It doesn’t matter if you’re a starter, 6th, 7th or 8th man, if you’re on the bench for more than 5 minutes, your legs tighten up and the ball feels a little foreign. The worst part is that everybody on the court or field is loose and ready to go.

But if you want to get more playing time, you need to learn how to play well off the bench. 

We’ll talk about basketball specifically, but these ideas can be applied to any sport.

Get a Feel for the Ball/Game

It’s important for any successful basketball player to score, but this is one of the harder things if you have been sitting and watching for an extended period of time. For this reason, unless you’re wide open, let yourself get a better feel for the ball before you shoot. It can be as simple as taking a couple dribbles and a defensive stop, a rebound or an assist to get you going. Once you have a feel for the ball and the game, you’re ready to make an impact shooting. While this may appear to be a problem that exists only on game day, it all starts in practice.

Get in the Right Mindset

You should never dread having your number called for fear of playing badly. It always helped me to think critically of my opponent, so that when my number was called I felt that I deserved that spot on the court. For instance you could think, “Number 42 always jumps the passing lanes, if I go in for John, I’m going back door for an easy lay up.” Having the right basketball mindset is key to every player’s success. 

Get a Competitive Advantage

Coming off the bench and getting an easy bucket will give you an immediate confidence boost, and you can use your time on the bench to give you insight as to how to do that.

By paying special attention to your opponent you can turn the disadvantages of coming off the bench into a competitive advantage.

Being removed from court for any period of time allows you to gain a different perspective of how your competition–and your own team–is performing. Apply that insight into your decision-making on the court.

You can learn these tricks of the trade through experience or watching basketball, however, the most effective way is by having the right basketball coach who can guide you and teach you from his/her own experience.  A good coach knows all the ways to get an open shot or find the right pass.

As important as preparation is for success, the game is when it really counts. So whether you’re on the bench or in the game, concentrate on what your basketball coach has taught you and look for opportunities to apply their lessons. By doing this you can make the most out of your time on the court. If you want to maximize your playing time, you must be able to play off the bench.  

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