7 Difference makers if you want more court time.
Players are smart. For the most part they understand the hierarchy of talent and technical ability on the team. They see it at practice all week. There is no use in sugar coating this fact.
But what if two players are very similar in physical ability? For coaches, this can make decisions around roles and playing time difficult. It is perhaps the hardest part of coaching.
Here are 7 things that I consider to be key difference makers when it comes to one player setting themselves apart from another.
1. Energy: Do they give off energy to the players beside them? Are they a net (1) positive, (2) neutral, or (3) negative when it comes to the energy level and flow of the team? There are players who constantly need someone charging them up when on the court, and this can be a drain on the teams’ batteries. Is this energy level consistent regardless of the scoreboard, or their personal stats.
2. Communication: Are they verbal and a strong communicator? Verbal communication is a skill like any other, and being quiet is a real detriment. Players who are clear in their communication will always stand out. Someone with a strong voice will give the player beside them confidence. We are not talking about cheering (although that is great too), rather, communicating useful and relevant information to their teammates.
3. Decisiveness: Good communication is not only having a strong voice. It also means decisiveness in how the player moves and owns their area of the court. Can your teammates trust you within the system? The opposite of this is hesitancy, and, "He who hesitates is lost".
4. Body Language: What is their body language like after a great play? Do they look surprised, or do they look confident? We don't want a look of 'shock and awe' after a good play. Conversely, what is their body language like after an error? Do they hang their head, or do they have a look of determination and want the next ball?
5. Response to Pressure: When under pressure, do they become more aggressive or more tentative? Do they want the pressure, the final kill, the critical pass, the last serve? What are the results under pressure? We need to test this both at practice and in games. If we never play an athlete in pressure situations, we may never know.
6. Decision Making: Do they know how to read the situation of the game? Can they make the smart play when needed, or the aggressive play when demanded? Sometimes the athlete will make a risky choice, to make themselves look better, regardless of the circumstance in the match.
7. Rebounding Ability: Do they make back-to-back errors, or can they bounce back quickly from an error? Athletes who can rebound provide a steady and calming effect to the team. We can go back to them, stick to our system and game plan.
These 7 are all highly related to your confidence as an athlete. Of course confidence is built over time, through experience and small successes. You won’t always feel confident inside, but you need to ‘act as if’ through your positive energy, strong voice, body language, and movement. Work on these 7 difference makers as hard as you work on the technical parts of your game.