We all want our teams to communicate better. We emphasize it constantly. Great communication is essential on high performing teams. But some players naturally talk a lot, and others just don’t open their mouth. No matter how much we tell them to do it, it doesn’t come naturally to them. We’ve all coached plenty of guys who we are pleading with to talk more, over and over, without a lot of success.
The reality is it’s hard to talk on the basketball court. If it wasn’t, everyone would be doing it. For many players, focusing on their job in the middle of an intense environment takes up all of their concentration. It’s a challenge for them to play really hard, produce and communicate while they are doing it. It’s not that easy, and it’s not that natural.
I’m not talking about just calling out a screen or calling for the ball when you are open. Most guys understand the practical aspect that comes a long with being a teammate to communicate essential aspects of the game. Most players will do that. But the constant communication that brings energy to your team, or the chatter that lets everyone know where you are defensively at all times – that’s a little different. The guys that communicate in that way constantly really stand out. They are different.
I think it’s essential to emphasize communication. I also think you have to tell them what they are supposed to say, and give them a language to speak. I like having a language for your program that breaks down key elements into one word keys – screen, right, left, help, etc. – so they know exactly what they are supposed to say and when to say it. But I’m not sure you can get guys who aren’t comfortable to talk more.
We’ve all coached many players who are quiet by nature and not comfortable speaking up. They see the game, they know what is expected of them and they do their job. But ask them to talk and they just aren’t comfortable. It’s not like they are being defiant. They just can’t focus on their job and compete the way they are expected to while also trying to communicate.
I’ve stopped trying to get those guys to talk. As long as they are communicating on essential aspects of the game – help, screen, one more pass, etc. – I’m not going to force them to talk. I’ve learned that if it’s not part of their personality, it’s like I’m trying to force something down their throat that they don’t want to eat. It takes a ton of energy on my part and it makes the player uncomfortable. It’s not worth it.
I do think communication is essential and I also think you can get players to talk more. It’s definitely worth emphasizing. But when you are talking about players who just aren’t comfortable talking, you aren’t going to get a lot more out of them. You are going to get them thinking about something that is hard for them, and likely make it harder for them to produce. There are certain players who are simply not comfortable talking when they play, and I’m not going to try and force it out of them.