We know that communication in sport is key for players and coaches both on and off the pitch. Coaches at all levels have the common saying (along the lines of): “we’ve got to talk more”. Well, how important is it and how you can encourage it from an early age?
From the coaches perspective, sometimes talking less, is more. Too much information can affect game play and decision making so ensure you communicate effectively – be punctual and informative in your message.
How can you recognise your current communication? Film yourself/record your coaching and look out for your communication. Do you think you talk too much? Too little? Did you repeat a specific word too often? (Mine used to be “ok?”). Did you communicate more with individuals or the group? Does this need to change? This also then doubles up as a good reflective tool but remember, same as coaching, stick to your aim – you’re looking for your communication.
It may be worth getting feedback from peers, observers or your players. Ask them what they think of your communication. Would they change anything and why? (Parents may want you to talk more – you might have to ignore some of that if it goes against your principles!)
Try to recognise:
- what is your communication style generally? command, questions, guided discovery etc.
- How open or closed is your body language?
- Were your messages informative and important?
- What was the tone of your communication like?
But what about your players communication? How can you encourage them to talk, and to talk effectively?
Encourage democracy and challenge players to solve problems in their play within your coaching session structure. Allow them to talk and discuss best outcomes. Prompt when needed to further their thinking and communication.
This can then be a great learning tool for their playing as well as communication improvements as they are learning from each other and trialling their ideas. It also includes them in the process and allows them to have ownership.
A way of doing it in game situations could be allowing players to speak first during game breaks, ie half time. What are their thoughts? Could your points adapt based on their ideas?
Remember to continue to question and challenge players but also yourself. Question support coaches and those around you and encourage that open communication in your coaching environment.
Ultimately, the more able players are to communicate with one another both and off the pitch about problems, solutions and ways they can work with one another to achieve success the better your group of players will be at communicating based on what they see and feel.
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