How to improve communication with your players
Effective interaction is an essential part of coaching. In this article, we explore 10 ways to improve your skills.
Communications and relationships
1. Take your time
Before communicating, make sure you know what you want to say. This might mean you need to take a brief pause, but it'll help you deliver the right message.
2. Outline your plan
It's important to let your team know what's going on. For example, at the start of each session, explain:
- what activities you'll tackle
- when breaks will happen
- when they'll get to play a game.
On matchday, outline:
- your starting team
- when you'll make substitutions
- how you'll communicate from the touchline.
These steps help to avoid surprises and create a calm environment.
3. Recognise your bias
Do you prefer to give guidance using the spoken word? You're not alone, but this actually a type of communication bias.
Try to recognise that other people may like to communicate in different ways, e.g. non-verbally. And make time to discuss your team’s preferences.
4. Consider individual players
During communication, the most important person is the 'receiver' of the information. In this instance, that's your players. So, to help them make the most of your messages, it's important to consider their needs. For example, if your keeper has a short attention span, can you adapt your explanation to make things simpler?
5. Be consistent
For maximum impact, use consistent language, ideas and challenges. Then, build on these messages each week. As part of this approach, you could develop a 'team script'. This should include any important words and phrases that form part of your coaching philosophy. Making sure players understand this information is a basis for effective communication.
6. Sell the session
Don't assume players understand how your carefully planned training links to 'real' football. You need to sell the benefits of your session and explain why you do what you do. This can help improve both your players' motivation and their learning.
7. Reframe matchday
We often see matchday as the end of the coaching week – and our moment in the spotlight. Unfortunately, this can cause undesirable shifts in behaviour.
To help avoid this problem, try the following:
- Reframe matchday as the middle of your week.
- Before the game, use your session(s) to work on development.
- After the game, use your session(s) to consolidate and reflect.
This can create a more consistent coaching approach.
8. Support creativity
Encouraging players to be creative allows them to test – and develop –their skills. So, if you see a player experimenting or doing something new, acknowledge the behaviour and reinforce it with praise.
9. Explain why
Young players are very aware of how you treat them – which makes explaining your decisions incredibly important. This is especially true if your actions (e.g. making a substitution) could prompt a negative emotion.
To help manage this, try adding 'because' to your communication. For example, "I'm substituting you because it allows me to give everyone equal playing time".
10. Finish positively
As a coach, part of your role is to help players make sense of their experiences. So, whether you're winding up a session or leaving a match, make time to debrief your team. Discuss what went well and what could be better next time. And, whatever the resuwilt, always finish on a positive note.