We get emails from time to time from players asking about how they can get more playing time. It's a question that a lot of players have, - even good players ask themselves this usually at one point of their playing career. Unfortunately there really isn't a simple "one size fits all" answer for this question.
All coaches are different and each player's situation might be unique. With all that aside, we do want players to know that there are lots of practical solutions to overcoming not getting the amount of playing time and to know that whatever your circumstance is there is light at the end of the tunnel.
As a young man my parents one day left me 1,900 miles away from home. I was supposed to be meeting some friends but there was a mix-up in communication and I ended up stranded all by myself. When I talked to my dad the next day I was very rude and said "dad, now you're just going to have to pay for the flight home." He laughed and said "you aren't worth the flight home right now, I have a greyhound ticket for you and you'll get on that bus tomorrow at 10 a.m. if you know what is good for you."
I got on the bus that next morning and I have never been so miserable in my life or more scared than I was during those 31 hours of travel. I was in some shady places at some very gloomy hours and honestly sat near someone with a fish bowl and live fish. When I got home my father hugged me and expressed his love and made sure that I learned a lesson. I learned a valuable lesson that week that I apply to every aspect of my life-accountability.
I can play a great victim in this story and get people to feel sorry for me all the time. I get comments like "what type of parents would leave their kid". I tell them the type of parents that loved me and wanted me to learn.
What I'm saying is that as a ball player you have to be accountable for yourself and not allow any outside excuses. I've heard them all and I've written about some of them already. "The coach hates my family." "The coach already had his team picked out." "The coach has his favorites." I've heard them all but what I am hearing is this... I wasn't good enough to play. It is what it is. Coaches will play the best players.
Can coaches be political at times? Sure, but let's realize that their jobs are based on winning programs and nobody is going to truly sit if they are that good. It just doesn't happen very often at all. When you hear your parents or those around you talking about how you are so much better than someone else just realize that this is something you control. Always believe the best players will play and be one of the best players.
How does this tie into playing time? It's all about Communication. Let's talk with the coach and find out what you can do to play. Don't guess about it or say you don't know what the coach is looking for. Go ask. Next, players that play work hard in practice. If you want to get in games then work hard in practice. Do drills full-speed. Volunteer when your coach asks for volunteers.
One thing that I ask players a lot is what they do well. If you are a shooter then don't do something you aren't good at yet by trying to play post. If you are a ball-handler but only an average shooter don't shoot each time you get it. It isn't bad to specialize in certain areas.
We can't always be the best players in every area of the game, but for our teams we can be the best shooter, the best passer or rebounder. The list goes on. It is about doing what you do well and doing it over and over again. Don't try to do too much.
I'm a very big University of Illinois fan and have been my entire life. Years ago they had a player named Lucas Johnson and this guy was amazing. He was a decent athlete, decent shooter, decent defender, etc... you get the point. Not great at anything except the intangibles.
He was tough, he went after each loose ball, he took charges and the coach had a tough time sitting him down. Lucas understood his role and did it very well. You can do the same when you communicate with your coach and find out what is expected and do it. You'll always play if you meet or exceed expectations and know what those are.
Any player can come up with excuses all day why they aren't getting playing time. It's those players that continue to sit on the bench and wonder what they could have been. If you really want to play, stop the excuses, be honest with yourself and go talk to your coach in a non-confrontational manner. Change your attitude and go to work, the playing time will soon follow.