More Than Just Talk: Building Communication on Offense

By Matt Wheeler

The benefits of better offensive communication, along with role responsibilities, practice ideas and drills to improve this area.

*This is the final part in a 3-part series. Check out previous posts: Building Communication With Your Team | Building Communication on Defense

Although the defensive side of the floor usually gets most of the focus when it comes to communication, improving those habits on offense can be just as beneficial. Communication is providing valuable information to your teammates that can be beneficial to them. When teams don’t communicate on offense, they are restricting that flow of information and just hoping their teammates figure it out. The best offensive teams play as one unit and good communication is the glue that helps them stick together.

Offensive Communication Responsibilities

  • Passes – Though it may not be possible in all situations when the game is going fast, saying the name of your teammate while passing and having the receiver call for the ball makes sure both players are on the same page. This can help minimize passing turnovers.
  • Screens – Young players often rush through screens with each player focusing on their own part instead of working together. This can result in offensive fouls for moving screens or a screen not even being set, making it easier for the defense to guard. Have the screener communicate that they are screening and say their teammates name (“Jimmy, I got you.”) The player receiving the screen should call for the screen (“Tommy, come get me.”)
  • Echo play calls – If you are in a loud gym it can be hard to hear the play calls. Having your team echo the call makes sure everyone can hear it and understand what play you are running.
  • Organize teammates – Often this responsibility falls on the point guard but having multiple players able to give directions helps keeps the offense organized.
  • Communicate who gets back on the shot – This depends on the philosophy that you use on how many players you want to attack the glass for offensive rebounds and how many you want to get back on the shot. Whoever is back needs to call it so your team knows that it is covered though.

Practice Ideas for Communication

  • Breakdown drills – Have a communication component involved in each drill. For example if you are working on pindown screens, require the screener and receiver to communicate the screen.
  • 5 on 0 Perfection – Most teams will dry run their plays 5 on 0, but if there is a mistake they will stop the play to fix it. This is important when first learning the plays but it isn’t game realistic. There will be mistakes in running plays in games, but good communication can fix those mistakes. Force your team to fix it on the fly by putting a short time on the clock (we like 14 seconds, but adjust it to what works for you). Then call a play out loud or just give them a hand signal for the play. Once you call the play, the clock starts. Because of the limited time frame they will have to echo the call and direct their teammates to get organized quickly.
  • Scrimmages (small-sided games or 5 on 5) – Players need practice in transferring communication skills to game situations. Use one component at a time until they build the habit. If they don’t perform the skill, make it an automatic turnover or take points away from the offense. View SSG’s on the FMS PlayBank

Drills to Develop Offensive Communication

50 Pass Drill

This competitive team drill focuses on ball toughness, passing, screening and communication. The goal is to be the first team to successfully complete 50 passes without getting the ball deflected while having the passer say the name of the person they are passing to. Eliminating dribbles after the first pass increases the pressure that the defense can put on the offense, making it more difficult to complete the passes. Requiring the passer to say the name of the receiver helps to build good communication habits while under duress.  

Comm Drill 50 passes w frame descriptions

One More Drive & Kick Shooting 

Multiple skills are incorporated in one setting during this drill: closeouts, footwork, attacking the paint, passing and communication. 1 starts by passing to the 2 and finishing with a close out repetition. The three perimeter players (2,3 & 4) have their knees bent and hands up ready to step into the pass, working on their shot preparation footwork. 2 focuses on getting two feet in the paint on the drive before passing to 3. As the ball is in the air to 3, 4 is saying “One More,” which signals 3 to immediately swing the ball to 4 upon receiving it. The communication focus of this drill is in saying “One More” as the ball is in the air so the ball can be moved quickly for the open shot. Players should also communicate their teammate’s names as they are passing the ball to them.

Comm Drill One More Drive and Kick Shooting w frame descriptions


Developing your team’s communication skills on offense improves its ability to play together. It catches mistakes before they happen and empowers your players to make decisions during the game. It takes time and effort, but by focusing on communication you will cultivate a needed skill in your players that will pay dividends for your team.

More from Matt Wheeler: All Plays & Drills | All Blog Posts | Coach-Player Communication Tips

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Matt Wheeler

Matt Wheeler is currently an assistant coach for the women's basketball program at Daytona State College. Some of his primary responsibilities there include film breakdown and scouting. For the last 4 seasons he has helped to build a new program at Windermere High School, where they were able to reach the state final four in the school's second year of existence. Before that Coach Wheeler served 6 seasons at Olympia High School where he spent time as assistant boys varsity coach, head girls varsity coach, and head boys varsity coach. During his tenure there he saw 5 players reach the Division 1 level and 16 players receive basketball scholarships. Previously, Coach Wheeler was an assistant coach at Montverde Academy under then head coach Kevin Sutton. While at Montverde Academy he assisted with player development, conditioning programs and created team playbooks & scouting reports. Coach Wheeler's experience also includes winning the 2008 3A Girls Basketball Florida State Championship as an assistant at Bishop Moore Catholic High School. Coach Wheeler was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. He got his coaching start at Cascade College where he was the student assistant for the women’s basketball program while also participating on the men’s JV basketball team. Coach Wheeler resides in Orlando, Florida with his wife Kiana and his baby girl Noa.
September 28, 2018 – Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S. – Roberto E. RosalesJournal.The UNM Lobos basketball team held their first practice Friday afternoon with several newcomers joining the team. Pictured from left to right are Anthony Mathis(Cq), Clay Patterson(Cq) Drue Drinnon(Cq)Keith McGee(Cq) as they listen to assistant coach Brandon Mason(Cq) on the far right. .Albuquerque, New Mexico (Credit Image: © Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Wire)

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