When I watch games, I always watch the bench. I can always tell if a team has good chemistry just by watching the demeanor of the players and the coaches on the bench. Are they focused on the time-score-situation? Is the bench supportive or making snide comments? Sometimes I see the guy who gets pulled and pouts at the end of the bench. Other times, I see two or three players playing with their PSPs, the bench players clique. I've even seen assistant coaches on their blackberries the entire half. You can tell a lot from watching a team's bench.

It's easy to get caught up in X's and O's, fundamentals, skills, etc... As many of you coaches are getting back into rhythm after the holidays, regular season in full swing, playoffs upcoming, team chemistry and team unity becomes more important than ever. As a coach, do you know all the cliques on your team? What are you doing to address potential player-to-player, player-to-coach, player-to-parent issues? If you don't think your team has any, you haven't been paying enough attention. In all the teams that I've ever coached on, football and basketball, I don't think I've ever coached a single team that did not have issues with chemistry and unity. I think it's inevitable that you'll get cliques, conflicts, and overall personnel issues. In one year, there was a conflict between two players and the head coach simply asked me (the assistant) to "take care of it."

Dealing with and addressing team chemistry is part of being a head coach. Though I don't think every situation is the same, I do think that there some general things that head coaches can do to help with team unity on the bench. Here are some great in-game tips from a variety of great coaches that hopefully you can also incorporate into your program to help build team unity on your bench. Enjoy...

Little Things

- Have a "salute" that each player in your program (freshman through seniors) gives each other when running into one another off of the court. It builds program unity and ownership. (By David Fox...Head Men's Basketball Coach Jefferson City, Mo)

- ATTITUDE....Have the coaching staff right smack dab in the middle of the team bench. One of the biggest problem areas is the end of the bench because players can hide down there and show their displeasure through their words and body language without the coaches knowing about it. This takes away the "Safe Haven" (Pat Summitt)

- At home games introduce all your players not just the starters. Introduce the non-starters first. Don't be detailed with them, just say name and number. This helps build team unity. (Duane Silver)

- Have honorary coaches for your home games. Could be teachers or loyal people from the community. (Billy Gillispie)

Two things for the players on the bench to do during the game

1. Every time a shot is taken they should yell "BLOCK OUT" when the shooter cocks his arm to let the ball go! (This is part of our teamwork) (Doug Boxell...Ponder, TX HS)

2. Have the players talk to the players playing defense on each possession. Most of their taking will be to the man guarding the basketball. (Bruce Pearl)

*The bad part about these two great ideas is they can only be done in the first half each game. The reason is, the defense will not be in front of your bench in the second half.

Credit: Coach Duane Silver's newsletter.