This basketball coaching article was written by Basketball HQ Co-Founder Kyle Ohman.
Let’s keep this simple. Have you ever seen a great basketball team that wasn’t also great at communicating on the floor? The answer is no because elite teams communicate at a high level, with no excuses. So if this is true, how much time are you spending on emphasizing communication with your basketball team?
Learning to communicate as a basketball team takes practice, and it needs to be emphasized daily. As a basketball coach, you must be willing to spend time on the things you value, and communication needs to be at the top of the list. Don’t let a practice or even a possession go by where your team is not effectively communicating. If there is a communication breakdown, you must remind your team about the importance of it. There should be no plays off from communicating.
That being said, what does quality communication look like in basketball? Also, how can you make sure that you hold your team accountable with communication? Here are some tips to help you implement quality communication with your basketball team and make sure that you are doing it daily.
Basketball Communication Needs to be Relevant
Not all communication is equal. When a player talks on either end of the floor, they need to be saying something relevant to the situation, which will help a teammate out. We have all seen the shell defense basketball drill where players are talking but not really saying anything of value, don’t be that team. A great way to do this is by establishing your own terminology as a team. Every action should have a specific term that your players should be communicating with everyone else. Here are some things that your players should be calling out to each other.
- Screens – Ball Screens and Off Ball Screens
- Being in the Gap
- Being in the Help
- What Basketball Play you are Running (echo the call)
- Actions within the Play
- Good Pass after a Make (from the shooter)
- Good shot
Basketball Communication Needs to be LOUD
One of the primary answers that you will get from a basketball player after asking them why they didn’t communicate on the previous play is, “I did, but they must not have heard me.” That answer may even be true, but don’t let that answer fly with your team. Communication needs to loud! There will be end-of-game situations where the crowd is going wild, and soft communication is not going to cut it. You need to make sure that your basketball team is communicating loudly with each other.
This type of communication also helps to intimidate the other team. If they hear your team communicating with each other and setting the tone defensively, it will cause them to think twice about whether they can score against you or not.
Basketball Communication Needs to be Early
Not only does communication need to be loud so that everyone can hear it, but it also needs to be early so that players have enough time to react to what is being communicated. A player can’t call out a screen as their teammate is already getting hit or call a basketball play that they will run right as they are making the first pass to set up the play. Communication sometimes takes time, and that means that your players need to learn to communicate early. The earlier teammates can get on the same page, the easier it will be to navigate both the offensive and defensive sides of the floor.
Basketball Communication Needs to be Often
Saying something once is not always enough. Sometimes it is too loud, or it doesn’t quite register the first time. Either way, there is no harm in yelling out, “Screen left, screen left, fight through it (or whatever your game plan is).” Repeating the communication will really help to make sure that everyone is on the same page. This goes back to making sure that you are communicating early, though. You will not have time to repeat what you are saying if you wait right until the action happens. So open up your mouth and communicate early and often.
Basketball Communication Needs to be Positive
Positive communication does not mean that you only ever say something when a good play is made or if someone makes a mistake; you just say, “good effort.” It means that communication needs to improve the situation, not make it worse. If two players blow a switch and give up a basket, they need to come together and communicate the right way to fix the problem for the next time. They don’t need to jump on each other and blame the other one for making a mistake. This is essential to having a great basketball team, and it is a real sign of maturity.
It doesn’t matter how well you teach communication if you can’t get your basketball players to actually do it. So after explaining to your players the importance of communication, you need to hold them accountable. This is a big part of teaching communication on the court. The first and most crucial key to accountability is being consistent. If a player is not talking on the court (regardless of personality), you need to call them out on it. It could be your best player or the last player on the bench; it doesn’t matter. Everyone needs to communicate with each other once they step on the floor.
If the player(s) continue not to communicate, you may need to add some kind of punishment (running, push-ups, etc.). This is not necessarily to punish the player but to help them remember to communicate the next time. If the player(s) are still not communicating, then the final step will be to take away playing time. Make sure that you tell the player why they are not playing, though. This will also help send a clear message to the rest of the team that communication is non-negotiable.
The Value of Communication in Basketball Conclusion
Communication in basketball is one of those things like energy and effort; it needs always to be happening at a high level. It is something that every player can learn and do, so there is no excuse or reason good enough as to why it is not being done. It starts, though, with your basketball team’s culture and making sure that you cultivate this high level of communication.
As a basketball coach, make sure that you are taking the time to build up the foundation of communication with your team. After that, hold them accountable every single time they step on the floor. It won’t be long before you see the benefits that come with high-level communication.