• Coach Coordinator

SUBSTITUTIONS – the IN’s and OUT’s of basketball

“A sub is called. All five players on the court turn their attention towards the bench, eyes open with fear as they hope their teammate isn’t coming on for them. Their teammate runs towards them, tapping Jimmy on the shoulder. “You’re off”. He puts his head down in shame and slowly takes himself off the court. He sits down and wonders what went wrong and why he is off again?”

Substitutions; an aspect of the game no player or coach likes. However, substitutions should not be seen negatively. Whether the players/parents/coaches like it or not, players must be rotated to keep the energy up on court and reduce fatigue. When substitutions are used wisely, they can be a very effective coaching tool.


  1. Start each game with a plan. Ensure your rotations are even, and that the five on court are a good mix at any stage of the game.

  2. Give Feedback. To prevent players questioning their abilities, make the player sit next to you as soon as they come off the bench. Inform the player of the reason for the substitution, even if it is just a break. Be positive and keep it brief.

  3. Use the game as video footage. Ensure the players are watching the game and use it to show them and reinforce your reasoning. Prompt the players by asking questions, so when they go on, you are not repeating yourself (and could save the use of a timeout).

  4. Be flexible. Don’t consume yourself with the plan. Each game is different, so you must be ready to adapt to every situation including: injuries/illness, fatigue, or even a “bad game” etc. If you give feedback, the players will understand your motives and will be happy to oblige.

7 player Substitutions

8 player Substitutions


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