Everybody wants their team to talk on defense. But it’s a lot harder than we think. Very few players naturally play the game with intensity and are able to talk while doing it. Talking involves being very selfless and thinking about others, and most players in an intense situation are focused on what they should be doing.

Don’t just tell your kids to talk. Tell them what you want them to say. And tell them who to say it to. We always used the term “talk to the ball,” meaning we wanted them to be talking to the player guarding the basketball.

We also gave our guys simple things to say “Help!” “Screen!” “Right!” “Left!”. We wanted to keep the terminology as simple as possible. If your guys are saying “I’m on your left, I’m on your left!” or something like that, the constant chatter is going to become noise. We want our communication to be early, loud and continuous. And the terminology should be easy.

It also helps to have a defined language for how you want to communicate on the floor. Short, simple terms that can be used to define certain phrases or actions. A back door cut becomes “empty.” A flair screen is a “Frankie.” Having a defined language makes the communication easier, and it allows you to speak in front of your opponents, especially on offense. Rather than telling your guys to look for a back door cut, you can just tell them to “check empty.”

Talking as a team during the intensity of a game is a lot harder than you think. Tell your kids who to talk to, and tell them what you want them to say. If not, what you’ll get is just noise.

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