IMG_0128Keith Edmonds is a 32-year veteran of teaching and school administration from Fort Wayne. He coached boys high school basketball as an assistant at Snider High School, North Side High School and was the head boys basketball coach at Elmhurst High School for 12 years, advancing to the Class 3A State championship in 2003.

Basketball season is a long 6-8 month journey and the longest of all high school sports seasons. During the course of this grueling and mentally challenging grind many things can happen to a program in regards to injuries, academic casualties, disciplinary issues and a myriad of issues that can dramatically affect a program.

This is why the development of a strong bench or ‘sixth man’ is so vitally important to the successes and failures of a team. Those players that have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them as they enter the game at key points off of the bench allow a team on any given night to be successful.

Most coaches would agree that the teams that have a strong bench – consisting of 2-4 individuals that have sacrificed their pride and individual talents for the success of the team – are the teams that have a better than average opportunity to win on any given night. As I move throughout northeast Indiana, I see that there are area teams that have very strong benches allowing very little (if any) drop off from those that start the games.  Those teams will be the most competitive programs as the season progresses.

As you watch your favorite teams play this season, take a close look at those that enter the game as reserves or players off of the bench and look for how consistent the team plays when those players enter. Here are some things to look for:

A) Does the team have a dramatic “fall off” in their play or does their play actually get better?

B) Do those players play with a spirit or passion so much so that it makes you as the question in your mind “Why doesn’t this kid start?”

C) At key points in the contest (especially towards the end of the game) is that player in the game contributing as if they were a member of the announced starters at the beginning of the game?

These are just some things to look for as a fan as you attend games this season. The role of the bench or sixth man is a lane that not many players enjoy driving in but one that is necessary if a team is going to have success during this season. So keep a watchful eye out.

Courtside with Coach Edmonds will appear every Monday during the prep basketball season at Outside the Huddle. These opinions represent those of the writer. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. 

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