Sunday, January 29, 2017

#64 Let's Get Serious About Rotations

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. – Helen Keller

For the strength of thepack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.  --Rudyard Kipling

There was a big college basketball game Saturday night with the #2 team in the nation battling the #4 team in the nation.  Both teams played exactly 8 players with the 8th player playing exactly 4 minutes for each team.  That means that in all reality, both of these future HOF coaches used only 7 players for the 40-minute game.  

I don't think either team pressed full-court for any real amount of time.  Neither team broke 80 points on the board.  Neither team had more than 80 offensive possessions.  So, the pace of the game was not abnormally fast in any way.

Most of you reading this do not have D1 workhorses on your roster.  If you do, you are lucky if you have one.  The D1 kids practice year round and have elite facilities, trainers and preparation.  Most of us cannot provide a glimmer of those types of resources or ever coach that kind of athlete.

Why is it that I continue to see high school coaches and small college coaches use only 7-8 players in a game like those elite D1 programs?

Let's talk BIG picture.  You are a high school coach or a small college coach.  You are lucky if you make enough money to do much but to make sure your tank is full of gas.  You have 12-15 young men or women on your roster (who you CHOSE to be on your team) who come to practice every day; give you everything they've got; commit to 70+ practices and 20+ games; and for their efforts, they get to sit and watch during games.

What are you naturally creating?

1.  Unhappy kids
2.  Unhappy parents
3.  Unhappy administrators
4.  Smaller crowds
5.  Tired kids at the end of games
6.  Exhausted kids at the end of the season

I was a college coach for a long-time, so I get the need to tighten up the roster for conference and important games.  I understand the value of a possession; let alone possession(s).  What I cannot understand is why coaches work to create conflict when they don't have to

You don't have to be Loyola Marymount or Grinnell or my old Maryville and La Verne teams and play 15 kids a game.  Those teams pressed for 40 minutes and had 6-7 second offensive possessions.  No kid could have played 40 minutes in those types of games without being a world class marathoner.  

However, I encourage every coach to not only think for the good of your kids, but to think of the good of your job.  If they were good enough to make your team or good enough for you to recruit them, don't you owe them and yourself the opportunity to prove their worth or lack of it in some quality game minutes?

In late 1990s, we had a high school program with 5 future college players, and 5 kids who could have easily been the 3rd place intramural team at a local liberal arts college.  They were great kids, but were extremely deficient in size, speed, ability or all of the above.  The 5 college-bound kids played for 3 minutes at a time, and then they were subbed in for those 5 "not ready for prime-time" kids for a full 5-for-5 substitution.  Those subs knew they were only going to get a  minute and a half opportunity, but they were fully committed to making the most of that 90 seconds.

Our first group pressed and ran and executed with high ability.  The second group was sloppy and out of control and rarely executed anything with precision.  The first group would score 80-90% of our points every game in about 22-24 minutes of play.  The second group would give us the rest in 8-10 minutes of play.  Most coaches look at those numbers and say, "We could score so much more if that first group wasn't giving away those 8-10 minutes."

We looked down at the other teams bench and said, "Wow, there's 6 minutes left in the first half, and that coach hasn't subbed yet and his kids on the floor can barely walk because they are so tired."

We were in very few close games, but when we were, we almost always finished victoriously because our starters were fresh at the end of the game, and the other team was having to sub kids in for their starters who had fouled out. Our elite best was finishing against their weak, worn-out and inexperienced bench.  The other team never had a chance.

By utilizing the "pack" as our strength, we made the "wolf" that much more effective and efficient.

You don't have to use whole-sale substitutions.  Heck, you don't even need to give kids consistent minutes, but if you make your team rotations a part of who you are and what you do, you may find that those 6 problems you were creating above turned into opportunities that look like this:

1.  Happier, more committed kids
2.  Happier families who leave you alone
3.  Happier administrators that like the energy your team creates
4.  Bigger crowds because they love your pace and the fact that all their friends get to play
5.  TV, Paper and Radio stations show up to see this unique style
6.  You are happier because all of your kids are invested and care about the bigger picture
7.  More wins because your kids are healthy and strong when you need them the most

You can question this philosophy.  You can doubt its validity, but I can show you on film and in the record books that good, bad and ugly high school teams, college men's teams and college women's teams can all make this a reality.  How do I know?  Because I've done it with all 3.  Give it a shot.  Be happy.  Make your kids happy.  Enjoy the game!

Coach Matt Rogers
Twitter:  @madcoachdiary
Phone:  (312) 610-6045

Matt Rogers is a 20-year high school and college coach veteran.  He has led two teams to the NCAA National Tournament and one team to a High School State Championship.  His teams hold numerous school and one NCAA record. He has mentored and coached players at every level while serving as an athletics administrator at the high school and NCAA levels. He has helped numerous players continue their careers at the professional level. He currently is the Head National Scout/Recruiting Specialist for NCSA - Next College Student Athlete where he has helped thousands of young men and women from around the world achieve their dreams of playing at the college level.  Coach presently lives in the Denver, CO area with his wife of 19 years and his two children. 

To request Coach Rogers to speak at your school or event, you can reach him through any of his contact information above.