The vexing issue of court time in representative basketball

Before talking about court time at representative (WABL) level in our club, it’s probably worth quickly touching on the tough job our WABL coaches have. The weekly time commitment to be a WABL coach at Redbacks is significant:

  • Travelling to and from training sessions – 45+ minutes
  • Running training – 90 minutes
  • Preparing training sessions – 45+ minutes
  • Travelling to and from games – 45+ minutes
  • Coaching games – 90+ minutes
  • Preparing for games (scouting the opponent, watching game tape, preparing game plans, planning rotations) – 90+ minutes

In addition to the above, all our WABL coaches are required to submit weekly game reports, attend monthly meetings with Craig Allen and CJ Jackson, provide regular player assessments, stay up to date with weekly communications from the club and take part in activities that develop them as coaches.

Every WABL coach is committing 6-10 hours of time each week to our club and our players, and they are doing this on a voluntary basis. In addition to time, coaching also requires a huge amount of energy. No matter what kind of crappy day our coaches have had at work or home, they have to show up to training and games with the energy required to bring 8-10 individuals on to the same page and motivate them to not only give their best effort but also to sacrifice their individual goals and desires in order to deliver a great team result.

It’s pretty tiring stuff! 

Yet our coaches show up week in, week out and deliver for us.

Let’s now talk about the realities of representative basketball 

Even though there are 10 players in a basketball team, only 5 of those players can be on the court at any one time. This very small number of players on the court (the smallest of any team sport) means that each individual has a disproportionate ability to affect the outcome of the game. One exceptional offensive player can win a game for a team. One player not fulfilling their defensive role can lose a game for a team. While there’s a LOT of stuff that feeds into rotation management during a game, for simplicity’s sake, let’s agree on this:

In representative teams from U12s right through to the NBA, replacing a starting-five player with a bench player will generally result in a drop off in the team’s performance.

This means coaches are constantly weighing up the need to give their bench players a run/rest their starters against the need to keep the level of play on the court high enough to win the game. (While winning may not be how we as a club judge the success of our WABL program, the reality is that coaches, players and parents involved in rep basketball do care deeply about winning – it is the nature of the beast.)

That means the reality of being selected in any representative basketball team (like a WABL team) is this:

  • If you’re starting five – you’ll generally get a lot of minutes
  • If you’re 6th, 7th (and sometimes 8th) man – you’ll generally get good minutes
  • If you’re 8th, 9th, 10th man – you’ll generally get limited minutes

What should a player do if they’re 8/9/10 man and they’re not happy with the minutes they’re getting?

The first thing to understand is that the more their coach can trust them to deliver on what the team needs, the more court time they will get. With that in mind, players wanting more court time should:

  1. Seek feedback from their coach about why they’re not getting the court time they want. When doing this, it’s important to remember that if a player isn’t able to hear and process feedback that is honest, and that they may not agree with, they’ll never be able to give their coach what’s needed
  2. Work hard every day at home (on ball-handling, shooting, rebounding, footwork etc) to get better (at everything, but especially those things identified in the coach’s specific feedback)
  3. Seek out extra coaching sessions to get better
  4. Be the hardest working, most high-energy player at training
  5. When on the bench during games, give good energy to the teammates who are on the court. Like these guys …

  6. Understand what their coach wants from them every time they step on court and deliver that. As mentioned, the more a coach can trust a player will deliver on what’s needed, the more court time that player will get

Doing the things above also mean that when injuries/illness in a team happen (and they happen often) and more court time becomes available, that bench player will be well-placed to capitalise on the extra opportunities available. 

Countless players at all levels have elevated their game and court time by continuing to work hard in the face of limited opportunities, and then excelling when greater opportunities presented themselves.

The other thing to consider for future seasons is that a bench player in a higher-ranked team would likely be a starter in a lower-ranked team (i.e. 8/9/10 man in a Div 1 team would often be a starter in a Div 2 team). Players need to decide which is more important to them – being selected in a higher team, or playing more minutes in a lower team. If the latter is more important, they should flag with selectors at the start of the next selection phase that they are willing to play down a team in the following season in order to receive more minutes. 

All up, we understand it is very difficult for parents to watch their child receive limited minutes in games, and to keep their child’s spirits and motivation up in the face of limited minutes. The simplest message to give your child if they are experiencing the above is ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you’.

It’s easy for coaches to ‘ignore’ players who:

  • Don’t demonstrate improvement in areas they’ve been asked to work on
  • Have a poor attitude at training and at games
  • Drop their heads at the first sign of a challenge (calls they don’t agree with, shots not falling, being subbed off)
  • Don’t have the discipline to stick to the game plan

It’s almost impossible for coaches to ignore players who:

  • Show how eager they are to learn and improve
  • Bring great energy to training and games
  • Work really hard at training and in games
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the game plan and an ability to execute that game plan when on the court

2 thoughts on “The vexing issue of court time in representative basketball”

  1. Awesome piece with lots of very insightful info for the young players in our club. Great job Kelly!

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