Wednesday, October 21, 2009


How many times do you hear coaches exclaim, "You've got to talk!" or even simply, "Communicate!"? It happens frequently; probably more times than not. Talking, especially on defense, is often demanded but seldom ever taught. We preach, but don't teach.

After spending the last week with a good amount of new players to our program, I am realizing that players just don't know HOW to talk or communicate.

Communication is critical to success. It brings unity and a sense of purpose to the team. Proper communication means assuring all of the players on the floor that they are on the same page. Communication can increase intensity and energy while becoming an intimidating factor for the opponent. Players may talk or communicate, but as we are all different, we also communicate in different ways and even interpret messages in as many different ways.

To this end, I have taken it upon myself to teach our team, new and returning players, exactly HOW to talk to each other on the floor. This will eliminate sending mixed messages, interpreting messages incorrectly, and keep us all on the same page specifically on defense.

- Name First - Any time a player is directing talk at a specific player, the name must come first. I have seen too often where a screen is communicated, but the action came first. By the time a player's name was spoken, it was too late and he got caught on the screen.

- Be Specific - While a player communicates "Screen coming!", it does not communicate where the screen is coming from. In our defensive system it is imperative to know where that screen is originating to determine how we are going to play it. Have players tell their teammates where they are on the floor in help situations. Define it for them.

- SSS - Short, sweet, and simple. This may sound like I'm contradicting myself from the above statement, but I have had players get hung up in wordy, detailed talk. They are so concerned with painting a picture that they lose focus themselves.

- 3 is the Key - Repeating what is communicated 3 times gives better odds that the message will be received.

- Daily Emphasis - As Don Meyer says, "It is not so much what we teach, it is what we emphasize." Incorporate communication into every drill from warm-ups to conditioning.

Defending a ball screen, for example, will sound like this to the on-ball defender: "Kenny, Screen right! Kenny, screen right! Kenny, screen right!" Being an on ball screen, Kenny would respond with: "Brad, jump it! Brad, jump it! Brad, jump it!"

One thing I will always take with me from my time working for Kevin Eastman is "Talk loud. Talk early. Talk often." Once players have a common system that everyone understands, talking becomes a powerful weapon!

I encourage you to explore a simple communication style that works for your team.

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