Some great thoughts on teaching communication from Coach Rebecca Tillett:
One thing that really impacts our decision making as a staff is that we try to measure as much as possible. A byproduct is that when we measure something, we implement a strategy and usually see improvement quickly. If our strategy doesn’t work, we know because we are measuring outcomes, and we are able to make adjustments. Here are three things we did this season that we found to be very effective.
Stance and Communication We do a drill I have seen Coach Krzyzewski do on film and at his clinics: 6 point contest. This drill, which I’m sure you do or a variation of it, reviews defensive positioning. This year we added a scoring component. Our managers would watch each player and keep tally marks of how many times they were in their stance vs. out of it and talking vs. not talking. From this we would get a %. Example: # of times player communicated/total number of opportunities to communicate=% of time communicating. Sometimes only certain people would be scored because we were working on their communication or stance specifically.
Sometimes it would be a competition between the two groups doing the drill and which team had the best % of time in stance or % of time communicating. I spent a few times with managers to teach them how we wanted it scored and they were able to do it beautifully. They could also score either one of these components during shell or live action and would do it whenever we added it to the practice plan.
When we are working on our defense, we always have people sitting out waiting to rotate into the drill. We would always ask them to communicate, but we weren’t getting the results we wanted. So we decided to make it a competition. The people sitting out must talk to their teammates in the drill. Then an assistant coach decides who did a better job communicating and the less communicative teammate has to run a sprint. For our competitive-quiet kids, this really brought them out of their shells.
Jeff Janssen’s Water Balance
We got this from Jeff Janssen’s book "Develop Relentless Competitors" (p.9-10), contributed by Jeffrey S. Pierce, North Oldham Mustangs, Softball Coach. It was a great addition to our teambuilding this year.
We used this at a Saturday practice right before the playoffs. Our players and managers had to lie on their backs with their legs in the air and form a sort of table with their feet. It was important that their bottoms face the center circle close together. The coaches put water in buckets and placed them on top of the groups’ feet. The group had to balance the bucket. Our staff had the idea to add ice to the buckets for some extra fun. The kids then have to follow commands from the coaches while working on their communication. They had to take off one shoe. Take off someone else’s shoe. Figure out who was the youngest and have them take off both shoes. Then everyone had to take their shoes off. Sometimes the kids would throw their shoes and then we would ask them to put them back on and they would have to move as a group to get the shoe. It was great fun and a great discussion about leadership followed. We even added a communication station at our camp this year, and this was what we did on the last day of stations with the campers ranging in age from 5-15.