Communication in Coaching: Why Words Matter


Communication: It´s everywhere. We need to communicate with others to do the simplest things in our life (get a coffee, talk to our friends and learning in school, for example). In addition, if we work in a position where we need to interact with other people on a constant basis, we must have highly developed communication skills.


In sports, the reality is the same, coaches must develop an adequate communication strategy that allows them to reach their colleagues, their athletes and the athletes´ family in a suitable way. The lack of a communication plan will have an impact on the player performance, and down below are a few examples of common communication mistakes made during coaching and ways we can correct them.


1.- Feedback:


Feedback is where a player receives information about his performance or about the result of a task.


There are two types of feedback:


· Internal: Player´s perception about his performance or result of the task;


· External: Information given to the player by an external source (usually the coach).

What happens most of the times is that we (coaches) give feedback to the player. The problem with this is that if we only give external feedback, the player will not develop his internal feedback.


If we are more thoughtful about the moments we choose to give feedback to our players, we will be more precise in the commands we give them, but we will also allow them to generate their conceptions about their performance, leading to more self-awareness and conscious attitude regarding the game.


2.- When should we communicate?


In most of the drills done in tennis, the communication we establish with our player ends up being very primitive, because quantity often prioritises quality. That is wrong. We shouldn’t forget that when the player is hitting the balls, in a drill, for example, he has to focus on a lot of things (foot placement, racket grip, arm swing, and many others). If the coach gives an excessive amount of information to the player, the player will have to focus on a lot of different things at the same time, and the quality of his performance will decrease.


To solve this problem, we need to better select the moment when we communicate with our players, which implies that sometimes we must wait until the drill ends to talk to the player.


At the end of the drill, they will be more receptive to the information we give, and the probability of him incorporating the advice in his game is a lot bigger.


3.- Types of Communication:


Nowadays, with the “technology boom” that we are experiencing, there are a lot of techniques and instruments that we can use to better communicate with our players.


One of the best is video analysis, because it utilises verbal communication and visual communication, allowing them to listen to the information his coach has to offer, but also to visualize the aspects of the game his coach wants to dissect.


Furthermore, video analysis has a very reduced cost (games and practice sessions can be filmed with a mobile phone) and is very simple to use (most electronic tools come with video editing software that enables us to select the moments we want to show to our players, cutting out the irrelevant parts).


4.- What should I do after the training session is over?


It´s not a rare occurrence when we see coaches finishing the training session by telling the player to stretch, to pack up and to go home.


Recent evidence suggests that a training session final moment should be a moment of discussion between the coach and the athlete(s) regarding what were the positives and negatives of the session, and what are the goals for the next ones.


When we coach young players, we must always include the player´s Family in this process, because they are the ones that spend most of the time with the child and because they can helps us instil some changes in the player´s training regime/life (for example, parents can guarantee that their young athletes have good nutrition and adequate hours of sleep).


Concluding, we hope that, with this brief article we highlighted the importance of communication in the development of a young player, and how it can make the difference between a fringe player and an elite player.

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