Communication is a very important aspect of building team defence. Unfortunately, whilst most coaches recognize this is so, many do not work on developing this aspect.

Talking (and listening) in Defence is essential for defenders to communicate concerning relevant points, such as screens, cuts, being in a help position etc. However, it is not enough for coaches to simply tell players that they must talk. The coach must specify the situation where communication should take place, decide the precise words to be said, and specify which player should be speaking.

Given the fast paced nature of basketball, players cannot use long sentences, instead they need short key words, the meaning of which is understood by everyone on the team. Coaches can facilitate this by using those same key words at practice.

Each coach will have their own words that they want players to use. Key words that have the following characteristics are more likely to be effective:

  • Descriptive – describing what the action is (e.g. “Ball” to indicate guarding the ball);
  • Analogous – using an analogy to describe what to do (e.g. “Gap” to indicate taking a position that is in the “gap” between two opponents);
  • Action Oriented – positive stated action (e.g. “Over” to indicate to a team mate go over the top of a screen);
  • Mono-Syllabic – as short a word as possible (e.g. “Box” may be more effective than “Box Out” simply because it can be said quicker).
“Communication does not always come naturally, even among a tight-knit group of individuals. Communication must be taught and practiced in order to bring everyone together as one.”

Coach Mike Krzyewski

“Effective teamwork begins and ends with communication.”

Coach Mike Krzyewski