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Halftime Talks: Knowing Your Players' Personalities

Why do basketball coaches yell at halftime? Why do they throw things?

  • Because their teams are losing and, hence, they are frustrated.
  • Because they can't throw their players, who are bigger than they are.

Halftime is emote-time. Everyone has broken a sweat — including you — and, unlike war, you have a brief reprieve before you return to battle. Follow this plan of action in the locker room at halftime:

1. Take a short break.

Let your players get a drink of water or use the bathroom. You can use this time to gather your thoughts, calm down, and discuss matters with your assistants, if you have any.

2. Be a raging bull.

Okay, you don't have to be a maniac — again, be who you are — but this is the time to share your feelings. If you're going to criticize, criticize your team as a group first. With individual players, you have to develop a feel for how they'll react to public "humiliation." Are their psyches tough? Will they use the second half to prove you wrong? Or are they sensitive souls who, because of a few harsh words from you, will lose all confidence?

3. Form a strategy.

A quick and easy way to lose your players' respect is to chastise them for trailing the opponent and then not offer any solutions to fix the problem. Now that you have their attention, make adjustments.

Players don't have a long memory span, especially during a game, so save the most important points for the end. For example, if you want your team to switch to a zone press defense with specific assignments for everyone, give your players this information at the end of halftime.

Finally, save a minute before you go out on the floor for a one-on-one conversation with your team leader. That conversation can be as productive as anything. Sometimes motivating your players through the most respected player on the team is best.

Just as you can break down your practice time or your game schedule into time blocks, you can do the same thing for an individual game. For example, say you find your team down by 16 at halftime. Give your players realistic goals toward which to work. "We gotta get the deficit under 10 points by the 12-minute mark of the second half," you say. "Then we need to cut their lead to 6 by the 5-minute mark."

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