A coach will always have to make choices about a Starting Line-up for a number of different reasons. Sometimes a player will be performing exceptionally well in the team’s training sessions. Sometimes a player who is coming off the bench in games will start to put up better numbers or provide a service that is outshining the existing starter. Whatever the reason, no matter what the philosophy in place, it is important for a coach to have flexibility in their starting line-up so they can be dynamic and aggressive in their tactical practice.
For this to happen though a coach must first set an outline about changing the starting line-up to meet the immediate technical or tactical needs of the team. The situation a team finds itself within will change from week to week in regards to the opposition they face and therefore what strategies will be put in place. A coach should make it known to players well ahead of the first game about this policy and the different situations under which a rotation might be made.
So what are some of the strategic reasons a coach might look to change their starting line-up?
One reason for a strategic change to the starting line-up is that an offensive or defensive match-up can be exploited. For example, a coach might feel like there is an advantage to be exploited in regards to a different match-up between a different player on the team and the opposition. When thinking about players to be shifted into a different role it is important to look at all the ramifications. If a player is being placed into the starting line-up because of their defensive ability, how will this affect the offensive end of the floor? Do different plays need to be run? Do the playing positions need to be changed between offense and defence so the player does not hinder the offensive production? These questions need to be thought about before making a change.
Another reason for a starting line-up change can be to balance or increase the offensive production of a team in back end of a quarter. Sometimes a team can find themselves in a situation where there is a clear weakness within the possible rotations. This can sometimes result in the offense stalling when players are rotated from the bench onto the court during the normal flow of a game. To counter this, a starting line-up might be changed to give more balance to a team’s play and assist the second rotation so points are still able to be put on the board.
A starting line-up can also be varied to add a one-two punch to an offense or defence. Sometimes a tactical advantage can be drawn upon by wearing an opposition’s player or playing roster in a specific position so to exploit a weakness or just fatigue an individual. An example of this might be because an opposition has a weakness in a particular playing position. This might mean they do not have a suitable player to fill this role or maybe have only on competitive player, with the second player being rotated in not able to meet the standard of the competition. Therefore, to exploit this situation a coach might change the starting line-up so the primary player for this position is rotated in second and therefore faces off against the weaker player in the oppositions rotation. As the game progresses, the primary player might play more and more minutes so as the opposition’s player becomes fatigued they have to play against the primary player more and more.
Another reason to change a starting line-up strategically is to stack a playing position against an opposition player. This strategy is often used in regards to defending a particularly strong offensive opposition player. It is a tactic used where players maybe from other positions are placed against the strong offensive player in an attempt to stifle this player’s style of play, possession or other strength. This is only effective though where the players moved into this rotation have something to offer in defending the opposition player.
Changing a starting line-up can be a very good tactic but there are some times when a strategy will not work out. In these instances, a coach must be flexible and aware enough to change back quickly and limit the negative impact.