MORE THAN MEETS THE LIPS
The Whistle as a coaching tool
The whistle is a coaching tool in many ways and that is so much so that I think it needs its own compartment in the coaching tool box. It is more than important that players respond to the whistle in a way that helps the coach to express his personality and the types of things that he expects. Players must prepare for and know what to do when the whistle blows in a game.
1) Teach players to never quit on a play until the whistle blows. Having your team play hard from whistle to whistle and every second is a message I believe every coach should send to his team from day one.
2) Express things to your team by how you actually blow the whistle. For example, if Coach is unhappy or excited about the drill or play he can express this to his team with simple things like how hard he blows or how long he blows it for. If he thinks about and is consistent with his whistle technique, it can be amazing how much that whistle can add to effective communication for a coach.
3) Freeze frame – I use the whistle often to freeze my players in place at an exact moment. And yes, sometimes it would or might be right in the middle of action. I freeze them like this mostly to demonstrate things that aren’t right, but it can be used for positive reinforcement as well. Often I have them freeze at a particular moment when we have too many players on one side of the field, for example, or maybe when the defensive slide a player just made was far too long and the offensive player could too easily see it coming. However it is used it is a great chance for the whole team to look at a ‘still photograph’ if you will, one that asks the question, “What is wrong (or right) with this picture?” It can be a chalk talk frozen in a frame that everyone can see. Anytime that everyone can easily see the same thing, then isn’t your team always closer to being on the same proverbial page? The bonus of this is also that it helps players to individually and collectively see how the situation became what it is and this makes it a technique that teaches and often the coach need not even say a word. I try to use this when it is so obvious that all the coach really does need to do is to ask the team itself what is wrong with this picture.
4) I want to restate that emphasizing playing hard until the whistle blows is also a great way to impress on players to NEVER QUIT. Often players instinctively ease up when they throw the ball away or whatever during a practice scrimmage. It is almost human nature in some situations. This can help to make for some bad team habits that could hurt the team in a game situation. Don’t go there. Never quitting on a play, a ground ball, or anything will clearly send a message from an individual player to all of his teammates, one that makes the team a little bit better.
5) Be creative, like using two quick blows means we slide early on this one, etc.
GAME SITUATIONS AND THE WHISTLE
1) 1) Win the Whistle – Every time play starts or stops in a game. It is done with a whistle and by a referee. As a coach, prepare players to be ready for the referee to blow that start-up-play whistle. A player starting the play by having the ball should be looking at what the field says to him as he gets the ball off the ground or when the ref puts it in the stick. Once the ball is in the stick he should look right at the official so that the player can be moving as the ref blows his whistle and not after he blows it. This can make a big difference at some critical point. Maybe most times it is not that big of a difference, but don’t you want your players to prepare for the time that it might really make a difference? Always remember that each game has its own life and is a series of moments and things coming together that have never happened exactly like that before.
2) The whistle or tweet the coach can sound out himself with his own lips can be very effective. For example, the great NBA basketball coach Pat Riley could whistle extremely well with his lips, and it was a piercing sound that he could make. I used to study and model the way that he could communicate things and plays that he wanted to his Laker players (long time ago) in a way that seemed far more precise and effective than hollering can ever be. It keeps the player from having to look at the coach to help him to understand whatever the coach is trying to get across.
3) Being totally ready for the whistle and responding to it in game situations reflects great body language. If a team puts together enough powerful body language, and I am big on that part of the game, it can be very intimidating as well. Yes, being ready or ‘winning’ the whistle can make a big difference.
4) Sometimes, like when there is a technical foul that is only about a change of possession or a shot goes out of bounds behind the goal, the zebra will blow his whistle to restart play very quickly. Players must be ready for that whistle, whether you have the ball or you don’t have the ball. Be more ready than your opponent is.
5) In the case of illegal procedure on a face-off when the rule is that the offending player must go out of the game, the situation is an automatic potential fast break for the offended team. It is a rule that rewards a team with one more player for an instant. The more a team is ready to use that moment, the more chance a team has to use and take advantage of a very fleeting moment. Goals happen in the blink of an eye. The thing that makes the possibility of that goal can happen equally fast.