When facing the technical direction of a team, we must take into account different aspects that will determine our way of communication with the player, especially in terms of quantity. Going ahead that the “quality” of the message can be as good or better in teams with few practices or “moments” together. However, quality and quantity don’t always go together.
Some questions can be asked by ourselves, and those will condition our communication:
• How many practices do we have per week? How much time? Do we have a common space and/or time before or after the practice?
• Do we always have the whole team (injuries players present in the sessions included), or in contrast, is it usual to get absences for studies or work issues?
• Can we find spaces for the player’s individual (technical/tactical/psychological) workouts outside of “team” hours?
• Do we have assistant coach(es), who can be an active part working on the court, at the communicative level, or in the preparation of own and opponent scouting?
• Is it easy or hard to get videos of opponent teams? Not in all leagues, even many of a good level, it is easy at the present time.
• Is it even possible to record our own games every day? At home, it seems easy, but away?
These are just some of the many questions that we may ask ourselves before starting to look for the “correct” way for an effective communication in the leadership of a team.
This would be a communicative proposal, taking as a reference a team that competes once a week (Saturday or Sunday), and that has five weekly practices (Monday-Friday afternoon/evening) plus two individual workouts (in the mornings).
Before we start I’d like to make it clear that other parts of the coach’s tasks and team dynamics, this proposal could be changeable, and tends to vary depending on the many and many aspects that influence a team during a season.
We are going to start with the “end”: the game day.
SATURDAY OR SUNDAY (game day)
1 – PREGAME TALK
45-50 minutes before starting, we can meet in the locker room, to have a talk between 6-10 minutes, where we are going to talk about different points:
• Reminder of our “rules“. Issues such as “where we do stop the ball (fastbreak actions)”, “defensive 1×1”, “rebound both sides”, our rules in P&R, the ball inside / “how we do run”, create advantages and keep playing, inside-outside balance, looking for the open man, etc.
• Individual and team scouting reminder of the opponent. Not in all cases, we have access to complete information, but it is a good time to “refresh” what has already been discussed and worked on previously. Strengths and weaknesses of the opponent, their top players, and possible outsiders.
Here is an important section for me, and that is if the assistant coach (if any) has specific significance in the scouting preparation, he must be the one to speak during moments of this part of the talk. Not the whole part, but he should “lead” at certain times of it (for example, remembering skills of opponent players, or more common offensive sets).
• Being focused on our game plan, which can be largely “diluted” within the previous points, or in contrast have a larger space: “this way we are going to defend P&R; when they post us up, we are going to collapse the paint, we want to play more this “sets’ family”, we will attack more against their “big ones” in dynamic actions because although we are smaller we are faster, when they are playing without Thomas (fictitious player), we will zone, etc. Giving some hypothetical examples.
• Using some motivational sentences. Depending on the sort of game we are facing, opponent, competitive context, etc. the message may (must) change.
Written or memorized?
The game plan and scouting must be prepared written. We can take it on the iPad itself, or print it and take it on paper. Scouting must also be on video, if images of the opponent are available, obviously. Keeping the basic ideas clear and transmit it without reading would be an added value. However, glancing at the document, in case we forget any important detail, could be essential. Sometimes the most obvious detail can be forgotten by us.
Is there time for players to participate or they must just listen?
Yes, they do but with nuances. A tip, positive messages, a specific question … if there are many questions, it is that the previous work has not been good on the part of the coach. But all this, from the control and direction of the coach, who must take the talk to the endpoint he wants.
2 – SIX MINUTES BEFORE GAME AND/OR WARMING-UP
Not necessarily, but they can be good times to have some “apart” with players. Sending a technical-tactical or motivational message out.
It is important to balance this point by avoiding the player from losing his focus on warming-up. Taking a player off the team routine for a long tactical explanation can have a counterproductive effect.
However, before starting, between stretching and coming back the team routine, in moments of static shooting (FT, etc.) or as long as presenting the opponent team (when you are the home team), “communication windows” can be opened.
3 – LAST MINUTE
• We tell the “starting five” (could also occur in the pregame talk), although, the player is usually clear about whether or not he is in the starting five, in case of being a coach who usually enters with the same “lineup”.
With unexpected changes due to tactical decisions, it seems appropriate to inform the player in advance. If you always open with the same playmaker, but one day you don’t (tactical reason), it could be positive that the player knows it before, so that he doesn’t lose his “focus”, avoiding “and why am I not starting today?”
If, in contrast, we tend to rotate our starting five, for whatever reason (depending on the opponent, the practice’s week, having everyone under stress, etc.), this type of message would be unnecessary.
• Last indications, calling first sets, remember 2-3 defense/offense rules + motivational charge.
• Give additional information that we did not have in the pregame talk. “They are going to play with 4 little ones”, “Thomas (forward) starts and plays like a guard, so be careful with his post-up actions”.
In the next two articles, I will focus on time-out management, communication during the game, short speech between quarters, chatting at halftime, and post-game address.