The Halftime Talk is the longest break during a game for a coach. For this reason, it is invaluable as an opportunity to move a team towards the final goal of success during the game. Success will mean different things, to different teams but the one constant should be the halftime talk inspiring a team’s players to go on and give their best, re-enforce their efforts, and consolidate their focus for the final run home. A problem however, is that for many coaches this opportunity, which holds so much promise, is often wasted and poorly structured to achieve the most from the time available.
The most significant issue facing coaches is by their creation. Too often coaches focus on the negative and the mistakes made in their halftime talk instead of how these issues can be resolved. It is the old story of telling someone what they are doing wrong, rather than the pathway needed to reach success. In turn, the next step is that the players under a coach’s direction then start to focus on the mistakes only to compound the issues further and the cycle continues in an ever-tighter spiral downwards.
So instead of focusing on the problems that a team has just lived through, pick three core points that need to change in the second half and focus on those for the halftime talk. All too often coaches overload their players and staff with too much information. The halftime talk is not a debrief, it is an update. A momentary analysis of the future course of action needed. For a coach the process here can include more than three lines of information, but all the content and all the tactical analysis should funnel into three points. If a coach is intending to write information on a whiteboard, ensure the three keys points stand out above all others. For example do three separate mind maps with sub-points around the outside, but always come back to the underlining points.
Avoid isolating a player’s performance and pointing out the mistakes made. This seems like and obvious point, but it is all about context and content. While the information might need to be addressed, the context in which this is delivered should not be to highlight the failings of a players efforts. Coaches often justify this action as stating this is about the player’s actions or behaviours and they are not attacking them. Nevertheless, this is far away from what is the experience of the player and atmosphere created within the locker-room. Instead, highlight what is need from players to adjust to the demands of the game and how these are woven together for the betterment of the team’s performance.
Another common issue seen in many coaches halftime talk is it does not emotionally re-charge their players. If the previous half has not been a good outing then players can be flat for the third quarter of left to motivate themselves. If second quarter brought with it some outstanding play then the things that lead to success need to continue and coach should look to maintain this emotional charge within the group. Not every halftime talk needs to be a stirring once in a lifetime speech, but it may be required once every so often. In some cases, sincere positive reinforcement delivered in a calm and quite tone is all that is needed. On other occasions it might be the coach who has to work themselves into a frenzy to be the catalyst to spark the team into action. Having a range of different approaches or strategies, and then being aware enough to know when it is the right time for each is part of the craft of basketball coaching.
Finally, another common mistake is not utilising the experience, knowledge, and skills of support staff. Assistant Coaches and in certain circumstances Team Managers might have a perspective which can be of assistance in identifying the cause of poor performance and valuable suggestions in how to address these matters tactically. At the very least as a Head Coach, it is far better to have more information than not enough under which to make a decision on what course of action to take.
The halftime talk is such a valuable time that it can feel like there is so much to say and not enough time to say it all in. Develop some strategies like making a list on a coaching board prior to going into the locker room with the help of assistant coaches of the key points. Remember to keep everything specific, but brief to ensure the message is heard by the players.