Establishing roles is a major part of every coachʼs job description. A coach must (1) analyze a playerʼs strengths, 2) analyze a playerʼs weaknesses and 3) determine how each player will fit into the style of play. Once we know these things, we have to sell these roles to the players. Thatʼs not always easy, since most players think that being a role player really means being a “never get to score” player!
With most players, if the role involves scoring points, they are happy. We know that not everyone can have that role — but we still have to make sure each player will buy into the role they are given. I have found that most every championship team is made up of players who accept their roles.
We always gave a non-scoring role player some goals to accomplish each game, including scoring. For example, a big man we want to be a screener/defender might have these goals:
Get one pass ahead fast break lay up per half (4 points/game)
Get one offensive rebound basket per half (4 points/game)
Make two free throws per half (4 points/game)
Now they're scoring 12 points, which is enough to feel good about their offensive game that night. But the best part of it all is that none of these points have to come through our offense. You can actually keep the offensive game to purely a hustle-type game, yet still help them score 12 points.
Roles are not always easy for a player to accept in that the player may think they should have more of a featured role. I’ve found that emphasizing the importance of the player’s role in the context of what is best for the team can help the player accept their role.