Friday, January 18, 2019
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So, what does it really mean when we say “Our team beat your team”? We hear it all the time; we say it all the time. It’s that phrase we all use to say that we won, our team won and your team lost.

But is that really true? Did the whole team win, or just the top players that actually played in the game?

There is a youth league basketball (I am sure there are several like this, but this is the only one that I am personally familiar with) that requires all the players on the team to play in each game. They must carry 15 players on the team and the substitution pattern goes like this:

1st quarter… the first string plays (the top five players).

2nd quarter…the second string plays

3rd quarter… the third string plays

4th quarter… free substitution (any player combination can play).

I like it! I know this won’t work for the older grades, probably starting with the junior high level, but for the younger kids I think it is a great idea for several reasons:

Ø  This system requires a full team and bench, meaning 15 players. There are too many programs that only carry 10 -12 players on the team and cut the rest. Not a good idea for young kids. Cutting kids is fine if you have other teams or another basketball program to put them in to.

Ø  I like this idea because now you are really meaning what you say when you say that “our team won”. In basketball, a team with one or two dominating players can carry the team and win most of the games. That is also true in college and pro basketball.

Remember the Chicago Bulls winning with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen?  How about the Lakers with Kobe and Shaq, and now the “big three” with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh.

I get that and that’s the way it often works at that level and with older kids, but I am talking about our young kids.

If you only play the best 7 or 8 players, that old expression “our team is only as good as our weakest link” is not true at all. The “weakest link” has nothing to do with the outcome of the games.

But, in the situations where all must play in these specific quarters, your teams’ outcome is very dependent on the “weakest link”, because he is on the “team”.

Ø  The third thing that I like about this system for younger kids is that it really does give each player a sense of contribution and importance to the team. I think at some point in our lives we have all played on a team where we really weren’t needed. We didn’t get to play in the game, or if we did it was only when the game was way out of reach. There was very little, if any sense of involvement or value.

In this style of play, each member of the team is important and they can join in with the best players in the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.


Ok, I know there are downsides to this plan as well: less playing time for those players that are trying to improve their game and get better, watching your 3rd string team let a sure victory get away after the 1st string worked so hard to get a big lead, the idea of some players who practice long and hard and put in extra hours to improve have to sit and share minutes with kids that really don’t care that much or practice that hard…etc


I know that this kind of play could even be difficult for the younger kids at the competitive club levels when they pay a lot of money and then not get enough playing time to justify the cost.


Ok, I get all that, but it still can work for some situations and some age groups.


Hey, then we can really say with truth, “there is no I in team”.


If you have any questions or comments for Tom Kuyper, you can email him at:

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