The FRESHMAN DILEMMA

This year’s shore freshman class is one of the best ever. I am not sure we have ever had a class this deep in talent. Not only is the class loaded with future D1 players. It has large number of what I believe are future small college stars. Talented freshman present a very tricky situatuon for coaches. Talented Freshman expect to play and upper-classmen in some cases feel they have paid there dues.

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There are many reasons why freshman play or don’t there first year. Let me give you some examples. If you are talented freshman at RBC this year you were going to play. They had one upper-Classmen and the roster was paper thin going into the season. Not only was there a chance to start as Katie Rice and Rose Caverly are doing,; you were almost guaranteed  to be in the rotation. If you are a Freshman at RFH or SJV,  schools with deep seasoned upper-classmen on there roster, you had no chance of starting this year and breaking into the rotation would be a real chore. In the case of Tori Hyduke of RFH she was able to break into the rotation. In the case of Maddie Doring of SJV she has had to wait her turn. Both are future lock D1 players with big futures but different paths.  So why a freshman plays or not has a lot to do with the situation and not just ability.

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In most cases, the upperclassmen are the staple of the program. They are loyal to teammates and the name on the front of the Jersey. This junior or senior in some cases may have been part of some big wins over the years. Then in walks that freshman star who is clearly more talented. The coach has preached to his team over and over its about team first. He has also told that star freshman “I can’t promise you playing time, but the best players play” The coach never uses the word start and appeals to the player’s ego with words the best player plays….everyone who has ever played sports knows that’s not always true.

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When a talented freshman enters a program all eyes are on them. If that freshman comes across as arrogant and not willing to pay their dues, they could become a outcast. In some cases upper- class-men will band together behind the junior or senior friend, whose  position is being threatened. They will freeze the freshman out on the court and break that star freshman mentally by not including them in actives off the court. These are problems that star freshman bring to the table and if the coach is not paying attention it becomes a problem. How the star freshman behaves and how the UPPER-CLASS-MEN treat that player has a major effect on the transition’s outcome.

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The biggest issue with the star freshman no doubts starts with playing time. When it’s clear a freshman is better than a upper-classmen the coach must make some hard decisions. First they must decide what are the consequences if they start or play the freshman over the upper-classmen. Next will they lose that valuable upper-classmen if they move that freshman ahead of the junior or senior. Then finally the political game is in full effect here. The talented freshman can always transfer and the upper-classmen has friends and family that support the team. A coach has a tough job across the board.

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I believe that upper-classman must always be given a chance to earn there spot before the star freshman; especially if they have shown their dedication to the team through the years. Meaning they have showed up for summer and fall workouts and have attended team meetings and functions. These upper-classman should get every chance to prove they deserve to keep there spot, but they must not be made to feel entitled. A chance to earn your spot  means extended minutes in scrimmages and extended minutes in the early part of the season. There is nothing worse in my mind that starting a upper-classman and making them the first sub out of a game. The upper classsman knows the coach is being phony and so do their teammates. The upper-classman must be given real extended minutes in THE MEAT OF THE GAME. There is nothing more phony than a coach telling a kid, “I gave you minutes ” in a game knowing full well it was during garbage time. The upper- class-man MUST BE GIVE A REAL CHANCE TO EARN THEIR SPOT.

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I believe the best thing a coach can do with the talented freshman is to communicate HONESTLY. I believe coaches should tell the star freshman that upper-classman will be getting the first crack at the position. But the coach must let the star freshman know, if they preform well, they will be part of the rotation. I also believe the coach must know the make up of the player. If that player can accept coming off the bench then all is good. But there are some freshman who simply have the attitude if I’m better….I WANT TO START AND PLAY REAL MINUTES . The coach would be wise to  know what they are dealing with!

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At some point a real decision will need to be made and one player will get the starting role or the lions share of the minutes. This is when things can go horrible wrong and I have seen it over and over. First the senior for example that has been starting notices that they are playing less than the freshman, they immediately know the coach has not been honest in his approach (the coach was starting her to pacify her). This can lead to teammates turning on the coach and in some cases that freshman who has replaced them. Next the senior may quit and when this happens red flags fly everywhere because now people know the coach was not playing the best players and was playing the political game. The coach loses the respect of the his team and more importantly that star freshman.

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When the coach decides to give the less talented upper-classman the bulk of the minutes he must be honest. He can not use coach speak when talking to his talented freshman, words such as...your practices are not goodyou don’t know the system…the match-ups were not good last night and my favorite you look worn down. This is when the relationship with the coach and the star freshman breaks down. The freshman loses trust in the coach and the relationship try as they may… is never the same. I believe in many cases the star freshman is simply not ready or their reputation is bigger than they game. In this case the coach must tell the freshman why they are not playing. They must be factual. Meaning you don’t shoot well enough, your decision making is poor, you attitude is not good or your defense is hurting the team….the coach can not use coach speak, he must be HONEST and SPECIFIC.

In the end each player needs to be honest with themselves about their situation.  If your whole team can do this then, your season should be smooth sailing; this however, is easier said then done because as we all know we each have a bloated opinion of ourselves. My advice would be to take advantage of your unselfish players and have them lead.  Players, coaches and most of  all parents must understand the job of the coach is not as simple as it looks when it comes to playing time. The most talented player doesn’t always deserve to play and upper-classmen must be prepared to have their role changed if called upon to do so..

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