The hard truth about playing time

Playing Time.

I bet those two words made you feel either Joy...or Indifference...or Frustration.

Of course, it all depends on how much court time your child is getting.

And if your child isn't getting enough playing time, I want to help.

Quite simply, I'm a problem solver and want to help out in a positive manner (because we all know complaining or quitting doesn't fix anything)...

In other words, how do you move forward?

If you have kids under the age of 14, I suggest this article about why I recommend fairly equal playing time for that age group - and situations for when it might not be equal: Youth Basketball and The Playing Time Issue. The rest of this email won't apply to them.

But for kids 15 and older, keep reading for some proactive tips to help your child earn that coveted playing time...


If your son or daughter can become the best at one particular aspect, the coach will notice, and playing time will increase. The coach needs players to fill roles.

So where do you start?

You might be able to figure out what the team is missing if you have some basketball experience.

If you don't, or you're not sure because you're not at practice every day, just have your child ask the coach (before or after practice during down time is a good opportunity):

"What can I do to help the team in order to get more playing time? What does our team need?"

And I bet the coach's response will fall into 1 or more of these categories:

  • Offense - Coaches need players who...
    • Knock down the open jumper and stretch the defense (3-point specialist)
    • Slash to the basket and score around the basket
    • Handle the ball against pressure and make high IQ decisions
    • Pound the paint and score some easy baskets in the post
  • Defense - Coaches need players who...
    • Play tenacious D and shut down opposing scorers
    • Communicate on defense
  • Boxing Out/Rebounding - Coaches need players who...
    • Dominate the boards and limit your opponent's offensive rebounds
    • Block out on every single shot
    • Create tons of 2nd chance points by sneaking in and grabbing offensive rebounds
  • Hustle/Aggressiveness/Energy - Coaches need players who...
    • Hustle back on defense
    • Dive for and grab loose balls
    • Bring a sense positivity and lift the team's energy - give the team a spurt when needed

If your child can fill one of those roles and do it well, the coach will notice - resulting in more playing time.

Play off your child's strengths if possible - is your child already fairly good at one of those things? If so, focus on improving that skill.


One of the biggest misconceptions is that skill level will get better during the basketball season.

In fact, if you have a coach who spends little time on shooting, ball handling, and other scoring moves (of which there are many), your child's skills can actually GET WORSE during the season!

And if you combine that with a lack of playing time, this can create a bigger gap between your child and the players who get playing time.

So a great way to make progress and even surpass players is to do mini-skill workouts 3 to 5 times a week. This gives kids a chance to get better than those players who might've been a little better at the beginning of the season.

They could do 20-to-30 minute mini workouts. Even 5 minutes a day is better than nothing!


Everyone knows the importance of athletic development and strength training during the offseason...

However, athletes should continue to do this during the season.

Why not get stronger and more athletic during the season, so they can:

  • Jump higher & faster to get more rebounds, blocks, and finishes at the rim
  • Increase durability and resiliency in their hips, knees & ankles
  • Improve jumping mechanics to reduce the risk of overuse injury
  • ncrease explosiveness in all aspects of the game... running, cutting, accelerating, etc.

At the very least, players should at least workout once or twice a week for 15 to 20 minutes per workout to maintain the gains they made during the offseason!

This is especially important for female players to do during the season as they tend to lose strength more quickly during the season, which can in turn cause more knee/leg injuries (Brian McCormick, Ph.D.).

And once your child gets strong, you'll notice improvements in other parts of their game.


The old saying, "Players are made in the off-season" is 100% true.

Right now, you should be monitoring areas of strengths and weaknesses during games. That way, you or somebody else can create workouts that give them the best chance to succeed.

You should be monitoring...

  • Where their shots come within the offense. They'll obviously want to master these shots. If they're not playing much, watch where other players have opportunities within the offense.
  • What moves work and which ones don't. Your child will want to make their effective moves better and create complementary moves to them. Even ask the coach which moves they think your player should practice.
  • Continue to have your child to improve their skills and strength. They should hit the weights or use a workout program at home.

If it works for your family, also get your child into leagues, camps, or both. Take them to any open gyms that are available. This keeps a ball in their hands and allows them to continue progress and get specialized coaching.

Honestly, some of these things are going to take time to improve. Kids just can't turn things around overnight... these skills require an investment of months. Especially if your child doesn't have as much experience as other players.

There's never any time like the present - so have your child start now and explain that getting better will require dedication and an investment of time.

And I believe there is no "end" point. A player must always strive to improve, continually putting in the time and effort year-round.

The bottom line is that lack of playing time is not fun for anyone, but taking proactive steps will bring improvement...

And make the coach take notice - thankful that your child can fill an important role on the team.

Just stay positive and support the team no matter what...but in the meantime, make a plan to earn more playing time!

P.S. Want to develop the specific skills that will allow you to get more playing time? That's exactly what we work on at all of our Breakthrough Basketball Camps. So if you'd like to attend one of our 300+ camps that have helped 100,000+ attendees transform their game since 2012, register for a camp near you HERE before we run out of spots.


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