Communication skills are critical to how effective we are when coaching. How we deliver our message and the tone we use when we are communicating with others might actually be more important than what we say. Here are some key notes found in regard to this area:
When speaking and thinking about the key points you want to emphasize, make sure the inflections of your voice do just that. Inflection alone can change the meaning of a sentence.
If you are stern with coaching points and challenge the group to do things more quickly, inflection/tone can be a really good motivational tool. Reflecting energy and enthusiasm in your voice will relay to the players who will feed off of that and play at a higher tempo.
As well as praising things that are being done well, you may quickly clap your hands a few times as additional encouragement for players to push themselves and strive for better.
Pitch of your voice - Does your voice go up and down at the right times or inappropriate times?
If you are trying to motivate and energize a team, raising the pitch of your voice will help so that all of the players involved in sessions and games can hear you and understand that you are emphasizing certain points. Again with this, you can use hand signals to emphasize your points. If you are asking players to provide length, width and depth, you can use signals and directions to help players further understand what you are teaching.
Accent - Do you have an accent that makes it difficult for people to understand you?
You might have to change it to make sure your players can better understand you. I have altered my voice so that I don’t have to waste time repeating my coaching points and so my speech is clearer to players and coaches.
Pace of your speech - How fast do you speak and how appropriate is your speed to your audience?
Again, it’s important that you get it right so that players and coaches can understand you. If you are talking too fast, players may not understand what you say, if you talk too slowly, players may switch off and start to lose concentration or miss the importance of what you are saying.
When you are coaching, body language can show the players what you are thinking and how you feel about a session or game. If you are moving quickly in and around the session getting your coaching points in, they will see that you mean business and want things done in the way you preach. If you are on your heels and moving sluggishly around the session, you are probably relaying that you aren’t feeling great, you are tired and you are just there because it’s practice or game day.
If players, coaches and parents see positivity in your body language, your praise and challenging of the group, they will notice and form their opinions and behaviors around that.
Players that receive praise and are being challenged are more likely to strive for excellence and seek to impress you with everything that they do. On the contrary to this, if you show your frustration and disappointment at players or a group, this will be seen and performances will be reflective of it.
Be conscience of the message you are relaying on the field.
One of my biggest challenges is coaching children aged 3-7 as they often lack discipline and the ability to concentrate, and that can vary quite a lot depending on the town or city you are working in and what mood they are in at the time of the session.
My issue was not being able to let go and be animated enough to almost ‘play the clown’ and enthrall the children with wonderful stories that engage the players in the activities you are coaching. Having been told to take things seriously for the majority of my life, it’s quite a contrast to go to the field and ‘act’ so differently as to how I carry myself at regular training sessions with the more mature groups.
A couple of weeks ago, I found myself coaching a pre-k girls groups. Normally that’s a huge challenge for me and it can be stressful thinking about the sessions. It turned out to be a hugely rewarding day as all groups were fantastic, they were focused from beginning to end and they were a total pleasure to coach.
Maybe it’s the town I was in, maybe it’s the way the children have been raised, maybe they’re used to coaching and being involved in the sessions. I also feel that I had my session plans in place and that I was able to engage the children with animation and positivity by using my voice as a tool that was of great benefit to myself and all involved.
Darren Shimwell - 28th September 2015