October 2, 2017 • From the BenchWinning Hoops

Refining your communication skills

by Chris Wellman

Skilled coaches always look for ways to improve themselves. This can be done in many ways, including developing better communication skills.

Here are seven ways that coaches can use communication in developing team success.

1. Establish a respectful atmosphere. Emphasize constructive criticism and teach players how to use it. Point out that respect is a foundation of teamwork and, as a coach, always model respect in your communication with players.

2. Use positive communication. Speak of potential, positive goals and possibilities. Catch your athletes doing something right and point it out to the team. Seek to build character.

3. Practice communication skills. Provide athletes with timely information and look for teachable moments. Don’t forget to tell athletes why they are practicing a particular skill, and avoid words that attack an athlete’s self-worth.

4. Nonverbal communications. Use tone and volume of voice to add importance to what you say. Maintaining eye contact when speaking increases understanding and personalizes the message. A touch, handshake or high five brings feeling to what you say to players.

5. Listening skills. Check with players for understanding of discussions. Encourage questions, suggestions and opinions from players. Never hesitate to consider what you can learn from your players.

6. Use effective verbal cues. Cues should be simple yet meaningful. Players should connect the verbal cue to a change in position, movement or strategy, but make sure to limit the number of verbal cues you use.

7. Give specific praise and remediation. Specific comments are more powerful and meaningful. This includes evaluations, which are necessary for player and team improvement.

When coaches improve their communication skills, they become better teachers and leaders. Coaches will find that better communication requires conscious effort and practice. This produces positive results with regard to teamwork, player improvement and team attitude.