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From coach to coach

All athletes throughout their career have had a coach or two with different communication skills. Some like to yell, some like to curse, and some are just plain quiet. In the end it is the coaches who are able to communicate without words that are the best communicators. According to Vealey, only a small percentage of communication is verbal. The rest of communication comes from facial expressions, body language, and the tone of the coaches voice. It is easy for coaches to get caught up in the heat of the moment and loose their cool. These emotions the coach is portraying to the athletes and the crowd can be detrimental to keeping positive communication.

Depending on what level the coach is at may also determine how well the coach can get their points across. At a youth sport level of coaching, young athletes tend to respect the coach, and rarely see extreme emotions. As the athletes mature and become more independent, athletes migrate towards their own ideas and philosophies. This where coaches can start to loose their cool. Vealey simply say's, "Research has shown that different types of communication from coaches can influence athletes' self-esteem, self-confidence, intrinsic motivation, and performance anxiety". It is up to the coaches to make sure their athletes are feeling comfortable, so they can perform well. It also is important to create an environment that keeps the athletes safe, and build more confidence.

There are many examples of coaches who are or were quite successful at a high level of coaching, but not necessarily the best communicators. The number one individual that I think of is Bobby Night. With all his success and all the yelling, there isn't another coach that could pose fear into the athletes than Mr. Night. The question I ask is, "was his style of communication worth the toxic environment created by this atmosphere?"

This coaching style and his communication skills works far some, but not for most. On a personal note the late "great" Joel Swisher who coached college football at every level
Was more of a passive leader. He didn't need to yell in order for us athletes to get ready at 5 am to hit the weights. Instead he used great body language. There was this certain look on coach Swishers face that he made, and if it didn't change from his face before breakfast, we as a collective would be punished through conditioning in evening at practice. He also had a tone in his voice when he was pleased that sounded almost raspy at times.

Although both coaches are great examples of differences in communication skills in the coaching arena, the coaches I respected the most and listened to the most were the one's with best communication skills....

"Come early, stay late, and work hard in between" Joel Swisher

Nathan Morton

Vealey, R. (2005). Coaching for the Inner Edge. Morgantown, VW: Fitness Information Technologies.

Confronting & Enjoying Communication

Communication is critical to human interaction. Vealey makes the point that coaches cannot not communicate to athletes. Often players may ask difficult questions of coaches concerning their playing time or relationship with other teammates. The time it takes a coach to formulate a response can be construed as negative or apathetic by the athlete that is looking for immediate feedback. A general guideline provided by Vealey is to deliver messages immediately so athletes feel you are engaged and can learn from feedback in order to improve. As a coach, I found it interesting and helpful to consider emotional temperature when communicating, especially in incidences involving conflict. Observing the emotional conditions of athletes gathers background information on their current issue. I have been lucky enough to experience few conflict situations so far in my career.

One particular example involved a miscommunication issue between an athlete and members of our coaching staff. The player who was normally a starter had been relegated to the second string and was unaware of the condition until pre-game preparation. As an assistant coach, I assumed the head coach had informed the player and discussed the decision. This was not the case and the player reacted negatively to the situation causing a disturbance within the team. By checking the emotional temperature of the athlete I was aware that a discussion would not be positive at the moment of the confrontation and I asked the athlete to think and discuss this with me after warming up. This gave us both a chance to adjust to the situation and formulate a response.

The confrontation could have been avoided if the coaching staff as a whole had discussed how to handle the situation instead of assuming it would be handled. I used this realization to apply empathy and honesty with the athlete. I apologized for the situation, but stood firm with the decision by questioning the athlete as to why she believed the decision had been made. She agreed with our general assessment that her level of effort was not where it needed to be, but defended her actions by pointing out inadequacies of other players. I calmly pointed out that if she could identify that she was not giving her best effort in training then she could also change her behavior to regain her starting spot. We also discussed that what others do is beyond her control and should not dictate her actions. She accepted this idea and exhibited more effort as a substitute in the second half of the match then she had ever exhibited in prior matches. I believe the use of empathy, honesty and eventual consistency in our communication created this positive result out of a potentially negative conflict situation.

Communication occurs whether you are aware of it or not. My best example of this phenomenon came from a gift my previous team gave me where they included inscriptions of phrases I use while coaching compiled in a journal complete with photos. It was amazing to read what players selectively attend to and how the messages are interpreted. Some of my favorites include:

"Play to your strengths"
"Don't practice a mistake"
"As a player, you can never be perfect, but you can always try"
"Commitment and patience make all the difference"
"You don't have to be the best player to be a good leader"

Some of these I purposefully communicated and others were drawn out of context. This self-awareness of how much players draw from verbal and non-verbal communication helped me to build on these messages to be consistent or make adjustments to my coaching philosophy. I found it both interesting and valuable that the most prominent phrases could be applied to any sport or life situation.

-Katie Wurst

Communication is Key

It is the belief of many that the human dominance over animals is due to communication; the fact that we communicate through words. Sure, communication through words makes things much clearer and a lot less confusing, but even with words there are times where we still don't understand each other. Communicating is a much more difficult process than the average person might think, and speaking is only one of the components. In fact, 93% of the message that we send other people is influenced by our tone of voice, body position, facial expression, etc., while the remaining 7% is the actual verbal message that we are trying to send (Vealey p. 52). Vealey also talks a lot about the importance of being an authentic communicator, which I think is so key and so important. By being your true self and being comfortable as that person, it will be very advantageous in building trusting relationships as well as stronger relationships between a coach and a player. It's almost as if authenticity and respect go hand in hand; if a coach portrays an authentic personality at all times, the players will most likely respect and admire the coach that much more. I think there are also some very good points made in the book (p. 56) about the importance of demonstrating emotional competence. It is helpful in maximize the performance and potential of the athletes on the team. Obviously, athletes see their coach as their guide, their leader, and so they are going to feed off of the actions of the coach which is why it is so crucial for a coach to be able to handle their emotions. Many times communicational breakdown occurs when a coach lets emotions get in the way. Either coaches end up taking out anger and frustration on the players (which at times MAY be necessary) or a coach may ignore a player due to being frustrated with their performance without realizing or knowing the players side of things. Another advantage to forming solid communicational bonds with players is that the coach can also learn from the players. This is especially true for new coaches who are experiencing a head coaching job for the first time. I don't think there's one coach out there who could honestly say that they did everything absolutely perfectly their first couple years as a coach and wouldn't go back and change a thing. I think all coaches make mistakes but being able to step up and admit to what you did wrong and just fix the mistake and move on and grow from it is the important thing. Being consistent with your beliefs and the values of your program is also something important for a coach to keep in mind when communicating to their athletes (p. 62). In this respect, it is important for a coach to choose wise, credible words that have value to them and get a point across. The upside about all these things is that communication is something that can be worked on. For coaches who are considered poor communicators, if they have urge and the drive to becoming better in that aspect of their job then it is something that can be done and can be accomplished. Communication is key.

Cory Graef

Prettyman, Sandra. (2006). If you beat him, you own him, he's your bitch. Coaches, Language & Power

Vealey, R. (2005). Coaching for the Inner Edge. Morgantown, VW: Fitness Information Technologies.

Communication and its Understanding

Communication is a large part of everyone's everyday life. Communication isn't just the content that you say, but also how you say it using nonverbal cues. Nonverbal cues include: tone, pitch, facial expressions, and body position, and facial expressions. According to Vealey, "verbal content of any message only makes up 7% of the total message sent to another person...93% of the message that is influenced by nonverbal behavior such as body position, tone of voice, and facial expressions" (p. 52). I knew nonverbal cues played a large part in communication, but when I read that I was astounded at the numbers.
Many athletes feel that the relationship between them and the coach is more important than the coach's knowledge about the sport and the skills required. A coach that doesn't communicate effectively can in return affect the athlete's self-competence and their motivation to improve their skills. Vealey stated "Research has shown that different types of communication from coaches can influence athletes' self-esteem, self-confidence, intrinsic motivation, performance anxiety, and dropout behavior."
I think that the most important factor communication affects is motivation. Motivation is an integral part of an athlete's psychological mind-set. If a coach's communication is lacking and he/she doesn't respond to an athlete; that athlete is going to lack self-worth, competence, and acceptance. Each of these factors that are absent will lead to decreased self-motivation or intrinsic motivation. I think Stephen Covey's emotional bank account analogy is very unique and could be potentially very effective with motivation. Making 'deposits' into an athletes emotional bank account using positive reinforcement, effective communication, and appropriate understanding will allow that athlete to become more intrinsically motivated. This happens from feeling worthy, belonging, and competent in regard to their sport and their performance in that sport.
In Anderson and Aberman's book, they talk about dealing with the administration and how communication is an integral part to a sports program. If there isn't communication in regard to the mission of the program, that program could be at risk of losing control. There needs to be a clear and concise mission statement so that the program and everyone involved knows what is expected of them as individuals and as a whole. The mission statement would allow individuals who are cohering to the mission to communicate effectively with individuals who may not be following the mission statement.
Prettyman's article really shocked me with how the coaches at Pottawatamie high school were so naïve when it came to how their student athletes repeated the same behavior; even though the coaches say they didn't mean 'it' that way. How the boys at each school treated the girls and the less talented athletes was really interesting. This article really shows how much of an impact coaches and their communication with their athletes affects the athlete's behavior and ideas.
Overall, I feel that communication is an underestimated fundamental of coaching. If coaches really took the time to ask and understand how the athletes feel; in regard to the coach's behavior, a lot could be understood by both the coach and the athlete.

Molly Augustine

Anderson, J., & Aberman, R, & (2006).Why Good Coaches Quit: How to Deal With the OTHER STUFF. (2nd Ed.).Monterey, CA: Coaches Choice.
Vealey, R. (2005). Coaching for the Inner Edge. Morgantown, VW: Fitness Information Technologies.
Prettyman, Sandra. (2006). If you beat him, you own him, he's your bitch. Coaches, Language & Power.

Blackboard Learning System

Students, athletes, coaches, parents, spouses, professionals, etc are constantly reminded that communication is essential to succeed at whatever one does. I imaging when people think of communication they think, "Communication is essential for relating my thoughts and ideas to others," but I doubt that they realize that the definition first says, "the process by which we understand others...," (Vealey, 2005, p.50). When I think of communication, I think about getting the message that I want to convey across to my listeners. I forget, as I assume many do, that one needs to consider the perspective that the listener is coming from. Upon understanding the other, speakers in turn, "endeavor to be understood by them" (Vealey, 2005, p.50). I wonder if more coaches, or people in general, realized the process involved in communication then they would be more intentional and reflective, and thus more effective at having a reciprocal communication system. As Prettyman addressed in her article, "If you beat him, you own him, He's your Bitch: Coaches, Language and Power," "the language that coaches use with student athletes can and does influence the behaviors and attitudes of their athletes" (Prettyman, 2006, p.87). The behavior and attitudes affected include an athlete's performance, but also the values and morals that will direct the rest of the young athlete's lives. Coaches have a lot of power through their language, not just their mouths, but body language as well, to influence the perspective of an athlete.
The pygmalion effect better known as self-fulfilling prophecy is a reality that I recognize in coaching and educational settings (Vealey, 2005, p.52). It is daunting as a coach and a teacher to consider how my pre-judgment can have such an effect on the student-athletes that I will work with. As the textbook recommends, it is essential to have high expectations for all athletes and to assess based on objective measurements, not subjective measurements, in order to avoid bias. I can understand how at a collegiate level, self fulfilled prophecy happens as a result of recruiting. If a coach invests a lot of money on a scholarship for an athlete, they believe that this athlete will have a significant impact on the team. Because of this belief and investment, the coach will pay more attention to this athlete and do everything in his or her power to make the athlete the best they can be. This attention communicates to the athlete that the coach believes in them, and thus the athlete has more confidence and better training, and consequently performs better. Obviously coaches can't offer full rides to every athlete, and has to recruit athletes, but a coach must be very intentional about communicating and expecting that every athlete can progress and seek to facilitate the improvement of all athletes.
After reflecting on communication, I realize that having a solidified coaching philosophy really influences the way in which a coach communicates. Your coaching philosophy will influence how you communicate when you are recruiting, how you communicate to motivate your athletes, and how you interact with your athletes when you address conflict or celebrate growth. For example, if you are a coach with only a focus on winning, you will exclusively look for athletes that are talented. When you recruit, you will sell your program based on how successful the individuals are. Additionally, you will promote competition among individuals so that there is little concern for others. Athletes may feel like you are not being completely honest with them if you are telling each athlete to do what they need to do to be the best they can be despite the good of the team, and therefore you will not be contributing to your "Emotional bank account" (Vealey, 2005, ch.4). In contrast, if you have a balanced coaching perspective in which you base your coaching on optimal performance, development and experience, you will communicate that working hard, having fun, and working together will result in the best performance. This will in turn affect how you communicate when you recruit. You will look at the character of the athlete and how they will fit into the team in addition to their skill. Interestingly, the people you recruit is a way to "communicate" your coaching philosophy. Your actions indeed powerfully communicate your beliefs. When your actions are aligned with what you say, you certainly contribute to your emotional bank account, which in turn will increase your credibility and thus your effectiveness in sharing messages.
Communication must stem from a solid philosophy. It entails talking, but it encompasses all of your actions. It is scary how much potential communication can affect those around you. Although our athletes are not mugs that you pour motivation into, the way we communicate certainly does influence the beliefs and actions of our athletes, as we saw with the middle school athletes at Pottwatamie and Pristine school (Prettyman, 2006). Coaches must consider how what they say and do will affect the near and far future of each of their athletes.

Elizabeth Yetzer

Works Cited
Vealey, R. (2005). Coaching for the Inner Edge. Morgantown, VW: Fitness Information
Prettyman, Sandra. (2006) If you beat him, you own him, he's your bitch. Coaches, Language & Power.