top of page
  • Jack Fleming

Kerry Rupp — Define Your Language

Chuck Daly reminded his coaches to “speak in headlines“, promoting that an economy of words is effective. Rick Majerus was famous for his catch phrases, which inspired ‘The Wall of Culture” at Loyola-Chicago with their basketball language. In the world of basketball where every part of the game is coined something different by each coach, creating a clearly defined language for your players will aid in their learning. I have previously and still sometimes make this mistake, where one practice I’ll call the offensive player lifting behind the ball screen the ‘shake’ and next week I’ll call it the ‘throwback’ — no wonder they don’t know what I’m talking about. Guy Molloy is well known for holding his players accountable to their language, and also challenging them to use it and correct their terminology so that everyone is on the same page. Here are some useful ways you can use your language to communicate with your players:

The Power of Images

The Inner Game of Tennis by by Timothy Gallwey creates a powerful argument that images are better than words, when teaching showing is better than telling and too much instruction is worse than none. Having so many different terms within your team, where nothing is clearly defined can create mental clutter in the mind of the athlete. This creates three ways you can teach which are both effective:

(a) Modelling — instead of always explaining, simply direct your best demonstrator to get on the floor while the other athletes watch. Direct them to notice the teaching points, and they will learn through the image they see far quicker than you saying repeatedly “in a stance, eyes are up, pound the ball.”

(b) Create images through your words — through conversations with others I heard a great teaching point, NBL point guard Darryl McDonald when turning the corner on a pick and roll would be thinking “take a picture.” Creating the image for your players that they are a camera taking a snapshot of the floor, and drives the point of ‘see the floor’ but helps athletes with memory retention.

© Use catchy phrases — think of all the phrases you used to remember in primary school, “i before e except after c’ that are hard to forget. This is also a form of “chunking”, research suggest that we can only hold 4 items in our short term memory so by breaking things down into parts it makes memory easier. For example one of my favourite phrases for catching in the post is the 3 C’s — Catch, Chin & Check (middle). While not very creative, the post can be a complex and daunting place to play so hopefully it keeps it simple.

Kerry Rupp who is the Associate Head Coach at Oregon State is the king of sound bytes, I hope that you enjoy some of his best stuff here from the 2018 Basketball Australia Coaches Conference.


- Winning every moment, building life champions.

- Admission ticket is attitude and effort.

- The little things are the big things.

Athletic Positioning

- Best players have change of space and change of speed

- Get lower, wider and longer

- Hip press, not a knee press.

- Loading your glutes makes you an athlete.

Mikan Drill — Finishing

- Heel and toe to the target

- Climb the ladder

- Fingertip finish

- Head and eyes early

Create a verbal and a vision on every cut.

2 Foot Finishes

- Pogo stick the land, feet square to the baseline

- Attack the ball

- Ball and butt rise together

Shooting Preparation

- Chest to knee

- Heels and butt behind the ball

- Hungry hands

- Sit to score

- Toes to the target.

- Strong in the front leg, load the back leg.

- Thumbs are T’d, arms are V’d


I challenge you to pick parts of the game and define your catch phrases and your terminology, it can tremendously help with your communication. Here are some of mine:


  1. Long on your follow through.

2. High and soft.

3. Rotate the seams.

4. Feet down quick

Dribble Penetration Reaction

1. The ball has eyes, get to where it can see you.

2. Pass = on time and on target.

3. Get out from underwater once you drive, RESPACE.

4. Quality of the pass is the quality of the shot.

Ball Screen Defence

  1. Person on the ball = Body up, body in, body over.

2. Hard Show = match feet, reroute the ball.

3. Tag: high, hard and early.

4. Stay = back to your own

5. Go = automatic rotation.

Post Defence

  1. Straddle his feet.

2. Pop back on the catch.

3. Wall up on the back down.

4. Hands up body down on the pick up.

Want to Connect?

If you would like to continue the basketball conversation, provide your thoughts or ideas please message me on Twitter @jackfleming1, write a comment or e-mail me at

17 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page