Month: December 2014

Do Not Mistake Talking for Communicating

Giving the benefit of the doubt, most coaches can talk about their sport at great length….technique, tactics and war stories. Coaches often talk to each other, and one of the common refrains is some variation of “we talked about…all week, pre-game or at the half”, and stunningly the team or players did something entirely different. At times, the opponent may be so superior that whatever was talked about was literally swept away by a tsunami of talent. At others, talking was mistaken for communication.

I was recently asked if a coach I am familiar with “knows what he’s doing”. The question gave me pause. He is a good man, and knows a significant amount of basketball in terms of plays, defenses and drills, but his body of work in terms of winning percentage, player development and general morale is hard to defend. There is a disconnect between his knowledge of basketball and what he has actually taught the players he is coaching. I have no doubt that he has talked about all the things that a good basketball team should do, but he has not found the means to effectively communicate this information to his team.

Effective coaching is rooted in effective communication. Things will be bad at times and messages lost in translation, but in those moments, and particularly in those moments, the coach must be relentless and creative in communicating with his team. Repeating the same talking points in the same way must be challenged. Can the talking points be delivered in a more effective manner? Video, motivational, demonstrative? There are and can be no boundaries in this regard.

I believe this urgency is placed in better context if you consider that every team has a life cycle that lasts one season, maybe less with injuries or departure by other means, and the coach’s purpose is to configure and motivate that team in a manner that gives them the best chance to compete game in and game out. There is no set script and you cannot coach by numbers because every team is it’s own entity, and every team demands your best.