If you’ve been watching the NBA recently, then you know that Scott Skiles is back into coaching, taking his talents to sunny Florida to coach an up and coming Orlando Magic team. No better time then to dig up an old article from the NBA Coach’s Handbook and see what one of the best motivators in the league has to say about using time outs effectively. Coach Skiles is renowned for holding his players accountable, particularly on the defensive end of the floor, so here’s 4 techniques he uses to motivate his players during time-outs.
1. Use time-outs to focus your players’ minds
A coach has three main jobs in a time out:
a. to share strategies or plays
b. to clarifying expectations
c. to boost player confidence
Coach Skiles notes that this should take the form of getting players to block out all distractions so that they’re focused on their role on the court. Coaches need to know their players inside and out so that they can say the right things to make them believe they can get the job done.
2. Keep the message simple
Coach Skiles says that a message during a time-out should be diluted down to a simple formula: “players need to know what you want them to do and how you want them to do it”. Nothing more is needed. Keep the message short and to the point and the tone “terse and instructive” without being “negative or vitriolic”.
3. Let players help themselves
Sometimes, a coach needs to step away from the bench so that the players can work things out. As coach Skiles writes “as a coach you don’t want to have the answer every time, or you’ll have a team that can’t think for itself”. Well coached players will be able to discuss the problem amongst themselves, and then solve it on the court. Phil Jackson would sometimes walk away from the bench for this very reason. Maybe you should try it for your next time out.
4. Don’t be afraid to motivate your players by subbing for them
Coach Skiles quotes Henry Iba on this: if the player is not performing, I say to them face to face, “If you can’t do the job, you’ll be substituted”. This is something completely reasonable for a coach to do- and players need to know that their appearance on the floor is conditional to their performance on it. Use this technique to motivate players who aren’t working hard enough or making fundamental errors. However, always give them a chance to go back in to prove themselves. If they’re a competitive player they’ll use it as self-motivation and up their game.
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