After coaching for the last 19 years at the high school level one of the greatest lessons I have learned is “The Law of the Bench”.

In high school basketball most teams have one or two outstanding players and winning comes down to who has the better role players that can compliment your best player(s) or have enough skill set to overcome the opponent attempting to shut down your best player(s).  However, at the end of a AAU season, a tough league schedule, a section championship,  or even attempting to win a  state championship…


Simply put in his outstanding book “The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player” well-known business and motivational author John Maxwell explains that the companies or teams with the best “bench” usually win in business as well. This is what Maxwell says so brilliantly in his book (I highly recommend it for a Team Textbook and for all coaches as it is short, to the point, and extremely powerful) and it is the single most important thing coaches should do in the off season and preseason.

Typically you have 3 seasons (off season, preseason, during season)  to build your bench as a coach.   You and your staff must invest in your players’ in three areas to build your bench.  Set the majority of your time to the first two seasons and allow for time during the season for this to take place as well during practice.

1. Commitment to Roles

2.  Skill Set

3. Building of Confidence

Commitment to roles is a must and a coach must convince a player of his value to do what he/she does best for the team.  John Wooden did this so well and placed such high value on each of his players in practice and convinced them to “give themselves up for the team”.  He only focused on his team and did not scout!  I was fortunate to have coached his grandson (Tyler Trapani at Simi Valley High School) and was extremely fortunate to have many meetings with Coach Wooden to discuss strategy, coaching, people skills, life…an amazing experience in his den!

Improving each player’s skill set requires a commitment and investment of time by the coaching staff and players. You must be willing to set a standard of coming in early and staying late along with a work-ethic that is second to none! We had 4 coaches 3-5 days a week working on individual attention and skill set at 7:00 am each summer (yes get them out of bed).  Coaches would open the gym at all hours of the night for players to get shots up or work on their skill level.

Building Confidence will come naturally with the commitment to roles and time in the gym but a coach must also allow for repetition in practice by ALL, early and often, in the first quarter/half and not just in a blowout.  Phil Jackson is a master at this, he is very patient, gets his star out to rest and plays “bench” players if you will a lot and what you find is that they are allowed to make mistakes and play more at ease.  These minutes are money in the bank later in the season and during crunch time when foul trouble, fatigue, poor games, and injuries hit….in effect he has built his bench throughout the season and when the Law of the Bench applies… maybe that’s why he has won so many NBA Titles with his teams.

It is a basketball team or a business team, each will have its star players or leaders, however it is the Law of the Bench that will actually determine the success of a group…

just ask the Duke Blue Devils or Apple Inc.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!