Are you the most dependable person on your team?

By Jason Stewart

In the beginning of every season of any sport, the coach is looking for players he will be able to trust to start the game. Once the “starters” are selected, then the coach has to identify the players who will substitute and in what order they will come in. In basketball, we identify the sixth and seventh man. Many coaches only play eight players. The rest of the players on the team are fighting every day in practice to break into the “eight-man rotation.”

What’s the big deal about being a starter?
Usually the starters are a group of players who’ve shown the greatest amount of ability and tenacity in practice. They have proven themselves to be the most dependable and consistent among the people on their team.

Starters set the tone for the game to the opposing team. Most of you have heard the famous phrases “Put your best foot forward” and “First impressions are lasting impressions.” With a great first impression, you can create an atmosphere that bends to your preferences. I’ve seen opposing teams cower and fans give up in the first moments of the game because of the aggressive way a strong team’s starters played in the first quarter. Even the referees sometimes sign off on the winner of a game in the first half if one team is clearly more talented and more relentless than the opponent.

How do I become a starter?
If you want to be a starter, you must be aggressive in using your talent to produce documentable results. What that means is you must be able to record your efforts. You should know your stats so you can measure your improvement and identify areas of weakness you need to focus on.

If you are a starter, you must learn to improve on your skills by consistently producing at higher levels. Being a starter is like performing with a target on your back. The guys who are not starters should always be trying to take your spot, therefore making you better. That is, unless you get lazy. Once a starter becomes lazy, his position is in jeopardy and he will likely find himself on the bench when the game is on the line. This leads us to another important matter: “closing.”

Every coach needs closers
The players who the coach consistently selects to finish close games are usually the most dependable people the coach has on his or her roster. Usually these people are the starters, but not always. A coach may start certain people for different reasons. However, if you really want to know who a coach trusts, watch who is consistently playing at the end of close games. The lineups at the end of close games are usually the players who have shown themselves to be coachable and dependable in the coach’s eyes. These players have earned the coach’s trust.

Closers are usually very focused and intentional. They work very well with their teammates and follow the instructions of their coach. Closers also compete with a level of instinctive genius. They see the game and each situation within the closing moments in a way they know what needs to be done on offense and defense. Closers are not afraid to attempt the task at hand no matter how difficult or dangerous. Closers are the ultimate problem solvers.

The best closers in professional sports are not consumed with doubt, and they actually believe they are the person for the job at hand. They charge toward the critical moments of the game with courageous effort, faith and intelligence. Closers are great under pressure and find a way to seal the deal!

Model starters and closers
NBA: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce

NFL: Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers

MLB: Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith, Dennis Eckersley

Jason Stewart can be reached through his website at www. or by email at