The halftime or intermission talk a coach gives can provide encouragement and motivation or it can discourage players and lessen their confidence. Here are five tips on giving a productive and encouraging talk to your players during a break.
1) Make sure players feel like it’s a break. You don’t want players to mentally disengage, but they need to be sitting, resting, and gathering their thoughts calmly from the first half or game. If players come into the break rattled or frustrated, help calm them down. Also it’s very important players are rehydrating during this time.
2) Speak to the score as little as necessary. The scoreboard can either give players the false illusion of having wrapped up the game if they’re up big. On the other hand, it can make them feel defeated if they’re losing by a lot. Encourage players to focus on the fundamentals and to not let up or quit. Remember that your ultimate goal is to develop athletes for long-term success, not to win a game or a tournament.
3) Address specific weaknesses exhibited in the first half. It’s important to point out flaws that need to be improved, but do this on a team level, no individual. If a player had a few costly mistakes, don’t point him/her out, but rather say “as a team we need to do better controlling the ball”. The players know if they’ve made mistakes. If you feel you need to do so, talk with them privately during the break giving constructive criticism with advice for them to improve with.
4) Just like it’s important to correct mistakes from the first half, it’s equally important to point out the positives. Do this for the team overall, but make a point to recognize individual players for their accomplishments. For example, say “Katie made some great serves in that first game!” or “Kevin did a great job in the post getting rebounds in the first half!” Point out good things done by players who maybe aren’t as talented as others or don’t get as much playing time. Even if some players are making mistakes but showing great effort, they should be praised. When players are encouraged to try new things and make mistakes, their creativity and confidence will flourish.
5) Make sure you are calm, collected, and encouraging. The worst feeling a young athlete can get is during a break in the game when their coach is screaming his or her head off because of something the team has done wrong. There is never a good reason to yell at your team, no matter how frustrated you may get. It only serves to tear players down, make them feel negatively about themselves, and lead to poor performance on the court. When anger controls your speech, you can damage your relationship with players and ruin your ministry.