Bill Belichick, the highly successful New England Patriots head coach, has a rare philosophy on playing time. In essence, if you don’t practice or play well you earn a quick ticket to ride the pine and somebody else takes your place. We use the term ‘rare’ to describe coach Belichick’s philosophy, because many coaches, in sports, pick the starters and stay with them for an entire season.
We all know there are instances when the starting lineup should not be changed. But, for non-starters a permanent starting lineup can be extremely frustrating. In our opinion, it doesn’t do the starters any favors either. Sports are the essence of competition and performing under pressure is an understood part of that. There are many motivators in the athletic world that can bring out the best in athletes. One of the most powerful beliefs is that if you practice hard and improve your skills, you will be rewarded with playing time. In too many cases, what an athlete achieves in practice or on the field doesn’t open the door.
As a non-starter, you may have out played a starting teammate in practice or have watched them continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. Doesn’t it make you wonder, “Why won’t coach put me in there and let me prove that I can compete for a starting position?” Some coaches will tell you that they don’t want to ruin a player’s confidence or mess with the team’s chemistry. However, putting a starting player on the bench occasionally, not only motivates the non-starters to feel like they can COMPETE for a position, it also prevents the starting athletes from becoming too complacent.
We can both recall instances where it was difficult to break into the starting lineup and starters felt they were entitled to their position. As a result, practices were never as intense as what they could have been and our game results showed much of the same. Never the less, the virtues of hard work and the value of competition bring out the best in people and allow them to reach heights they ordinarily may not have risen to!