On the surface team communication does not seem like it would be a challenge as long as clearly share our vision, pace and priorities with our athletes. In reality, communication is more complex than it appears on the surface. Sometimes people do not comprehend the words you share the same way that you do setting the stage for misaligned expectations and disappointments.
So what can you do to move your athletes to high levels?
Tip 1. Deliver Direct and Specific Messages
Culture develops faster with practice. Try team building activities that focus on being clear and concise in communication. Athletes must learn the importance of not leaving people to guess what they are trying to say, especially in a game.
When you experience any of your athletes not being direct and specific, use this coachable moment to offer feedback and then get back into practice.
Tip 2. Responsibility for Failure to Communicate
Set the expectation that each athlete is 100% responsible for delivering a clear message, so if they think others aren’t getting what they’re saying, they need to say it again or in a different way.
Create ground rules for “how” you will communicate as a team during time-outs and huddles.
Practice a “zero-surprises” policy, by having all team members share important information in a timely way.
Tip3. Listening is the Hardest Part of Communicating
Encourage your athletes to ask questions and share their opinions. Then carefully listen to each other.
Teach your athletes to listen with their eyes as well as their ears. They should pay attention to nonverbal cues. Be respectful. Look the other person in the eye and listen quietly and carefully.
Tip 4. Body Language Matters
Set the expectation that you are evaluating body language and attitude just as much as physical skills.
Lead by example in your own body language. Be composed and upbeat.
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