Coach Communication Part 4

By Craig Sigl

9) Listen to your players at a deeper level. Let’s put on the table a few human communication tendencies that will be beneficial for you to be aware of for the purpose of improved performance through better communication as a coach.

A. Understand and accept this….most people, in general, are not very good communicators. They say things they don’t mean and they use words that don’t accurately describe what they want to get across. They often speak in line with how they feel AT THE MOMENT which is in direct odds with their greater or longer term goals. They can actually hold a completely different meaning of a word than the person hearing it.
B. The male of our species tends to hear and process words from others much more literally than females (but females do this too).
C. Young people learn quickly, through their past embarrassing experiences with their peers, to not speak up whenever there is a hint of that embarrassment happening again. Without going into it, can you see the potential for all sorts of problems in communication that can occur from just these typical human communication errors? There’s lots more I haven’t even mentioned. All of them have the potential to create long-term destructive beliefs in your players (mostly along the lines of fear of failure and rejection) that trigger nervousness, tension, freezing, timidity etc. at the wrong time and wrong place in their competition, that destroys their performance.

Performance = Potential – Interference

Now that I’ve scared you with all of that, let me give you a secret weapon that can help you navigate all of this like a ph.d. communications expert.

In any communication with your players, or their parents for that matter, you want to hold in your mind this central idea while you are listening to what they have to say:

“What is it that this person REALLY wants and is trying to say?”

In other words, we sometimes call this “reading between the lines.” I could write a book on this but let me give you a typical example:

When you hear a kid say: “It’s just not fun anymore” it’s highly likely that what they are REALLY saying is that I am tired of the pressure and the conflicts.” As a mental toughness trainer having worked with hundreds of kids in person and practicing the skill of listening at a deeper level, I know this is true for most kids. But, even if you didn’t know that, you could ask yourself the key question above and logically conclude that since the sport itself hasn’t changed, that something ELSE has changed to make the experience “Not Fun.”

…and you go from there asking follow up and more probing questions like:

“What do you mean ‘it’s not fun anymore’?”
“When did it start not being fun anymore?”’

In order to go a level deeper into listening to your player or parent to get to the root of the issue.

In simple terms to sum up this tip, have a general rule in mind to NOT take what people say literally unless you are 100% sure. Have your radar up for any time someone communicates something to you in any kind of emotion to trigger you to ask yourself that question:

“What is it that this person REALLY wants and is trying to say?”

10) Do not try to “Motivate” players. Instead, trigger their highest self motivation. One of the biggest problems I hear from coaches is lack of motivation from their players. It shows up in the form of not hustling in practice, lack of focus, too much horse play or joking around.

So what do most coaches do when they run into these problems? Why, they crack the whip, get tough, and enforce consequences to MAKE them do what you want them to do whether it’s in practice or competition. Now, I’m not saying to throw those tactics out, there’s definitely a time and place to use them. However, those tactics tend to be over-used, they usually get short-term compliance at best and, even worse, risk causing interference programs that hinder athletic performance.

(Notice coach how I continually tie my communication advice here back to improved performance because I know that is YOUR self motivation strategy for even reading this!)

There’s another tactic to add to your arsenal.

In my H.S. Coaches Mental Toughness Toolbox program, I teach coaches how to deliver mental toughness to their teams in 8 pre-practice meetings. Meeting #1 is ALL about this tactic here and what it entails is getting each player to specific WHY they are here on this team and what they want to get out of it. Here’s the kicker….you get the players to write this down and sign it! It’s a statement of commitment based on their self motivation! You are going to use this to the max.

You, as the coach, collect these papers and if you don’t memorize them, keep them on your clipboard and you pull them out often and everywhere and use the exact same words they wrote on their papers to help them connect THEIR desires to what is happening in the moment. And then, when appropriate, you re-communicate that connection to the player. It might be in the moment in practice or it might be a 5-minute chat after practice.

Speak in simple terms like:

“Do you remember writing down here that what you want out of this team is to give yourself the best chance at a college scholarship? Why is it that you want that scholarship? Why is that
important to you? Tell me how what I am having us do right now contributes to you getting what you wrote here? Tell me how what you were doing (not doing) is in line with what YOU WANT?”

The reason why this communication technique is so beneficial is because of the fact that kids’ brains are not fully formed until their mid 20’s. And one big part of that functioning that is lacking until then is this concept:

Delayed gratification

No surprise right? The younger the kids are, the more they want instant gratification. Us adults are here to help them bridge that gap until their brain finally forms. So, what happens
is…in the moment of you asking them what they want to get out of playing on this team, they will tell you honestly. But let’s face it, a few weeks later during a boring practice, that moment is completely disconnected in their mind and it’s busy looking for some kind of instant gratification. Our job is to keep them connected to their own longer-term self-declared motivations and the best way to do that is to get them to write them down and you bring it back to them when needed. They can always update their motivation page too which gives them a sense of empowerment that contributes to them owning their confidence. Try this, you will be shocked at how many headaches you will avoid and how much more self-
motivated your players will become, especially in practice and training.

11) Model and teach leadership
When I went to my first “leadership” training, I went in with the impression that I was going to learn how to emulate great people I admired like Bill Gates, Martin Luther King jr. and Queen
Victoria (yep, look her up). I thought I was going to learn how to magically instill a power inside people that would make them want to give up everything and follow me to the ends of the earth to create amazing world discoveries and advances. (a bit of sarcasm intended here).

Boy was I wrong about what leadership meant and that’s where we started with the training.

So what does leadership mean in the context of coaching sports? Well, think about this… as a coach, you already are in a structured position with a group of people who are highly desiring to do whatever you say, so fantasies of what people think “leadership” means are a given in your position. They have volunteered to follow you already! So that’s not what we seek.

What I believe REAL, effective leadership can do for a coach is to evoke an emotional connection to a player that results in a player tapping into a reservoir of energy and determination that would otherwise go unused. Everyone has this “extra gear” as they say and you want that going for you with as many players as you can get it from, right?

How to get it?

Start by redefining what you think leadership is all about and it’s what I learned at my training:

True leadership is turning others into leaders.

This means having in mind your intention to groom everyone on your team to potentially become a leader themselves! With that intention coming from you in all of your communications, your leadership actions and choice of words should naturally follow. You won’t even have to try to remember any specifics like:
a. Be congruent with your teaching anything. Live what you teach.
b. Encourage people to pass on knowledge/assistance to others
c. Teach them to think for themselves in situations and remove barriers to doing that
d. Master your own emotions and show players how to do it. (Leaders don’t just scream at
people to get them to do things for them under penalty of harsh consequences.)
e. Help your players understand what makes people tick so they don’t make up self-destructive
stories and WANT to help/lead others.
f. Leaders inspire and encourage others…

Starting to get the picture here? Leadership is really about teaching others how to be leaders all the way down the organizational pyramid. Even your least-talented player will develop confidence from leading someone at something (even if it’s at home and not about sports) which then translates to overall confidence bleeding into improved sports performance. (bringing it back to your self-motivation to improve performance again!)

Craig Sigl is the Mental Toughness Trainer specializing in youth sports. Visit https://MentalToughnessTrainer.com/coach for FREE tips for coaches to teach mental toughness to their athletes.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: