How to keep non-starters motivated?

5 Dec

I was asked this question by one of my former players (Nate James)who is now an assistant coach at Duke University recently.  I thought that the question was very interesting and intriguing.  This question has many different layers to it and The best way to answer it is to be as honest as I possibly can.  

First and foremost, we must understand that the goals of the team come before and supersede the goals of the individual.  I am a believer that once that has been established then we can start to address the wants and needs of the individual.

All “players” want to play.  In fact, they want to play a lot!  However it is the job of the coaching staff to assemble the best team,  and play the best group of individuals that play well as a team. It is the job of the coaching staff to define roles.  What the coaches know through experience is that roles can and do change throughout the course of a season.   Coaches look at the season as a marathon and while the players sometimes look at the season as a sprint. 

Here are a couple thoughts I have on  How to keep the non-starters motivated?

1. You must recognize where the player is coming from emotionally and psychologically.  They are coming from a  “me” perspective. 

2. You have to redirect their thoughts of their needs back to the overall objectives of the team.

3. You should illustrate to them that practice is available for them to prove they deserve to play more in the games. However they will need to  judge themselves based on the criteria used by the staff and not the players.

4. You will need to build their self-esteem, their self worth, their value to the team and the ultimate goals of the team.

5. You will need to “sell” them on the idea of being a STAR in their current role. 

6. The staff needs to recognize what the importance, the value and the responsibilities of the”non-starters” are to the overall success of the team.

7. You will need to cite examples of the value of “the 6th man award”. Past winners, teams that win championships often have great players that do not start. 

8. You will need to make sure that the players are being honest with themselves. 

9. You will need them to accept their roles. But not become satisfied  in their roles.    

10.  They must “believe in”, “trust in”  and then “buy in” to their role.

Role acceptance requires maturity.  Role acceptance requires humility. Role  acceptance requires sacrifice. Role acceptance requires a player to realize this is my role now,  but roles can and do change. 

Role acceptance is making yourself invaluable to your team. 

The individual must understand the African proverb that says, “Every tree has its’ own time to bare it’s own fruit”.  They must also realize that they should work and prepare themselves for THAT moment. Because if they are not, the moment will come and go. 

The cheers after the game ends are louder than the cheers before the game begins. Translation: I would rather finish a game than start a game! 


2 Responses to “How to keep non-starters motivated?”


  1. Basketball Coaching Digest December 7, 2012 | Justin T. EganJustin T. Egan - December 7, 2012

    […] How to keep non-starters motivated? […]

  2. 5 Basketball Coaching Blogs You Must Follow in 2013 | Basketball For Coaches - February 5, 2013

    […] How to keep Non-Starters Motivated […]

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