The period of time between game one and two served as a compass to the landscape I had neglected! In short, through various communications, I had been made aware of the affect of my practice on a player. I had showed a lack of trust in their ability, in the contribution they could have potentially given to our collective performance and in doing so they had chosen to abstain from our second fixture. My immediate thoughts were concern for the player, the concept of ‘TEAM’ over ‘I”, a lack of communication and my role in addressing the situation. I sought council from the Director of the club, my wife and my students. Interestingly, the general consensus was one of a mixed intervention, one that would address the feelings and actions associated with the incident.
The management of time, player time on the court is a reoccurring issue and one that I would suggest is a point of consideration for many coaches. There is no reason to think that it would be a central issue within youth sport, after all, everybody wants to play. There are a number of positions on the subject, notably, a first and second five, very much a statement of ability and imply a hierarchy. A ‘short bench’, in other words a 7 or 8 man rotation, suggesting that only so many players are competent, and a fixed rotation system with dedicated minutes and points at which the player enters the game. Much of this is in direct contrast to the theory that underpins youth development and to some extent, to my own thinking with regards to court time. I had stated quite clearly that I would commit to a minimum of ten minutes per game per player and in my mind, I have worked to achieve this, and have done so in most games. I begin my rotations at 2-minutes, moving the guards and the bigs in small circular formations as a means of maintaining our competitiveness. It doesn’t always work, but generally speaking, I am able to work down and back up our roster, getting everybody in to the game in the first half. Unfortunately, the system falls short in the second half as I suffer from wanting to end the game early. Added to this is the complication of having lots of guards and only three ‘bigs’, which means the rotation ends up being ‘short’, or that I have to play some players in the 4-spot, a position they do not particularly want to play and which does not bring out their very best.
Anyway, we played our second fixture of the weekend, it was very much a roller coaster performance, having gotten off to one of our very best starts, running downhill at a pace, moving the ball and ourselves exceptionally well and finishing at the basket, we then made the dramatic climb up hill! In short, we struggled to get into anything that was us. We allowed the opposition to come roaring back into the game, gaining momentum and the lead. This being said, I was determined that I wasn’t going to lose it with them, I knew we had enough to win the game and we just needed to find it within ourselves. To this end, I tried, as best as I could, to control the expressiveness of my emotions, to not appear frustrated, and more importantly to smile, all very difficult for me when we are not at our best. The players once more demonstrated their ability to fight through difficulty, to overcome the pressure and scrap around for their authentic identity, that is running, pressuring the ball and running again.
We eventually won the game and I made my way home. We had moved up the league table but our fabric had been torn, I had missed the signs and we now had a fracture in our chemistry. I didn’t particularly like the feeling, the actions and expressions that had led to where we were but it was something I was going to have to deal with. The bigger picture brought me back to a mathematical problem, how do I rotate 17/12/40? If it was that we were a pure performance environment I could just allow the players the chance to earn their spots. Certainly, other quarters of the club see the rotations to be performance based and often question the ‘length’ of my player movement during games. The task was a difficult one, one that I did not have an immediate and definitive answer for, but one that belonged to me.