Improving your Communication

All great coaches strive continuously to perfect their coaching style and effectiveness. Nowadays, simply planning and presenting practice sessions is not, in itself, sufficient, so to be a terrific coach, you need to refine your communication skills and learn how to make a real impact on your players and staff. Speaking to them with a purpose in mind is required, but the manner in which you deliver messages can sometimes be even more powerful than the words themselves. Proper delivery will ensure that your intended lessons will be received, appreciated and put into correct action.

To be the coach you want to be, it is vital that you study the game of Basketball itself thoroughly. And you must do more than just be a spectator, workshop attendee or researcher. In fact, you also need to engage in constant self-evaluation to keep improving yourself. Try to take feedback and criticism seriously, and don’t allow yourself to be blind to things you may not want to admit to yourself.

Though there is nothing wrong with you having a distinct coaching style, adhering to certainly universal truths will help you be a more effective coach to players of all levels.

If you are to be a truly successful and effective coach, you must earn the attention of your team members. Therefore, when you begin to articulate the message you want to convey, make certain that the players stop, look in your direction and listen. Though doing these things may sometimes be a challenge for excitable athletes, it is important, so they understand and fully absorb your instructions. After stopping a drill, giving the signal for the players to stop and listen to you, wait a moment until you have their full attention. You can work on making this process happen at a faster rate, but the key is to avoid having to repeat yourself again and again.

As a coach, you must be willing to make strong eye contact with the players and staff you are trying to reach. Eye contact communicates your seriousness when conveying messages to players and reinforces the need for them to pay attention. It also allows you to gauge better a player’s understanding of what is being said. If you are speaking to a player and he seems to gaze away, you may need to restate your point so that he better understands.

Get past any feelings of awkwardness that intense eye contact may initially cause, if you are to improve your skills as a coach. You are not trying to frighten the players, but rather emphasize the need for complete concentration.

Always make certain that your players are truly hearing and internalizing your statements, not just „processing“ the sound of your voice. It is easy for coaches to get comfortable with their knowledge base, lessons, and mode of speaking. But, individual players may listen differently and may not always pick up on the points we feel are most critical, because everyone puts their spin on what they hear.

If you are lucky and have a consistent set of players over multiple years, communication gets easier, but if you aren’t, you have to demand attention to your clearly conveyed message. Seek confirmation that your intended points have been understood and that emphasis is being placed on key facets of your points. You can do this by asking pointed questions of players or calling on individuals to demonstrate what you said. This process facilitates open, effective communication and, of course, better coaching.

In fact, many players will be even more attentive than ever to avoid the embarrassment of being called on and not knowing what to say.

Try to convey each message with no more than three key points. Doing things in threes can be extremely effective because many people have trouble recalling more than three main points before focus wanes and comprehension begins to lag. Others may have the ability to remember upwards of seven key points. Somewhere in the middle is the majority of players, who do best with five points. To make certain that you are working effectively with the largest number of players, stick with three points in total. You will be sure that everyone on your team can retain the main points you wished to make and will be more likely to implement them successfully in practice and on the court.

Paying attention to space immediately around you is essential if you are to keep distractions at bay and provide effective on-court guidance. Certain coaches like to send players to the sidelines with feet touching the lines. That keeps them facing the coach directly. Several methods exist for keeping your players focused on your visual demonstrations but try to ensure that you can see their entire bodies. Do not allow them to hide behind others or peek around teammates.

If you regularly coach outdoors, make certain your team has their backs to the sun whenever you are involved in a demonstration. Too many coaches stop practice to make a point through visual instruction only to have everyone staring into the sunlight. Under such circumstances, they will be unlikely to appreciate the point that is being made because they are simply too uncomfortable squinting into the sun.

The above pointers will surely help you be better at coaching, but they are not intended to be a panacea. Following them will help you communicate more directly and efficiently with your team, making certain that they understand what you are trying to say. To get the most out of these coaching strategies, consider engaging in a third-party review of your training or practice sessions from time to time so that you can get an outsider’s impression of how successful your methodology is. Feedback from others is an often overlooked, but an exceedingly valuable tool for every coach who wishes to improve. While it can be uncomfortable to hear critiques from others, doing so will give you the tools necessary to continuously improve yourself, the experiences of your team members and likely the results you achieve on the court.

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