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Communication Skills

Communication is the art of successfully sharing meaningful information with people by means of an interchange of experience. Coaches wish to motivate the athletes they work with and to provide them with information that will allow them to train effectively and improve performance. Communication from the coach to athlete will initiate appropriate actions. This however, requires the athlete to receive the information from the coach but also to understand and accept it.

In his article Crookes (1991)[1] stated that coaches need to ask themselves:

  • Do I have the athlete's attention?
  • Am I explaining myself in an easily understood manner?
  • Has the athlete understood?
  • Does the athlete believe what I am telling him/her?
  • Does the athlete accept what I am saying?

Non-verbal messages

At first, it may appear that face-to-face communication consists of taking it in turns to speak. While the coach is speaking, the athlete is expected to listen and wait patiently until the coach finishes. On closer examination, it can be seen that people resort to a variety of verbal and non-verbal behaviour in order to maintain a smooth flow of communication. Such behaviour includes head-nods, smiles, frowns, bodily contact, eye movements, laughter, body posture, language and many other actions. The facial expressions of athletes provide feedback to the coach. Glazed or down turned eyes indicate boredom or disinterest, as does fidgeting. Fully raised eyebrows signal disbelief and half raised indicate puzzlement. Posture of the group provides a means by which their attitude to the coach may be judged and act as pointer to their mood. Control of a group demands that a coach should be sensitive to the signals being transmitted by the athletes. Their faces usually give a good indication of how they feel, and a good working knowledge of the meaning of non-verbal signals will prove invaluable to the coach.

Communication blocks

Crookes (1991)[1] believes that difficulties in communicating with an athlete may be due a number of issues including the following:

  • The athlete's perception of something is different to yours
  • The athlete may jump to a conclusion instead of working through the process of hearing, understanding and accepting
  • The athlete may lack the knowledge needed to understand what you are trying to communicate
  • The athlete may lack the motivation to listen to you or to convert the information given into action
  • The coach may have difficulty in expressing what she/he wishes to say to the athlete
  • Emotions may interfere in the communication process
  • There may be a clash of personality between you and the athlete

These blocks to communication work both ways and coaches need to consider the process of communication carefully.

Effective Communication

Crookes (1991)[1] states that before communicating with an athlete, coaches should consider:

  • WHY they want to communicate
  • WHO they wish to communicate with
  • WHERE and WHEN the message could best be delivered
  • WHAT is it that they want to communicate
  • HOW they are going to communicate the information

Effective communication contains six elements (Crookes 1991):

  Clear Ensure that the information is presented clearly
  Concise Be concise, do not lose the message by being long winded
  Correct Be accurate, avoid giving misleading information
  Complete Give all the information and not just part of it
  Courteous Be polite and non-threatening, avoid conflict
  Constructive Be positive, avoid being critical and negative

Be Positive

When coaches provide information to the athlete that will allow them to take actions to effect change, it is important that they provide the information in a positive manner. Look for something positive to say first and then provide the information that will allow the athlete to effect a change of behaviour or action.

Conclusion

Crookes (1991)[1] believes that coaches should:

  • Develop their verbal and non-verbal communication skills
  • Ensure that they provide positive feedback during coaching sessions
  • Give all athletes in their training groups equal attention
  • Communicate as appropriate to your athlete's thinking and learning styles
  • Ensure that they not only talk to their athletes but they also listen to them as well

Improved communication skills will enable both the athlete and coach to gain much more from their coaching relationship.

Referenced Material

  1. CROOKES (1991) Complan Column. Athletics Coach, 25 (3), p. 13

Page Reference

The reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (1997) Communication Skills [WWW] Available from: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/commun.htm [Accessed

Associated Pages

The following Sports Coach pages should be read in conjunction with this page: