BY MORGAN LANDES | Ball State Sports Link
The month of March is here and postseason basketball has everyone’s attention. As you watch March Madness, think about what the teams who win all have — a 6th man who knows.
Growing up, I wanted to be in the starting lineup and I think any other basketball player can agree.
I knew what it took. I knew what it looked like. I even knew how to get to that level, but for some reason, hardly ever made it. It took me years to figure out why.
I grew up in a loving household in Anderson, Indiana. As many know, Anderson is not the best place to live, let’s face it. However, Anderson isn’t too bad of a place to learn how to play basketball.
Growing up, my mother never let me play with a bad attitude. If I did, she told the coach to take me out– and they listened. Every. Single. Time.
Nonetheless, I quickly learned how to play with respect and without a bad attitude. As a young kid, playing in the YMCA coed basketball leagues, I was a starter. I loved being a starter. Having my name announced and running out on the court like a star. There was nothing better a basketball player dreamed of at the age of five. Nothing.
However, the older I got, the more things changed in my basketball career.
When I approached middle school, our team was stellar. We only lost one game my first year to a rivalry team by two points. Heartbreaking, I know.
At the beginning of the school year, I was in the starting line up. I never thought things could change until one Thursday night on the road, our coach decided to switch things up. He took me and one of my teammates out of the starting lineup to “change things up a bit.”
Attitude- filled Morgan returned. You might have guessed it again, my mother refused to let me play that way. Until I learned how to let others play ahead of me and cheer for them, instead of tear them down, she refused to let me on the court and the coaches agreed.
After I had things figured out, I began to love the game even more. Cheering for my team became a passion, not a dreadful act. I began to appreciate the little things, especially my teammates.
When I transferred into the Pendleton Heights school system, I was ecstatic to play basketball there. Going into tryouts, I remember telling myself I would try my best to make varsity.
Well, guess what — I wasn’t good enough for varsity or JV for that matter. I had made the JV team, not as a starter, but more or less as a benchwarmer. My self esteem hit rock bottom.
My junior and senior years of high school were big years in my life. I got my fair share of playing time, but I always, ALWAYS, came in off the bench as the 6th “man.” I began asking myself why and how this was possible. Why me? Why?
It wasn’t until after my senior season I starting piecing together the puzzle.
After my basketball career was over, I noticed how my mind worked compared to others. I like to analyze, take notes, strategize and then act. Most basketball players who are starters are the opposite.
Think about it. How many starters step onto the court and immediately know exactly what offenses will work against the defense the other team is in? Not many.
Not until the coach or another teammate, like the 6th “man” says something to them or calls a play out loud. Our brain on the court is simply telling us to run a specific play or defense that is called and to not think about anything else in that moment.
You see, there are so many people who think being a 6th “man” is a horrible thing. Players believe when they aren’t a starter, it makes them automatically bad or a less skilled player than the five on the court. This is not true.
In some situations, the 6th “man” is a hero to the team. However, the 6th “man” must be a team player for them to be a hero. It goes hand in hand.
The 6th “man” has time to sit down and pay attention to the details within the first three minutes (more or less) of the game before going in.
THIS IS CRUCIAL TO A TEAM’S SUCCESS, IF IT IS DONE CORRECTLY.
Players on the court don’t see the same things players on the bench see. Think about it, again.
As a 6th “man” you can see what defenses the other team is in, what offenses you can run against those defenses. You can see if your own teammates are messing up, help them and direct them to run the plays the right way. You can see who on the opposing team is the best shooter, ball handler, etc. You can literally see it all, but only if you want to.
Every team has a 6th “man,” but not every team has a 6th “man” who can come off the bench with information that will make the team immediately better.
The 6th “man” can be crucial to a team’s success. That player just has to know it and see the value in his or her position on the team. Once the team becomes one, and not just a group of talented individuals, that is the turning point of the road that leads to success.
The 6th “man” should enjoy being in those shoes. Fans, coaches and teammates see the changes made as soon as a great 6th “man” enters the game.
Basketball is a mind game. You need talent and skill, but it is a mental game. The five starters have their own mind sets, and that is how it should be. This means the 6th “man” needs to have his or her own mind set.
Once being a 6th “man” is fun and enjoyable to the person in those shoes, progress happens. This goes for any basketball team.
The 6th “man” knows. Knows the game. Knows the plays. Knows the opposing team. Knows the shooters for both teams. They just know.
But only, when they want to. The teams which advance far into March have those players.