Basketball Coaching Tips to Help You Communicate More Effectively

Some of the biggest basketball coaching tips we can give you involve communication skills.

You can know everything there is to know about basketball – the plays, drills, rules, etc.

If you can’t communicate effectively, though, you’re headed for trouble.

When coaching youth basketball, you need to be skilled at communicating with not only your players, but also their parents, the officials, the fans and other coaches.

Don’t worry.

This part of our website is going to explore all you need to know to improve as a communicator in your coaching youth basketball role.

Not only to improve how you get messages to others but also how you you listen.

If you’d like some more general coaching youth basketball tips, visit our free basketball coaching tips page.

One thing to understand regarding communication skills is that they involve much more than verbal commands. Body language and facial expressions play a huge role when you’re communicating with others. Always remember that your actions will leave a longer lasting impression on others than your words will.

Let’s dig into specific “communication skills” basketball coaching tips.

Learn how to more effectively send messages in your coaching youth basketball endeavors.

By the way, would you like to learn how to dramatically increase your focus on applying these coaching tips without ingesting a pill or drink?

We’re honored that Tom Nordland (creator of the “Swish” videos) has agreed to contribute a “How to improve your shooting skills” article series to our site.
Check it out here

Verbal Communication

Basketball Coaching Tip #1) Consistency

You need to be consistent with your verbal communication. Don’t tell your team something today and then two days from now completely contradict yourself. Don’t send your players mixed messages.

Basketball coaching tip example – One of your players makes a mistake and you say in a sarcastic tone, “That was great”. See how negative that’s going to sound? Keep your tone consistent with what your words are intending to get across.

Basketball Coaching Tip #2) Positive Honesty

Nobody likes a crybaby. Remember that. You want to be honest with your team and it must always be in a positive way.

So don’t be afraid to correct mistakes. If you try to gloss over them, you’ll lose your team’s respect. They know when mistakes are made so don’t try to ignore them. Just be sure to correct mistakes in a positive way that helps a player see what was done correctly but also feel good about fixing the mistake.

When pointing out a mistake, first say what was good, then say “and if you follow through properly, you’ll get the proper spin on the ball”, rather than “but if you follow through properly, you’ll get the proper spin on the ball”.

See the difference with this basketball coaching tip? Just that little word “and” will help your youth basketball players “hear” the positive thing you mentioned first. The word “but” will make a lot of people forget the positive remark and focus all their attention solely on the mistake.

Basketball Coaching Tip #3) Say It In Plain English

Don’t speak to your team unclearly. Think through what you want to get across ahead of time and deliver your thoughts in a clear, concise manner. Come right and say it. Don’t go off on tangents and bore your players with unnecessary talk. Get to the point and then get the troops moving.

Basketball Coaching Tip #4) Make Sure You’re Understood

Speak in a clean, crisp voice. Be strong in your speech without being too imposing. Don’t sound weak and don’t mumble. If your voice comes across clear and your team can tell you’re excited to be there, they’ll tune in.

Also, don’t assume that just because you say something once, that all your basketball players got it. Everyone can hear things slightly differently or miss an important point the first time. So repeat things in a slightly different way so you’re not boring, but so that anyone missing it the first time will eventually pick it up.

Use this communication skill in all aspects of your life and see the difference it makes!

Non-Verbal Communication

Basketball Coaching Tip #5) Facial Expressions

Be aware of how closely anyone, not just basketball players, will pay attention to what your face is “saying”. Don’t be a phony and try to hide what you really feel with a fake smile or a serious blank stare. As we’ve mentioned, be consistent.

Realize, also, that just a simple smile can do wonders for a struggling player or a player unsure of what they’re doing. Show them that you’re behind them, glad to be with them and there to help. Don’t overdo it either, though. Your players will pick up on that, too. As always, be genuine in your coaching youth basketball efforts.

Basketball Coaching Tip #6) Body Language

If you’re standing on the sideline in a way that shows you are happy to be there and confident, how will your players respond as opposed to you scowling around all hunched over and looking angry? Remember to present body language that represents enthusiasm, class and character.

We talk about the importance of character on our coaching basketball page. Check it out.

Body language can also be used in the form of physical contact such as a pat, a handshake or an arm around the shoulder. Stay ethical, of course but physical contact can show your basketball players the many emotions you feel about them – happiness, concern, affection, approval, etc.

Providing Feedback

Basketball Coaching Tip #7) Feedback

Think very carefully about how you provide feedback to your players. How do you think a player will respond if they’re scolded for a mistake in front of the team? Wouldn’t it be better to talk about some of that stuff one-on-one and make a big deal about what they did right in front of everyone? You bet!

Feedback is an area of communication skills that can profoundly impact your youth basketball team. Whether that impact is positive or negative is entirely up to you. Your players need and want to know what you think of how they’re playing and how you like their effort and input.

Positive feedback will go much further than “sticking it to them” with negativity. There’s a difference between being a positive, yet stern leader as opposed to being a simple jerk.

Basketball Coaching Tip #2 already dealt with correcting mistakes. You don’t have to be a pansy (that doesn’t work, either) but shouting and yelling and making players feel small is not going to cause them to follow you.

Be an over-all positive figure in their lives. A lot of your players need one.


Basketball Coaching Tip #8) Listen!

So far, we’ve been discussing how you can get more response from your players as they are listening to your messages. Now let’s focus on an area that most people have the toughest time with. Being the listener.

The most important aspect of this is for you to really pay attention to your players. Yes, when coaching youth basketball, you have a lot of people trying to get your attention and there are many distractions. But if you’re going to get better at this communication skills thing, you’ve got to focus on really seeing and hearing your players’ verbal and non-verbal signals.

Start practicing this and watch how much more you instantly start to learn about your team. You’ll see that Bill is upset over something even though he’s trying hard to hide it. You’ll see how each player reacts to not only you but to one another. There’s a lot of very important information to be learned here! Don’t over-look this communication skill called listening.

Before we go to the next basketball coaching tip, remember that it’s not enough to just pay attention and observe. If you don’t make it absolutely clear to your basketball players that they are being heard and understood, it won’t make much difference.

If your players keep hearing you say, “What was that?” or “Did you say something?”, you’re in trouble and you need to work on your listening skills big time. Your players must know you care way before they’ll care about what you have to say. Remember this because too many people coaching youth basketball don’t.

Communicating With Non-Players

Basketball Coaching Tip #9) Communication Skills & Parents

We can almost hear you saying, “Man, there’s so much to all this communicating stuff. I just want to coach basketball!”. Well, we’re almost done. These are the last few basketball coaching tips in regards to communication skills. Then we can get you onto things like basketball plays or basketball drills or basketball fundamentals or… OK, what’s probably one of the first things a parent wants to know about their child’s experience with basketball? They might want to be assured that you the coach, will be someone who knows the game and will take their child’s well-being seriously. Why not have a meeting before the season begins where you can let all the parents know about yourself and what they can expect from you?

We all know that some parents can be very demanding and even disruptive. Handle all situations with the same character and class we’ve already discussed. Be sure to talk with parents after games or phone them and get to the bottom of any issue immediately. Don’t let any question or concern go unanswered for an unreasonably long time.

Basketball Coaching Tip #10) Communication Skills & Fans (or not!)

Yes, you and your team are going to hear stuff from the stands and many times it won’t be nice to listen to. Always prepare your players for this. When they get upset over something coming from the fans, be there to help reassure them that a fan’s rattling on isn’t all that important.

Now, as far as any negative stuff you will definitely hear from fans criticizing your coaching youth basketball skills, decide right now to handle it correctly. Realize the intent is usually to rattle you and you’re not helping anyone by getting involved with the fans. Above all, keep your players at the forefront of your mind.

Again, we’ve already discussed this earlier, but what image do you want to present for your team? Do you want your players to see you as a cool, confident coach with character or a blustery, un-confident person who will get into it with anyone who dares call your coaching into question? We’ll let you answer that one for yourself.

Please take this basketball coaching tip seriously. Not handling these types of situations can, and has, turned very ugly in the past.

Basketball Coaching Tip 11) Communication Skills & Officials

basketball coaching tipsWe know this can be very tough at times, but, once again, your team will look to you for how they should treat the refs. Show the refs respect with a handshake before the game, some conversation and treat them well during games. Yes, even when they blow an important call!

If you yell and turn nasty, you’ll only be embarrassed later. And worse, your players will get the message that it’s OK to treat the officials with disrespect. That’s not showing character and it’s not good for the game.

Basketball Coaching Tip #12) Communication Skills & Other Coaches

Kind of the same idea as basketball coaching tip #11. Talk to them before and after games. Show your players that they are competing against the competition, not fighting. Show them that before, during and after games, they should always treat the opposition with respect.