We are right in the middle of Ashley's 8th grade basketball season. As many know, I am a firm believer in finding and developing the unique talents of each player on any youth team. Each team brings a variety of talent, skills and spirit. Any coach can put her top players on the court and win a lot of games. It takes a skillful coach to play all of her players and win games. Now don't get me wrong, I have a very competitive group of girls and we play to win. We play as a team. I do not play my girls equally. But, all of my players have the opportunity to earn playing time.
Playing time is earned based on 4 factors:
1) Respect - for officials and refs, opposing teams, coaches, and each other. Negative comments about any team member are not tolerated.
2) Attendance at practice
3) Attitude and effort at practices and games
4) Performance on the court
Now this year, I have very little issues with respect, attendance, attitude and effort. So everyone earns a lot of playing time. Our league requires a minimum playing time of 4 minutes for every player in each game. We play 6 minute quarters so 4 minutes out of a total of 24 is not very much. My goal has always been to double the minimum playing time as long as it is being earned. This year I have exceeded that goal partly because I have two less players and because I have a very dedicated group of girls.
Some parents think that the top players should be playing all the time and the others should be benched. I literally had a parent email me telling me that I should bench certain girls. I had another parent tell me that if I didn't play my team this way, I wouldn't be doing my job as a coach and my team would not be successful. I understand competition is tight at the high school level, but I believe middle school should be a time to focus on fundamentals, teamwork and the love of the game. Why write off a player at such a young age? Give them a chance to learn and improve and they just might surprise you.
Having obtained this head coach position 2 seasons ago by default (I was the assistant when the original head coach had to resign), I had no idea how successful my team would be given my coaching philosophy. I chose to not let the opinions of others sway me and I have stuck to my method.
So far this season we have won 2nd place in our first tournament and we currently have a 3 and 1 record. We are tied in second place in league standings. We are winning as a team, losing a couple games as a team and, most importantly, playing as a team. All players are developing their skills, (as opposed to a select few), having fun and love the game. Isn't that what middle school sports are all about?