“Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others. If a leader can’t get the message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter.”
Gilbert Amelio, Preseident and CEO of National Semiconductor Corp
Often times us as strength coaches focus all of our attention on technical aspects of our jobs; developing a better training plan, improving their ability to teach/coach a certain lift and things of the like. And for good reason, this is extremely important.
However, as a coach of any kind and at any level your success can hinge on your ability to communicate with your athletes. Being able to communicate your message, have an athlete understand the message and implement that message can be hard at times.
So how can you develop better communication skills? Here are a few quick tips I’ve picked up along the way.
Simplify Your Message
John Wooden was notorious for keeping things extremely simple with his athletes. Wooden was also notorious for coaching quickly using very few words. To communicate well, simplicity and clarity are your best friends. Keep your message short, sweet and to the point. The reality is athletes probably don’t want to spend a ton of time listening to you talk anyway.
Understand Your Audience
Sometimes as coaches we forget who our audience is. Athletes don’t understand all the science terms that we can throw around — and they don’t really care either. Isometrics, eccentrics, periodization, stretch-shortening cycle — they all mean nothing to athletes. Explain to athletes how something will make them better and they’ll buy in. Anything beyond that is a waste of both your time and the athletes time.
This may seem a little outside the box, but as a coach you need to demo as much as possible. We know that most people are visual learners. You can be an incredible communicator, break down every movement and drill that you want the athlete to do in precise terms, and many times athletes will still not do it well or up to your expectations as a coach. When you show them exactly what you want, the majority of the group will do exactly what you showed them. Show them, don’t just tell them.
Be an Active Listener
Listening is an underappreciated aspect of communication. In our world, sometimes our best information will come from your athletes…if you take the time to listen to what they have to say. There is a huge difference between hearing what they have to say and understanding what they have to say. Actively listen and understand what they are say…you’ll learn as much from them as they do you.
Of all the points on this list, this may be the most important of them all. In order to have effective communication with your athletes you need to be approachable at all times. Establish open lines of communication at all times. Ask questions regarding injuries, recovery and other things that they may be dealing with.