Being able to communicate effectively is probably the most important skill that a coach can have. We are often evaluated on the basis of how well we are able to promote our program through our written and verbal abilities to effectively persuade, explain and inform.
There are several important things that need to be considered if you want to communicate as effectively as possible. For starters, it is critical to consider the setting and your specific audience. Your entire approach, topic and the words you use will be very different, depending on whether you are at a preseason meeting with the parents of school athletes or talking to several of your assistant coaches in your private office or addressing a different audience in another setting. You must tailor your message to your specific audience and consider the setting as well.
Effective communication is a skill that doesn’t come easily or naturally to everyone. Speaking and writing are not natural gifts or innate talents. They are skills that need to be worked on and developed. Coaches and others involved with leadership must have good communication skills and be willing to constantly work at and improve on those skills.
Here are some tips to help you improve your communication skills:
1. Work on being as clear and concise as possible. Your ultimate goal is to communicate in a way that you are easily understood. Keep your verbal and written communication simple, just like newspaper reporters do.
2. Plan and prepare ahead of time, and then practice, practice, practice. This will help to ensure that you say just what you intend to say and increases the chances that you will be well understood as well. Speaking off the cuff or dashing off a first written draft is not ideal and can lead to misunderstanding and confusion.
3. Always proofread your work, or better, get someone else to do it for you. Whether you are working on an important report or writing a draft of a speech, another set of eyes will help to spot mistakes and provide suggestions for ways that your communication can be improved.
4. Whenever possible, be discrete and tactful. Always consider how your audience will react to what you have to say, no matter how straightforward or important the topic may be. It pays to be a diplomat. Whenever possible, try to express you thoughts in the least abrasive, nicest way. No matter what you have to say, you will need to interact with your audience, so consider how your message is most likely to be received.
5. Remember that perceptions vary. We all see and understand issues from our own perspective. An individual’s perceptions are influenced by personal experience, frame of reference, opinions and various other factors. One of the most important things for you to realize if you want to be an effective communicator is that not everyone will see things the same way that you do.
6. Tone is very important. When giving a presentation, make sure you don’t come across as abrasive, angry or condescending. Even if you are addressing a difficult issue or problem that needs to be dealt with head on, try to be as informative, encouraging and positive as possible. If you do need to be critical, make sure it is done in private. In public, try to always be positive.
7. Be sure all your major points are covered. When parts of a message are missing or inadequately covered, misunderstandings are more likely to occur. With complicated issues, do your best to anticipate what questions your audience may have so that you can address them ahead of time in your communication.
8. Try to not make any assumptions. Remember that not everyone will have the same experience or knowledge as you. Before getting to the heart of your message, you may need to offer some background information to help explain the situation.
9. Is this the right time to offer your message? Sometimes it is better to wait to address a certain topic, depending on the circumstances or the mood of your audience. Consider how your message is likely to be received under current conditions. If the timing is not right, then wait for a better time.
10. Make certain you have the correct facts. Inaccurate, misleading or false information will cloud your message and risk your credibility and reputation. Also, be sure to credit any sources that you are drawing on for information to avoid plagiarism and to give credit where credit is due.
11. When appropriate, use humor. Most people love humor, and it when it is used effectively in your communication, it can help make your messages better received and more enjoyable.
12. Expect that not everyone will agree with everything in your presentations. No matter how meticulous and careful you are in crafting your message, you will never have everyone agree with you. Just have realistic expectations while still working as hard as you can to deliver effective and coherent messages.
Although effective communication can be challenging, it is definitely a skill that can be developed and improved upon. If you want to be a successful athletic director, it is critical to your success. If you are willing to constantly develop and work on your communication skills, you can become an effective communicator and very successful athletic director.