. If you are in the game for just a minute, make it stand out because of your hustle. Don't get hung up on the thought that you are in there just as a breather. (Make your time quality time.)

Players who do a good job while playing just a minute or two will often gain the coach's and team's confidence, and this can lead to increased playing time. Know your role and do it well. If you've been in the game and are now on the bench, let your teammates know what you experienced so that the next time around everyone will know how to react.

6. When sitting on the bench, show enthusiasm by rooting for your team. When anyone on the floor is replaced, always acknowledge her efforts by slapping hands or making a positive comment. Talk to the player, get her perspective on the opposing team and individual players. Encourage and assure your teammates. Calm them down whenever they are anxious or tense. Maintain your focus and keep your teammates focused on what has to be done to win the game.

7. If you are a player who rarely gets into the game or only when the issue is no longer in doubt, you should stay alive on the bench. By working hard in practice and keeping your team together, you will be making a vital contribution to your team - which will make you feel good about yourself and add to your enjoyment of the game.

Remember, whether you play little or a lot, you are an important member of the team and you have to be prepared to contribute whenever called upon in any situation. Your preparedness and contributions from the bench will have a big impact upon your team's success.

Bench Checklist:

DO'S...

  1. Get a feel for the game.
  2. Be a student of the game, learn while watching.
  3. Watch and listen for adjustments by your coach and teammates.
  4. Make your playing time "quality time" by adding energy and spark whenever entering the game.
  5. Encourage teammates, show enthusiasm, and make a team commitment.
  6. Be prepared to contribute to your team in any way.

DON'TS...

  1. Mope or watch the game superficially.
  2. Fail to analyze and learn from actual game experience.
  3. Be unaware of changes as the game progresses.
  4. Worry about your playing time and forget to do your best.
  5. Show disappointment and ruin a chance to add to your team's mental strength and success.
  6. Be less than fully prepared to play because you have not observed the proper bench conduct.

By Pete Piraino