Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kids Don't Talk (And What to Do About It)

   Through their development years, many children are shy and reluctant to stand out among their peers. Sometimes this is because they lack sports skills and confidence. Other times the reason lies in either the child’s inherent personality or group dynamics related to age and sex differences. When these children are the center of attention, they say few words, speak in a low voice, or unintelligibly mutter their words.

Since team play always benefits from players who communicate with each other, you need to reinforce the importance of talking. You need to get your quieter kids to come out of their shell. So how do you do this?

Early in your season, emphasize the importance of communication. Wherever a role or specific play requires a player to call out instructions, have the player say the words loudly with emotional emphasis. Ideally, each player should have the opportunity to play some role that requires them to call out a command.

One Example of Getting Kids to Speak-up

I have a little fun each basketball season when I teach my team our out-of-bounds plays. The most basic one is the “Stack” play. The first step in executing this play is for the player taking the ball out to yell the name of the out-of-bounds play. The players then align themselves in the proper formation; in this case, four players line themselves vertically in front of the one putting the ball in-play.

Invariably, young beginners will weakly say “Stack.” I’ll say, “Louder!” The player will again say “Stack”—this time with slightly more volume. As before, I’ll say “Louder!” but with more force and volume. Now the player says “Stack!” with more emphasis. This still isn't loud enough, so I yell out “STACK-K-K!” The player usually gets it right the next time. As different players take the ball out, players start competing to see who can scream “STACK-K-K!” the loudest. Along with the laughs, the players start losing their inhibition to speak in a commanding voice when necessary.

Communicating on Defense

When playing man-to-man defense in basketball, communication between the players is absolutely essential. Players must call out screens. The player defending the ball must sometimes call out defensive switches or ask for help. In addition to walk-throughs where I instruct multiple players to call out the screens, I constantly reinforce the importance of communicating during scrimmages often yelling “Talk on defense!” If necessary, I’ll blow my whistle and mildly reprimand a player for not calling out a screen. I view the failure of players to communicate as an unacceptable mental mistake.

No Room for Shyness

Always teach your players the importance of communication in team sports. Break down their inhibitions using drills and plays appropriate to your sport. Make it fun by having your kids yell their commands and instructions as LOUD as they can. There’s no room for shyness when it comes to players communicating with their teammates during a game.

Of course, some kids talk too much. They can be too gregarious. But that's another problem unrelated to communicating game situations. (This issue is the topic of an upcoming post.)

Do you have any good exercises, drills, or other methods to get your kids talking?

Copyright © 2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved

If you enjoyed this article, you may like my book:
The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the best youth sports experience for your child (Amazon $8.95)

(Kindle Edition $2.99)

Copyright 2009-2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads; All Rights Reserved


Wendy LeBolt said...

Couldn't let this pass without saying something, Jeff :) I am ever surprised that my girls are chatterboxes off the field and mute once they are on it. Vocal communication is huge. My young players finally cleared up my frustration when they told me " we can't say stuff out loud because then the other team will know what we're gonna do!" And before they can execute quickly, this is actually quite true.

My other thought for you is - I loved reading the article about the successful Gallaudet basketball team - hearing impaired. They used this as an advantage because in a loud stadium their opponents couldn't hear play calls but they were undeterred in their hand signals. Another take on communication - not all vocal.

Jeffrey Rhoads [Inside Youth Sports] said...

Hi Wendy. Your girls are right about being too explicit on offense. "Hey, Sue. How about setting a screen for me!?" That's not going to work. :-) As you said, some simple commands (when reacted to instantly) can still work on offense. Vocal communication on defense is huge.

Signing as a competitive advantage. Maybe that should be a required course for college athletes! Of course, teammates who know each other's games can sometimes communicate in ways even more subtle than hand signals. A glance one way or the other is all that's needed between two teammates who play well together.

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