How to Get Your Team Talking on the Court

One area that many teams need to improve is on-court communication. Many players don't talk as consistently as they should on either end of the floor.

Communication is a separator. Good teams talk. Great teams communicate.

Effective communication is a skill. Like any skill, it can be learned and can be improved with proper practice and repetition. The key is making successful communication a habit.

I have developed the following rating system to help evaluate and improve communication.

  • 0 -- Silent (unacceptable at any time)
  • 1 -- Noise (players who clap their hands)
  • 2 -- Contact (players who give 'high fives' and 'fist bumps')
  • 3 -- Generic Talk (players who shout phrases like 'good job!' and 'pick it up!')
  • 4 -- Specific Talk (players who use names and examples like 'nice cut James!')
  • 5 -- Directing (players who are 'coaches on the court'—they constantly say it all)

As coaches, we need to strive to get every player to a level 4 or 5. We need players who talk on both ends of the floor. We need players with a vocal presence. We need players that encourage teammates when they make a great play as well as correct (help) teammates when they make a mistake.

When we put five players on the floor, we need their collective communication rating to be better than 20. If not, they won't maximize their ability to play as a unit.

Over the course of a few practices, subjectively rate each player on your team and give them a score between 0-5 using the above criteria. Make it a point to constantly praise the 4s and 5s. Make it an equal point to "call out" the 0s, 1s, 2s, and 3s.

If a player was just going through the motions during practice and not giving a good effort, you would say something, right? If a player constantly traveled during a footwork drill, you would address, wouldn't you?

So why wouldn't you say something to a player who isn't effectively communicating?

Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley often closes his eyes for a minute in the middle of practice... so he can hear what is going on. He wants to hear shoes squeaking and players talking! That is one sign of a great practice. You should try it; you'd be amazed at what you "see."

Legendary coach Phil Jackson wanted to prove to his team how important it was to communicate. So for one entire practice, he didn't let his players talk. If anyone said anything at all, they had to run. He wanted them to practice in complete silence—so they could see what they were missing! Needless to say, they got the point.

As coaches, we get what we emphasize.

If you want your team to be as successful as possible this season, you need to emphasize effective communication.

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