Prepare Your Team to Face Inferior Competition

High school basketball coaching legend William Warren described how he got his team ready to face an an overmatched opponent.  It’s easy to fall into complacency and just ‘go through the motions.’

When you are playing a team who is clearly weaker, there are several motivational tactics to pursue. The message you want to convey to the starters is that, “Yes, we overmatch this opponent. The question is whether you will be on the court or field doing the winning or someone else on the team, while you watch from the bench most of the game.”

The other message you want to send is the similar: “If you aren’t ready, whether as a unit or individually, to storm the gates and tear down the walls, I’ll find someone who is and you can watch him/her/them get the playing time you should be getting.”

Another approach that helps raise team motivation in what otherwise might be a glorified scrimmage is to emphasize statistics and individual goals. (Note: This isn’t a stance you want to take very often, but it can be helpful in these types of contest).

These are opportunities to reach statistical milestones and pad the averages. Here is an example: Let’s say you are playing a basketball game in which your squad is heavily favored. You never want a team to think they can just “show up” and walk off the court with a victory.

Recommendation: In your pre-game talk, you can go around the room and talk to each starter:

  • “Rodrick, I’ve been telling people all year that you could get a triple double one of these days. Well tonight is your chance, because it won’t get any easier the rest of the season.”

  • “Sheldon, time is running out if you want to break that record for steals this season. They aren’t gonna hand you that record, you have to go out and earn it.”

  • “Alvin, you only had 3 or 4 rebounds the last 3 games, I’m looking for a season high tonight. Joe, if Alvin decides to take the night off, I’m moving you in to his spot to clean the boards.”

Describe a few individual goals you want the players to work on to get them up and ready for the inferior opposition. You can then promise playing time sufficient enough to accomplish these goals if they make an honest effort to achieve them.

Bonus: Your subs and bench players will also be receptive to this approach because it offers them a chance for more playing time should the starters not respond to the pre-game challenge.

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