How To Deliver The Perfect Team Talk

Say the wrong thing at the wrong time and your well-intentioned team talk could do more harm than good. Sports psychologist Bill Beswick reveals the secrets behind delivering the perfect team talk

From February 3 until March 27, 2013, the NBA’s Miami Heat did not lose a game. The team’s 27-game winning streak is the second longest in league history. While others relentlessly focused on the entirety of the streak as it happened, the Heat and head coach Eric Spoelstra took things game by game.

When the run finally ended, Spoelstra explained what he said to his squad in the locker room after losing to the Chicago Bulls.

“I had everyone come in and put a hand on each other,” Spoelstra said. “It was the first time I had mentioned the streak.

“It was a heck of an experience to have together. Its significance will mean much more to us later in our careers. I asked them all to share the moment with each other.”

After gathering together as a group, reflecting, then pushing forward, the Heat won its second straight NBA title in late June. Instead of allowing the impressive streak to define the season, Spoelstra gave the record its due, then moved forward on the ultimate goal of winning a title.

While most coaches aren’t going to have the luxury of ripping off 27 consecutive wins, there is something to be learned from Spoelstra’s handling of the loss. Every team encounters a particularly painful defeat during the season. Find out why Spoelstra’s management of the defeat was perfect.

1  It was needed

Only get the team together when there is something to say to them.

2  It was appropriate

The team really needed to know how to feel after their defeat.

3  It was relevant

Spoelstra acknowledged the past but the feeling coming out of the locker room was to push forward.

4  It was concise

It’s not what you know that’s important, it’s what the players can take.

5  It was effective

Spoelstra’s team went on to win the NBA title three months later.

6  It was clear

He spoke to his players in simple, understandable and emphatic language.

7  It had personality

Spoelstra isn’t a huge personality – he is smart, determined and focused. This team talk reflected that and did not stray from who he is.

8  It motivated

In this case his talk re-motivated a team that needed to know this streak wasn’t the overall goal.

9  It bonded

The message brought the team back together. Nobody was blamed.

10  IT WAS the right PLACE

The message was best delivered where it should have been – in the locker room.

11  It was immediate

A coach has to be proactive when a problem is emerging and solve it quickly.

12  It changed the story

Great team meetings take players from negative thinking back to positive thinking.

13  It succeeded

Spoelstra was not worried about losing (it was bound to happen) but about the possible impact of the loss.

14  It cleared the mess

After he’d finished, the team talk left all the players on the same (positive) page.