This week’s tip comes from Hall of Fame basketball coach, Red Auerbach. Auerbach coached the Boston Celtics to 9 NBA championships and was an executive with the team for another 7 titles.

red auerbach
“It’s not what you tell your players that counts. It’s what they hear.”

Before he became a basketball pioneer and legend with the Celtics, Red was a Colonial, playing college ball at my alma mater, George Washington University. For all the years Red worked for the Celtics he maintained a home in the D.C. area. He would come to a few of our games and attended a practice or two each year. I’ll never forget when I first met him. At the time I was a huge Boston Celtics fan and Larry Bird was my favorite player. To me, meeting Red Auerbach was like meeting the president. Our meeting went something like this…..

Red’s quote about me was spot on. What I heard was, “Ah, Young, you can shoot.” Unfortunately the, “but you can’t do nothing else,” went in one ear and out the other.

His quote above is also spot on. It is important not only for coaches to communicate well, but also find out what their players heard. If a coach is a yeller and screamer, his players may not hear anything. But even if a coach is an excellent communicator, his players may still not hear correctly.

I remember we lost a close game to West Virginia. They scored on the last possession of the game to win. In the locker room afterwards, our head coach asked one of our star players who was he guarding on the final play. He said player X. In the timeout before the fateful play coach had asked him to guard player Y. Guess who scored the winning basket for West Virginia? Oops…

We all need to communicate well. This is why coaches should ask, what did I just say? Or… what are we doing after this timeout? You’re not treating your players like children, you’re making sure they heard correctly and you said it correctly!

I can tell a 17 year old the same thing I can a 4 year old. But they won’t hear the same thing. Think about all the times Jesus had to carefully explain His parables to His disciples. Aren’t we all like that sometimes?

So players, if you’re not sure you heard correctly, ask! And coaches, ask to make sure you were heard correctly!