5 Ways to earn EXTRA minutes MID-season

It’s the mid-point in your season. You are not satisfied with the amount of time you’re currently playing. Do not lose hope! The rotation of starters and subs who earn significant minutes often changes throughout the season for a variety of reasons: not producing on the court; getting distracted by other sports or activities; exhibiting a negative attitude; disciplinary issues; and academic ineligibility to name just a few of the reasons for change in playing time. Beyond that, a coach might look to change things up in the middle of the season, especially if the team isn’t doing well and the coach is willing to experiment with different lineups.

While you may not be able to control factors outside your sphere of influence, you can influence changes by taking charge of yourself. Here are FIVE ways that can help you earn extra minutes on the court in the middle of your season…

1. Be A Star In Your Role
Being an offensive threat is not the role that a coach needs every player to have. Before you compare yourself to other players or make assumptions about what you need to do to earn time, start by talking to your coach when they have a moment. Tell them that you would like to discuss your role with the team and how you can improve. Some coaches will speak to you on the spot, however, other coaches don’t like to be blindsided (especially on game day) and will appreciate a chance to think about your question so that they can provide you with a well thought out response. (A word to the wise: It’s not a good idea to challenge your coach with questions ON game day.) Ultimately, good coaches will appreciate your direct approach and more often than not can provide you detailed feedback that you can use moving forward. You might be surprised to learn that what the coach expects of you and what you thought you needed to do to earn minutes is drastically different.

2. Compete in Everything
If you can control it, be the first player to practice. Be the first in as many conditioning drills as possible. If you aren’t coming in first, you should be doing your best to consistently finish in the top 3. Not only will your results improve, you will push your competition to become better. Compete with the best shooter on the team in shooting drills. Challenge teammates who are better than you in your position to play one-on-one. Guard those same players in practice and try and stop them whenever you can. The best teammate you can be for yourself AND them is to battle with them at every single practice. At first, you might not win a lot of these challenges but it will give you feedback on what areas of your game you need to work on in order to steal minutes from these players.

3. Talk more
Effective and skillful communication among the current generation of youth athletes is becoming less and
less prevalent. Due to the limitations that technology (text, phone, email, etc.) impose on student athletes, they don’t have many opportunities to sharpen their face-to-face interpersonal skills. The good news is that those athletes who make a commitment to be effective communicators have a better chance, not only to stand out from the herd, but also to make a positive impact on the team (They say that effective communication is like a “6th defender in basketball”!). The first step in improving interpersonal communication is to become a better listener. We have two ears and one mouth, so we can listen twice as much as we talk. Off the court, make sure you are talking to all your teammates and coaches, with the intention of getting to know them on a personal basis. You don’t have to be friends with everyone on your team, but the more connected you are, the easier it will be to talk to a teammate during a stressful or high-pressure moment at practice or in a game. Ask intelligent questions during practice. Often many players have the same question but are afraid to ask. Your coach will appreciate asking questions more than you realize. On the court, your goal is to be able to be a highly effective communicator: calling out screens; letting teammates know you are in the help-side, and whatever else your coach expects you to be saying. If you are younger or new to the game and aren’t yet at this level, start with just describing out loud what you SEE. With increased practice and knowledge of the game, your communication will grow accordingly.

4. Put in extra work
There are no excuses for not being able to do many different things outside of practice that may or may not
include a basketball: workouts with trainers or at home alone: strength-training and conditioning; mental-
focus work and meditation; reading and watching YouTube videos; and going over your playbook. These are all ways that you can improve and prepare to maximize the minutes that you are playing.

5. Exhibit Disciplined Attitude & Body Language
This goes without saying…literally. Be a good teammate and share the ball: cheer on those who are on the court and encourage those who are struggling. You might not be able to assert yourself as a leader so start by leading yourself and your closest teammates that you know WILL follow your cue. Your body language and responses to things that don’t go your way on the court are critical. You must be disciplined to illustrate mental toughness while also allowing you to not dwell in the past and move on to the next play. Just as important as your body language is on the court, it is also important to exhibit good body language and team support when you are on the bench. Since you never know when your opportunity to sub will happen, you must always show good posture, be engaged in the game and support those who are playing at the time. When a coach looks down their bench to select a sub, they will only put in players who look ready to go! Don’t compound your mistakes on the floor with complaints or by becoming defensive! Think about how your attitude and approach to the game impacts the energy of your team during practices and games. The energy you produce has a real effect on others, so don’t be an ENERGY VAMPIRE! If you feel that you don’t have much control over your body, it’s probably because you haven’t yet gained control of your thoughts. In order to gain control of your thoughts, you must first master your breath. This is why meditation and mindfulness can actually lead to more disciplined body language in the future!

While these FIVE Steps can’t immediately guarantee you more court time, they will help create a “ready-to-play” mental attitude. The time it might take to accomplish your goal of more playing time ultimately depends upon your current level of athleticism, conditioning, agility, skills, knowledge of the game and overall effort and energy. So be realistic. What these FIVE Steps WILL guarantee is that you know YOU did everything in YOUR power to improve, and that will make the biggest difference regardless of your playing time. Most importantly, these five steps will allow you to focus on the “controllables” and not let outside forces dictate your fate. This is a much more important habit and perspective on the world that will benefit you greatly as you grow up and encounter many challenges in life.

Good luck and show your coach you deserve those extra minutes!