Are you concerned about finding the proper balance between resting your starters and playing them big minutes? Are you worried about burning them out early in the season? If so, what are you doing about it? What can you do to develop your bench, to help them accept their roles, to instill confidence in them? Are your starters overworked and fatigued, playing in pain?
The above questions occupy the mind of every coach. After all, your starters are the starters for a reason. Ultimately, your two or three best players will make or break your season. It is rare that a team competes for a championship without a star or two. But, you also recognize that you cannot win consistently without adequate players in supporting roles. Every successful team needs a couple of ‘glue’ guys, players who will rebound, pass, and defend willingly and selflessly, players more concerned about team success than individual stats. The question then is this: how do you develop bench players? How do you find that perfect balance between relying too much and relying too little on them?
Advantages of squad rotation
The advantages of developing a squad rotation policy are numerous. First and foremost, you will prevent fatigue and reduce the risks of injuries. This is especially the case if your star players are injury prone. Secondly, the more minutes your bench plays, the more they will gel and develop chemistry. They are more likely to be ready to step up and perform well if a starter goes down to injury or is in foul trouble. Thirdly, the fewer minutes you play your starters, the fresher they will be at the end of the season and the less likely they will be to take pain medications which is actually quite common and dangerous. This way players will also be at less risk of ending up in a Miami rehab center or similar, particularly as pain meds can be in some cases highly addictive. As a coach and more importantly, as a person, you have to watch out for their well-being even after they stop playing.
Developing a rotation policy also has its disadvantages. First, you may lose a couple of extra games early in the season if you do not proceed with extremely caution. For this reason, targeting specific games, easily winnable games, is a good policy, a policy that could lead to extra wins later in the season. Most players, especially those who are inexperienced require in game action to work out the kinks and develop confidence. Scheduling three or four easy victories per season should provide ample enough opportunity to accomplish just that.
Second, some starters require more minutes to be effective. Certain players can play twenty minutes and produce results while others need more minutes to find their grove. Assessing which is which can be tricky. To reduce the risk of losing games as you balance your rotation, you must start early in the season to develop your bench and fiddle with the rotation. Thus, the kinks will be worked out before you enter league and tournament play.
Third, stars players have egos and sitting them for long stretches can be counterproductive. Balancing the needs of the team with the emotional needs of the players who butter your bread can be challenging to say the least. In order to prevent complications as you execute your squad rotation policy do the following: first, sit down with each player individually early on in the season, tell them what you believe they are capable of, what role you foresee for them, how many minutes they will play, and how they can contribute to your team. Always remember that if your top players, your leaders, buy into what you are doing, the rest of the team will follow.
In order to achieve success with a squad rotation policy, you have to be flexible, move on the fly, foresee problems on the horizon, and know when to stick to your guns. If you fail to execute your plan properly, you could lose the trust of your team and end up losing games in the process. Not only could you drop games early in the season when it matter less, but even in league play or in the playoffs. However, if you execute your plan well, you and your players will be fresh to end the season, you will be peaking when it matters the most, and you will increase your odds of winning a title.