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Coaching Management 23.2

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Before Tim McDonald, Head Coach at Bay City Western High School in Auburn, Mich., has preseason meetings with his play- ers, he asks them to do self-evaluations listing their strengths and weaknesses as well as what they see as their role on the squad. "Players are usually pretty honest about how good they are," he says. "So if I think a guy is a bench player, he's likely to have arrived at that conclusion himself, while also giving a lot of thought to what he needs to do to improve. And if he thinks he's a starter, then we have a chance to talk through our differ- ence of opinion before the season starts, which reduces problems down the road." The conversation requires even more finesse when the player has been a starter in the past. "Last year, Landon Appling, a three-year starter for us, began the season coming off the bench. When he found out that was our plan, he wasn't happy," says University of Houston Head Coach Todd Whitting. "But I asked him if he thought being a backup would be worth it if it gave the squad a better chance to go to the Col- lege World Series, and that helped him see the bigger picture. When you can put the move in the context of team success, players are more likely to buy in." Although players may be understandably upset when informed their playing time will be limited, it can help to tell them individual success is still possible no matter how long they spend on the bench. "Every coach has examples of guys who became quality start- ers after spending time as a backup," says Marc Wiese, Head Coach at Puyallup (Wash.) High School. "I've even had three players PATRICK BOHN is an Assistant Editor at Coaching Management. He can be reached at: pb@MomentumMedia.com. 16 Coaching Management PrEsEAson 2015 Coachesnetwork.com COVER STORY who never started for me become regular starters on their junior college teams. I tell my players that all the traits they can demon- strate as a backup, like hard work and a great attitude, will impress college coaches." Another way to keep backup players moti- vated is to let them know exactly how they can earn a starting role. "I always try to iden- tify three or four things each bench player needs to improve if he wants to get into the starting lineup," says Texas Christian Univer- sity Head Coach Jim Schlossnagle. "That gives them something concrete to work on and helps them realize their status isn't per- manent if they put in the hard work." When outlining these steps, however, it's critical that you remain honest about the likelihood of a reserve earning a starting position. "Early in my career—like many young coaches—I tried to avoid conflict," says Mike Bedics, Head Coach at Notre Dame High School in Easton, Pa. "But that created problems when I needed to tell play- ers they were going to be on the bench. I'd often dance around the issue and say things like, 'Well, you might get some playing time ...' All that did was create unrealistic expectations. "It's much better to be 100 percent hon- est," he continues. "Not only do players respect being told the truth, it gives me a chance to see how they'll respond to being a bench guy. If a guy is a little ticked off, I know he's going to work hard to be a starter." While many coaches limit their pre- season meetings to one-on-one discussions, others prefer to involve their staff. Archuleta says it can be especially helpful to have a second voice on hand in case players chal- lenge your reasoning. "I like having my assistant coaches with me during these meetings," he says. "Often, they are the ones working closely with these players during practice, so they're able to offer a more detailed description of what's keeping the player out of the starting lineup." PRACTICE PLAN Once you know your backups are on board with their role, the next step is helping "Early in my career, I tried to avoid conflict. I'd often dance around the issue and say things like, 'Well, you might get some playing time ...' All that did was create unrealistic expectations. It's much better to be honest." MikE BEdiCs, notrE dAME HigH sCHool, EAston, PA. paREnTal pRESSuRE A complaining parent can cause headaches when it comes to their son's playing time, so coaches need to devel- op strategies to deal with them before a problem arises. "If I get the feeling that a parent might give me a hard time about their son being on the bench, I'll have them present when I talk with that player about his role," says Marc Wiese, Head Coach at Puyallup (Wash.) High School. "This way, they know where things stand right away, and they can ask any questions they have for me." Tim McDonald, Head Coach at Bay City Western High School in Auburn, Mich., says letting parents know what goes into your evaluations of their sons can be helpful. "I'll frequently get e-mails from parents with stats and highlight videos from their kid's summer league or travel team games," he says. "I tell them, 'Regardless of how he played in the summer, I have to evaluate him based on what my staff and I see during the school year.'" If the parents don't trust your judg- ment, Mike Bedics, Head Coach at Notre Dame High School in Easton, Pa., suggests giving them an inside look. "I invite parents to our practic- es," he says. "That often shows them another side of things, where they can see their son and the starter together, which usually illustrates what their son needs to do to earn more playing time." When parents just won't buy into his reasoning, McDonald lets someone else do the talking. "My players fill out a preseason questionnaire list- ing their strengths and weaknesses, and they're usually honest about their shortcomings," he says. "If a parent comes to me with a playing time complaint, I can often show them that their son agrees with my decision, which makes it harder for a parent to say I'm being unfair." Click Here to sign up for our free series of educational digital newsletters

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