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The importance of maintaining high frequencies of communication between players during team sports is widely recognised. This article highlights an additional feature of communication that has strategic significance for team interaction during play, and offers empirically-grounded recommendations for coaches and players.A combination of descriptive statistics and Conversation Analysis was used to examine elite netballers’ communications during defensive play.Play was video- and audio-recorded, and coded for frequency of different types of communication. Data were analysed for evidence of recurring patterns in players’ verbal and non-verbal conduct.Descriptive statistics demonstrated that higher frequencies of communication between defenders occurred when opposition players successfully obtained shots at goal. Qualitative Conversation Analysis provided an opportunity to unpack this finding by examining the specific interactional consequences following from particular verbal and non-verbal communications. Uptake of communication was demonstrated to be crucially dependent upon speakers’ taking account, in their verbal and non-verbal conduct, of both their team-mate’s current orientation, and visual access to the defensive problem.In addition to advocating for the maintenance of high frequencies of communication, it is recommended that coaches and players also turn attention to the specific practices by which players communicate about problematic features of unfolding play. We suggest specific ways in which players might be encouraged to design their communications to allow team-mates increased opportunity to notice and act upon particular events in the complex, fast-paced, highly contingent environment of actual play.