Sitting on the bench sucks.
No one wants to do it. Every player would prefer to be out on the court showcasing their talents to everyone inside the gym.
But the fact is that all players will spend a lot of time on the bench at some point. As a player progresses further in their career and makes the step up to the next level they may find themselves going from 35 minutes per game to 5 minutes per game.
If you’re only getting 5 minutes of playing time per game what are you going to do with the other 35 minutes you spend on the bench to help your team be successful?
What most people don’t understand is bench players do influence the outcome of the game greatly.
Most coaches I know don’t talk about what it takes to be a great bench player. Most players I know don’t think there’s such thing as a great bench player. But there is. There really is.
“The secret is to have eight great players and four others who will cheer like crazy” – Jerry Tarkanian
Here are 5 tips you must remember to be a great bench player.
1. Bring Lots of Energy
Energy is the most important thing for all bench players to bring to every single game, especially when your team is on the road. Show your passion for the game.
Be loud. Shout out words of encouragement to your teammates. Stand up and cheer each time your team scores or makes a great basketball play.
When a time-out is called a great teammate will be the first one off the bench to go out and high-five the players that were on the court. When the time-out is over be energetic. “Yeah, Brad. Keep dominating in the post!”.
All of these little acts lift the energy and moral of the team.
Your teammates and coach will appreciate it.
2. Take Note of Your Body Language
Here on BFC we talk all the time about the importance of body language for basketball players. Body language is just as important on the bench as it is on the court.
Are your players leaning back, slouching, and looking disinterested? Or are they on the edge of their seat engaged in the game?
Poor body language on the bench tells a coach you care more about yourself than the team. Prove that you’re a team-first player by having great body language on the bench.
Great teammates all sit forward, don’t slouch, and are engaged in the game.
3. Don’t Ruin Your Teammates Focus
Want to know what’s worse than a player not engaged in the game while on the bench? A player not engaged in the game that ruins the focus of their teammates.
If a player can’t stay engaged in a game this does not give them the right to ruin the focus of anyone else.
Don’t talk to them about things that aren’t related to the game, during the game. Let them focus. Save non-game related topics for after the game. No one cares what you’re planning on doing that night while the scores are tied mid-way through the fourth quarter.
4. Watch What the Opposition is Doing
While most players hate starting on the bench it does give you a BIG advantage over your starting opponents. By starting on the bench you have the opportunity to quickly scout your opponents.
Here are a few things you can look at if you’re a player on the bench:
- Look for weaknesses in the defense.
If you’re a rim-attacking guard, which players on the other team have slow feet? Which players do you think you can easily beat off the dribble?
If you’re a three point shooter look for holes in their defense. What defense are they running? How can you take advantage of it?
- What plays are they running?
Learn the names of the plays and the basic premise. Where will the ball end up? What can you do to stop it?
- Scout your probable opponent.
Many coaches have patterns of substituting. If you know you usually get subbed on for a certain player, look at that players defender. What are they doing that you can exploit? Are you bigger than them and will be able to post them up? Are you quicker and will be able to take them off the dribble? Will you be able to get rebounds? How can you help your team?
Don’t wait until you’re out there to figure it out. You’ve got the advantage of watching the game from the start. A huge advantage.
5. Stay Ready
Be a great teammate on the bench by staying ready for when your number is called to go on and help your team.
When your number is called your team expects you to go on and play your part for the team. Don’t let your teammates down by not staying engaged and ready to do that.
Being a great bench player really comes down to being a great teammate. Being able to put team success before personal glory.
We must all remember that the players on the bench do play a big role in the outcome of the game. The intensity and moral of the players on the bench have a huge influence on the players on the court.
Put the team before yourself by following these 5 simple tips.
1. Bring lots of energy.
2. Take note of your body language.
3. Don’t ruin your teammates mental state.
4. Watch what your opponent is doing.
5. Stay ready.
And if you want more minutes on the court, becoming a great bench player will get you a step in the right direction.
When a coach looks down the bench who do you think the coach is going to substitute in; the player that’s sitting forward and looking eager to play? Or the player leaning back looking disinterested?
HoopGrind Director of Player Development | Pro Skills Trainer | Athletic Director | Former D1 Hooper