This article was written by Basketball HQ Co-Founder Kyle Ohman
Lets 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, no excuses. So if this is true, how much time are you spending on emphasizing communication with your team?
Learning to communicate as a team takes practice, and it needs to be emphasized daily. As a basketball coach you must be willing to spend time on the things that 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 breakdown in the communication 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? Also, how can you make sure that you hold your team accountable with communication? Here are some tips to helping you implement quality communication with your team and then also making sure that you are doing it on a daily basis.
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 that is relevant to the situation, and that is going to help a teammate out. We have all seen the shell defense 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 to 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 Play you are Running (echo the call)
- Actions within the Play
- Good Pass after a Make (from the shooter)
- Good shot
Communication Needs to be LOUD
One of the primary answers that you will get from a player after asking them why they didn't communicate on previous play is, "I did, but they must of not heard me." That answer may even be true, but don't let that answer fly with your team. Communication needs to loud! There are going to 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 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.
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 the communication needs to improve the situation not make it worse. If two players blow a switch and give up a basket, they need to be able to come together and communicate the right way in order to fix the problem for the next time. Not jump on each other and blame the other one for making a mistake. This is essential to having a great team, and it is a real sign of maturity.
It doesn't matter how well you teach communication if you can't get your 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 important key of 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 12th man 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 to not communicate then you may need to add in 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 to send a clear message to the rest of the team that communication is a non-negotiable.