Some Thoughts on Playing Time

by Paul Cortes
Head JV Boys Coach, Jewish Community High School of the Bay
Youth Basketball Coach, San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department
AAU Coach, Bay City Basketball

Disclaimer: These thoughts relate to coaching youth players. My approach would certainly change if I was coaching a high school varsity or older squad.

As an AAU coach, one of the issues that comes up frequently is playing time. There are certainly many trains of thought when it comes to how to manage rotations and get kids in and out of the game. I’m not arguing that my way is best, as there are many other coaches I work with that manage rotations differently and very successfully as well. Here I’m going to talk about some of the things I do with my player rotations and why I do them. There is no perfect way and with anything you choose there will be both pros and cons—the main thing is making sure your style aligns with your overall philosophy, whatever that may be.


Playing time matters, but so does grit

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, May/June 2015.

As the game clock dwindled toward zero, and his son remained on the bench, the father wondered about the best course of action. What was the point of a 10-year-old playing on a basketball team if he never played in the games? What happens to a child as he grows if his father is there to make everything okay?  […]

Should leagues mandate equal playing time for youth basketball?

When I coached junior varsity girls basketball and freshmen boys basketball, I committed to playing every player in every half of every game. Initially, the varsity coach instructed me to play everyone in every game with the JV team, but I continued to play everyone at the next school, even when I felt that the varsity coach disagreed with the egalitarian approach to playing time. To me, these are developmental levels, and playing everyone fits with a developmental model. […]

The perceptions and reality of playing time

I track wins and losses in every practice. On the day of a game, the first five on the cumulative leader board start the game, and number one on the list is our captain. From a continuity and competitive standpoint, it may not be the best way to decide on starters and captains, but I’ve rarely had a complaint in three seasons of using this method.  […]

Playing time and performance benefits

Games frequently are compared to academic tests, and practices to classroom teaching. In this analogy, practices are viewed as the learning experiences, and games as the performance experience. One aspect of Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is that she tests her children frequently. testing is not just an evaluative task, but a learning task. […]

Playing Time: Why Do You Deserve to Play?

After my last game, several players looked dejected. We have no shot clock, and games fly. I play 14 players per game while remaining somewhat competitive. It is hard. I know players are not playing as much as they want. They are not playing as much as I want them to play. But when a team holds the ball for 90 seconds running the Flex and refusing to shoot anything but a lay-up, the time moves pretty quickly.  […]

Does Every Player Deserve Playing Time?

This season, I coached in a program that believed every player deserves to play in every game. I never coached this way. I usually stuck with an 8 or 9-player rotation. From the outset, I told the players that they were not guaranteed playing time; they earned their playing time through practice. However, I played Read more about Does Every Player Deserve Playing Time?[…]