The Name Of The Game: Communication


By Shaleek Blackburn

According to Bill Cunerty, Philosophy of Coaching professor of the MCAA program, great communication is the bridge that links ideas, plans, goals and dreams to practical execution and the successful completion of a task. “There are many forms of verbal and kinesthetic communication that take place in our everyday lives,” says Cunerty. “The methods for delivering messages are as varied as your imagination.”

In the coaching and athletic administration field, communication is always a two-way street, asserts Cunerty. “As coaches, we hope the information we give to student athletes is disseminated correctly and in a positive manner.” The best way to do that, suggests Cunerty, is to “sandwich criticism between two praises.” Throughout his 44-year teaching and coaching career, Cunerty says he found that his messages were accepted more easily with this approach. “If I said to a player, ‘gosh I love your hustle and energy, but we really need to work more on your technique,’ although I critiqued him, by sandwiching the criticism between two praises, I took away the edge."

Cunerty says coaches today should try a mix of methods to establish open, respectful and positive communication between teachers, coaches, parents and players. One thing coaches should not do, advises Cunerty, is attempt to fit in with their players. “Don’t try to use their vernacular just so you look cool. If you’re the authority figure, be you.” “Kids will appreciate that in the long run,” says Cunerty.

To strengthen communication skills, coaches should take time to “act out” situations with their staff to get a firm grip on how to respond to potential on and off field problems. Executing this strategy will ensure athletic leaders can learn how to practice putting a positive spin on their communication process, asserts Cunerty.

Through it all, coaches should remember the key point of communication in sports: safeguarding the self-esteem of student athletes. “You can crush or elevate a kid with the words you choose," says Cunerty. "When something happens, give yourself a couple seconds to gather your thoughts so you don't say somehting out of emotion that might be misconstrued."

3 Tips For Becoming A Great Communicator

Listen Up

You have two ears and one mouth. Use them wisely.

Stay Off the Rumor Mill

Innuendo and gossip destroy credibility. If you are not certain about facts, remain silent.

Skip Email

Face-to-face communication is always better. Have the courage to present your information in person so you can get instant feedback and work to achieve a mutual understanding. Also, use words that define, explain and encourage.

Tags: coaching, leadership, communication

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