What is the response you are looking for? That is the question you should ask yourself when you are talking to your team.

If you think about it, you aren’t talking to your team just so they listen to you. You are trying to get a response out of them. If they are receiving your message, it should translate into behavior. When you draw up a play in a huddle you are trying to get them to execute. When you deliver the scouting report before the game, you are trying to get them to take a certain approach to winning that game. When you talk to them about academics, you want them to put great effort into their work.

Thinking about the response you want to get from your team should shape the way you talk to them. When your team comes out flat in a game and you have to get after them in a huddle, you are trying to wake them up. You want their energy (and behavior) to change. That’s a different tone then when you are setting up a play to run in a tie game with 30 seconds to go. The response you are hoping to get impacts not only your message, but they way you deliver it.

This approach is really important when you are trying to get the most out of your guys in practice. Too often the way we talk to our players – especially in a closed gym during practice – is about our own emotion. If we are upset, we deliver the message that way. If we are coming off a bad performance, we have a long talk before practice to get everything off of our chest. But what response are we looking for? If you hammer a kid in practice every time he turns the ball over, what response do you expect to get? To think he’s going to improve his performance after getting hammered doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The conversation before practice is always one to think about. You may have a lot of different points you want to make and all might be valid and important. However, talking to your team right before practice – especially for any extended period of time – likely isn’t going to get the desired response. If you want your players energized and ready to go right away, an extended conversation likely isn’t going to make that happen. There is a time and a place to deliver an important message about things that need to change. Right before practice probably isn’t the best time to do it.

Organizing your message and figuring out when and how to deliver it is important. But it’s more than simply making sure they hear the message. The ultimate goal is to get them to respond the right way, and to change behavior to produce a desired outcome. Before you start talking to your team, think about more than delivering the right message. Think about the response you are looking for.

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