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Sue Phillips

Coaches Network: How To Improve Communication With Players

  • Date:
    Feb 6, 2015

Chemistry is so important to the success of any basketball team, and good communication between coach and players is critical. So we asked the USA Basketball Coaches Network:

How do you foster and improve communication with your players?


Don Showalter, head coach, Iowa City (Iowa) High School

Communication needs to be done on a daily basis between coaches and players. We have a short (5-15 minutes) team meeting before every practice.  The players have notebooks and we go over the daily “mind candy” and how it relates to our team.  I always call on players to share with the group their thoughts, which makes communication a must.  This tends to carry over on the court.  We end each practice with our "communication circle," where the players will go around in the circle and tell the player next to them whatever theme is for the day. For example, tell the player to your right what he/she did well in practice.  We continue this around the circle so each player can hear the remarks.  This helps tremendously with communication.  We can use different topics for the circle each day.


Brain Robinson, head coach, Bishop McGuinness Catholic (N.C.) High School

Chemistry and communication are essential to a team's success. As a coach, it is my job before the season to communicate the rules and expectations in all areas related to our program to my players, assistant coaches and parents, and the penalties for not following those rules.

Chemistry can easily be established by making sure all of the rules are the same for everyone. When everyone sees that there is not one set of rules for one person or group and another set for the others, chemistry starts to build. Trying to switch around who sits with who on bus rides and who partners with who during practice drills is another way to build chemistry and break down cliques.


John Olive, head coach, Torrey Pines (Calif.) High School

Chemistry is critical to most teams. What I try to do is give the players the big picture of how this team has to play to maximize our abilities. I constantly reinforce this throughout the year. I will also have individual talks with the players to gauge their understanding of their role. I try to treat each player as if they were my son, encouraging them to think big and put the work in to reach those goals -- yet be realistic. Constant communication is necessary. If the players know you have theirs and the team’s best interests at heart, good chemistry is usually achieved.


Scott Fitch, head coach, Fairport (N.Y.) High School

The longer I coach, the more chemistry becomes a focus for me.  Not just for the team success but selfishly for my own enjoyment.  Think about the seasons you have coached and rank them from the most enjoyable to the least enjoyable – does the ranking also reflect best chemistry to the worst?   For me, they almost mirror each other exactly.

Chemistry = Caring.  If the players do not care for each other, then good chemistry is hard to attain.  Every team is different but we try to set a tone of mutual respect among everyone.  At times, asking an individual player in the middle of practice what they respect about another player.  I love to call on a couple kids that struggle with each other and force them to find a positive about the other one.  When there is a negative feeling in the gym, you have to start with baby steps to change the atmosphere.  Once there is a feeling of respect for each other we then try to foster a deeper sense of caring for and playing for each other.  This comes from team building events and even taking some time to talk after practice as a group, allowing everyone to get to know each other on a personal level.  I have even made it mandatory that kids start and end in the locker room – just to force communication outside of basketball practice.

I also believe chemistry between coach and team is extremely important.  Do they respect and care for you?  Do you respect and care for your players?  Do your players know you respect and care for them?  I had a coach say to me the other day, “Your players would run through a wall for you.”  My response was, “I would run through a wall for them.”  The chemistry is formed through every conversation you have with your players.  You can greatly impact your chemistry in the offseason at your workouts and camps.  We do a boot camp before the season begins.  We started it for conditioning but it has become a great platform for us to build our team chemistry.  Every session we have includes exercises in which kids have to work with each other to complete certain tasks.  It is something the kids are excited about every year.

Another thing that is very important for every coach to address is social media.  It can make or break your season.  I remind the players after every game (especially the big wins and losses) to keep your social media positive and have each other’s back.  When you talk about communication in today’s world – you have to have a plan for where the kids are living now.  Some coaches say they prohibit players from using any social media.  I am not sure that is the answer.  First of all, it would be nearly impossible to monitor.  It would also be like telling us back in the day to sit in a corner and not talk to anyone.  I am not sure that is healthy, either.  I think we need to educate our team and parents about what is appropriate and how to interact on-line with each other.  Team chemistry in the year 2015 is much harder than it was five years ago because of social media.  I believe you cannot ignore it if you truly want great chemistry.


Sue Phillips, head coach, Archbishop Mitty (Calif.) High School

Communication is a critical component to building and sustaining a positive team culture.  The way you communicate is equally important as to what is being said. To strengthen the rapport between players and coaches, or amongst the team members, communication must be done in a timely and consistent manner.  The communication should also be done with great care and candor.  There are ways to get your point across without making enemies in the process.  Praise, acknowledgment, feedback and accountability are all different forms of communication, all of which when communicated properly will foster positive team chemistry.

On the court, communication is also essential amongst team members for effective execution on both ends of the floor.  From calling out the double team, to warning a teammate about a blind-side screen, communication develops trust and lends itself to a better brand of basketball.  Demand and reward communication in practice by insisting that talking is done loudly and with purpose. During a competitive drill in practice, award five extra points to the team that communicated the loudest and with greater consistency.  As I often remind my team, silence might be golden in the library, but it will get our team beat on defense every time.


If you have a topic you’d like the USA Basketball Coaches Network to address, feel free to write it in the Comment section below.



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