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Tackling the Timeout

Dr. David Hoch, CMAA, CIC

The whistle blows and the official calls a timeout. Whether you or your opponent asked for it, both teams will get a minute in which your players gather around. Do you immediately start yelling or do you take a different approach? It is important to consider how to best take advantage of these 60 seconds.

If you have called the timeout, you may be upset with the execution or level of effort demonstrated by your team. You want to get their attention, and that is fine. But if all you do is to rant and rave, you probably aren’t using this valuable time as well as you could and are missing the opportunity to help your players.

Remember, coaching is teaching and this brief break in play is the perfect time to do just that. Provide quick, simple, and clear suggestions. Always use the same verbal cues that you use in practice sessions so that there is no confusion and your instructions are easily understood.

There is a limit of what can and will be assimilated in 60 seconds, so keep your corrections or suggestions to one or two items. Any more than that  and you run the risk of overload. Providing too many details and changes may actually cause more confusion and mistakes. Also, you want to take into consideration the ability and experience level of your players and tailor your comments accordingly.

Sometimes, all your team may need is a little encouragement and reassurance. “Yes, you can do it. Just keep working hard and it will be alright.” As the coach, you are, after all, the leader and need to instill hope and confidence.

If you didn’t call the timeout, you still have a valuable minute to talk with your team. And chances are that your feelings about the team’s performance may be somewhat different than your opponent. You might like the way your athletes are playing and it is important to emphasize that they need to continue the same type of focus and effort.

However, also caution your players that your opponent may make changes due to this timeout. Heck, the other team’s coach wasn’t happy with their performance and a change in the defense or offensive approach should be expected. And if you have a good scouting report, you really should have an idea of what may be employed. Therefore, concisely outline these possible adjustments.


David Hoch retired in 2010 after a 41-year career as a high school athletic director and coach.  In 2009, Dr. Hoch was honored as the Eastern District Athletic Director of the Year by the Nastional Association for Sport and Physical Education.  He was also presented with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Distinguished Service Award, and in 2000 he was named the Maryland State Athletic Director Association's Athletic Director of the Year.  Dr. Hoch has authored over 460 professional articles and made more than 70 presentations around the country.

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