Discourse Community Analysis Essay

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Coaches nowadays typically include more than seven plays within their offense. Basketball coaches may use more, while baseball and volleyball coaches may not, but using signals and nonverbal ways to communicate plays to their players is key when effectively running a play. Depending on the sport a coach may use key terms or hand motions to signal something. In basketball, a term such as a “thumbs down” (H. Pelatra Personal Interview March 28, 2022) may decipher a play, while in volleyball a hand signal of a number between a setter and hitter may detail the exact set. The development and evolution of the play are taken into account as well as how it is executed. To further examine why and how coaches come up with the methods of making and calling a play. The process behind the lay calls, how they are made, when are they called and introduced, and why use hand signals or gestures when calling the plays.

A discourse community is best known as, “a group of individuals involved in and communicating about a certain topic, issue or in a particular field” (Mohrenne p.1). These groups can be anything from school, work, or church organizations one participates in, or associations clubs one engages within their local communities regularly. John Swales suggests that a discourse community can be described by six distinguishing characteristics, which include: a broadly agreed upon set of common public goals, mechanisms of intercommunication among its members, participatory mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback, one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims, acquires some specific lexis, and has a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal expertise (Mohrenne p.1). Sports can be viewed as discourse communities, with individual teams for a specific sport exhibiting a more detailed framework that includes the characteristics outlined by Swales. Having formed a part of many organized. A discourse community has a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal expertise. This is seen throughout sports over and over again. In high school, sports teams have practice, freshman, junior varsity (JV), and varsity teams to prepare, teach, train, and continue growing sports programs for longevity and competitive relevance. Practice and freshman teams are typically composed of members who have an interest in relevant content and are learning the basic skills of that sport. They show potential and are used to scrimmage against JV and varsity teams for practice purposes. Junior varsity and varsity players show an advanced level of athleticism, skill, execution, and knowledge of the game. Within individual teams, some starters typically display expert playing skills and overall lead the team. Basketball has a starting five, volleyball has a starting six, etc. In professional sports, it is also seen. For example, in football there is a main quarterback (QB) and a backup QB, baseball has main pitchers and backup pitchers, volleyball has a main setter, and others who are capable of playing the position during a mandatory rotation. Relevant content and discoursal expertise are important for the durability of sports teams and organizations.

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Literature Review

According to Bacharach (2020), football practices are held specifically to learn play calls and signals (p.1). This shows the importance of play calls and the signals along with it. Although some may be more important in some sports rather than others they all have their detailed gestures. Through trial and error, coaches have learned what works for their group of players. Since the beginning of sports coaches have strategized on plays and thought how to execute the play to perfection. A component is the way a coach communicates the play with the player. Bizzini (2022) states that optimizing a player's full potential through a game can lead to a great game (p.2). Taking advantage of a player's skill set can lead to great potential. When communicating with players through signals and terms it is beneficial when they have a higher basketball IQ. They can catch on quicker to what is being asked and called by their coach and staff. Communication skills are essential in sports. Being able to catch on to what a coach or teammate may share with you is critical in a game. Salmon and Young (2011) discuss the characteristics that pertain to communication (p.1) and this can be introduced into sports. Being able to communicate through signals on the court is critical in a fast-paced game. Studies have been conducted by Quan and Wu (2020) and patterns have been observed of how individuals interact in sports and exercises and similar graphs have been depicted of multiple brain waves (p.1). This is proof that players and coaches can think alike and this is by the chemistry formed.


Interview: Essential Questions for Gathering Research

The first primary source of information that was used to gather information was interview-based. Asking key questions to coaches from multiple sports helped me gain insight into how they came about their techniques in plays, signals, etc. After a week of asking coaches and players certain questions, the research was finally completed. Questions such as 1.) What is the point of the play calls using body movements? 2.) Why not just yell the play? 3.) How do you make the play call and come up with it? 4.) How do you communicate that to your players and how do you make it discrete? 5.) What is going through your head when you do this? Interviewing a total of four coaches made the information available.

The interview-based method was chosen because it is the most direct and most accurate information (based on the coach's personal views). During this process, I was hoping to gain a better perspective on why coaches made these signals for plays. As a player myself I understood that it was important to “not give the play away” ( J. Goris, Personal Interview, April 1, 2022), but never quite understood the coach's point of view or knew how they came up with the actual gesture. The first way of choosing the sample to be questioned was simply by asking prior coaches that I’d had.

Observation: Thoughts on Actual Games

The second primary method was observation-based. This was conducted to view a spectator's perspective. Attending basketball and volleyball games, watching football and baseball games, etc. were all methods of observation. During this, I was hoping to gather a broader image, as well as a more detailed view. Broader in that I was able to watch teams play with these different signals throughout the games. Detailed in that I was able to see when they were used. This method was chosen because it was recommended and it made the most sense about the question posed.


While conducting the interview almost every coach spoke to the fact that the players can correlate a signal to a play. They also attested that the main purpose in their eyes is to be as discrete as possible and to “throw the opponents off” (H. Peralta, Personal Interview, March 29, 2022). From the coaches interviewed three of the four said that their sole purpose of communicating with their players in a non-verbal form is to be secretive. Being more secretive gives an upper hand and challenges the opponents. From the observational study, I noticed that in approximately seven of every ten possessions in a basketball game, a coach gave a certain gesture or key term to trigger a play run by either the offense or defense. A signal such as the number two-one made by the coach on her hand signaled for a defensive press. In a baseball game streamed a first base coach signaled for their player at second base to steal third base. They first rubbed their arms then proceeded to scratch their nose and ended the signal by taking their hat off. Once this was made the player understood what he was to do. Later in the game the coach made the same gestures, but instead ended the signal by touching their leg. The opposing team thought that the player on first base at the time was going to steal second base, but it was just made to confuse the opponent.

A coach said something that sucks, “I’ve made plays from experience, and depending on the situation and reading what the other team is giving me is how I decide what play to call” (D. Johnson, Personal Interview, March 29, 2022). Using previous knowledge and experience is key as to how and when coaches can communicate the signals to their team.

The term practice makes perfect resonated with Coach Mike. When asked about key terms or signals he said, “hand signals or buzzwords! I typically prefer buzzwords to inform my players of what I want executed. This has all been planned for in practice, and depending on the age of the athlete they NEED to know what the terms mean. For example, if I’m coaching an HS team and I want them to run a motion offense or a 4-out I wouldn’t say those terms directly I would instead say “Carolina”. We would have practiced this of course coming into the game” (M. Linton, Personal Interview, March 28, 2022). Most if not all the coaches expressed the importance of going over the plays and their terms signals in practice, but they also stressed the importance of the “players part” (H, Peralta, Personal Interview, March 29, 2022).


Some insights gained were the methods used by coaches to call the plays, why they may make a play call using a signal or phrase, etc. Each coach stated similar views and methods to each of the questions and had the same end goal. A few topics of conversation that still may need to be reviewed are questions that refer to the consistency of these play calls and how the terms and gestures come about. These questions are still evident because there is no right answer. Each coach gave different responses on certain topic questions that varied responses not providing an exact conclusion or answer the questions. Future research on the topic should include questions about the chemistry between players and coaches. While observing gameplay online it was evident that certain teams were comfortable with one another allowing for a much easier game as well as allowing for an easier way of communicating with one another.


Using key terms or non-verbal ways of communicating with players is unique. Understanding why coaches use these methods is extremely important. During the research, the conclusion drawn was that to not give a play away and make it repetitive coaches use body motions or key terms and can switch them throughout a game to initiate a play. Most teams construct key plays, terms, and signals for specific parts in a game to advance their team's chances of winning and give them the best chance at winning the game.

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