Randal S. Doaty
Focus & Attitude Coach
Co-Founder of the BIMPS4 Software
Everybody wants to be a starter! Coaches see this role as being a player incentive and players see this role as a true honor. In reality, it is neither one! The decision of which player or combination of players should start in a basketball game should be based purely upon strategy and not a position that should be doled out as it if were a royal crown. If you hope to win a game this role should be about the strategy between you and your opponent – not a head game between the players on your own team.
This may seem like an odd topic to hear a Focus & Attitude Coach to discuss. Actually, it is a very relevant topic as it relates to the mental aspect of the game of basketball. I have watched as very talented athletes become so overcome with emotions at the loss of a starting position that they were essentially useless for the rest of the game. It would seem easy to blame the player for this unfortunate mental lapse, but the coaching staff also needs to take some of the responsibility.
The root of the emotional upheaval is caused by the player’s interpretation of why they were pulled from a starting role. Sometimes the reason is punishment or incentive and sometimes the reason can be game strategy. In any case, the player needs to fully understand why the decision was made if you hope to avoid losing that player’s ability for part or all of the game due to emotions. Words are a very effective form of communication. It can be a costly mistake to gamble with the focus and attitude of the players unnecessarily. Starting choices can affect the whole team.
On the other hand, the coach is the boss and doesn’t owe any explanation to their players. A great player will accept this fact and not allow themselves to become mentally disabled by their own insecurities about self-worth. After the game, it is not unreasonable to discuss the role change with the coach and understand the strategy or reason for their decision. All of this may seem so rudimentary. It is! That’s why I find it so fascinating that one of the first focus and attitude factors that I need to face in a basketball game begins with the starting line-up. Talk people – talk. You have bigger obstacles on your opposing bench!