How to Get More Playing Time in Basketball

Riding the pine in basketball is never fun. While there’s no formula guaranteed to get you more playing time – because all coaches are different and each player’s situation is unique – there are steps you can take to increase your chances of getting on the court. Here are some tips and suggestions that should help:

Don’t Make Excuses

No one has ever excused their way to success and neither will you. Letting go of any excuses you may be harboring about why you aren’t playing will allow you to focus on becoming a better player, and that is what will ultimately get you on the court. Remember, a coach’s job is based largely on the team’s success. So if you’re able to help your team win, most coaches will have a hard time keeping you off the court.

Don’t Guess, Ask!

If you want to know what you can do to get more playing time, ask your coach. Set up a time to meet privately—it is never appropriate to address playing time issues during a game. When talking to your coach, ask your questions in a polite tone of voice, “What do I need to do to earn more playing time?” Although this might seem like an obvious step, there are many athletes who avoid asking, and instead opt to guess what the coach is looking for.

Asking the coach what you can do to earn more playing time will do three things:

  1. Give you a skill set on which to focus your attention.
  2. Show the coach that you know playing time needs to be earned.
  3. Demonstrate that you are willing to work hard.

Hot Tip: The Tangibles

Remember to get specific details from your coach. If possible ask for tangible things you can do to get on the court, such as improving your shooting percentage. This will allow you to have a concrete goal to work towards.

Show Up to Practice & Work Hard

Perfect practice attendance is a simple way to show your coach that you are committed to getting better. Plus, missing practice will put you behind the curve and that’s not where you want to be. It’s tough to learn when you don’t show up for practice.

Practice is also the time to show your coach that you are working hard and deserve playing time. The best way to let your coach know that you are willing to do whatever it takes is to give maximum effort during practice. This includes doing the little things like communicating on the court or diving for the ball. If the coach sees that you are really trying to improve, then you’ll be more likely to get an opportunity come game day.

Focus on Your Strengths

Take a lesson from the square peg who tried to fit into a round hole: Don’t try to morph yourself into something you’re not.

Instead, focus on what you’re good at. If your scoring ability leaves much to be desired but you happen to be a lock-down defender, then focus on that. Highlighting the skills you excel at will allow you to show the coach that you are a valuable asset to the team. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should stop working on improving weaknesses in your game.

Adopt a “Team-first” Attitude

When asked about the importance he places on a player’s commitment to the team, Pat Riley, a Hall of Fame NBA coach, replied: “Commitment to the team. There is no such thing as in-between. You are either in or out.”

Basketball is a team sport. The team is the number one priority, and it’s your duty to be committed to the team’s success. Demonstrate your dedication to the team by always cheering for team accomplishment regardless of your individual success.

Take a Charge

Taking a charge is a surefire way to impress your coach and teammates. It shows courage, toughness, and a willingness to put your body on the line and literally take one for the team. The ability to draw a charge is an invaluable asset for any defender, because it nullifies an opponent’s attempt to score and results in a change of possession.

The Waiting Game

The most important thing to remember while trying to earn more playing time is that you need to keep working hard. If you follow the tips and suggestions listed above, you will improve as a player and have a better chance of getting on the court. So make sure you are always ready to go into the game. That way, when you do get your chance you can prove to your coach that you deserve to be out there!

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