December 9, 2008
Winning the Mental Way Part II by Karlene Sugarman
Here is another excerpt from "Winning the Mental Way"…
Ways to improve communication
1. Communicate with each other as individuals - Not as #32, starting shortstop, but by their name. Ask questions about other things besides sports; show an interest in how they are doing, as a person, not just as a player. Say positive things to athletes unrelated to sports as well.
2. Have players give written feedback on coaches in addition to fellow teammates. This can give good information to spur topics at team meetings. This way the coach isn't doing all the talking, the players are saying something as well. Candidly share your point of view and encourage teammates and coaches to do the same. The better the communication, the closer your team will be, and, as a result, the better you will play.
3. You also might want to have players select captains that can best represent their interests and then have weekly meetings with those captains. This will improve the player-coach relationship by gaining the necessary information to keep the team flowing in a positive manner. As a coach, you need to be able to see things from someone else's point of view. Maybe ask your players, "What would you do if you were coach for a week?" Have your captain get written feedback from the players that they can pass on to you - this may give you some insight into your players.
4. It’s important to have periodic team meetings as well, which provide the forum for players to give feedback to their teammates as well as get input from coaches. Keep in mind that, if you do have something critical to say, you do it in the best way possible - so the person hears you and doesn't feel like they are being put on the defensive. It's best to follow this simple rule - the "sandwich technique." Start out by saying something positive to the person ("I've noticed you've been working really hard - that's great."); then move on to your constructive criticism ("One thing that might be helpful is if you . . . ."); and, then finish up with another positive statement ("Keep up the good work - I have a lot of confidence in you."). With this technique, the players will be more receptive to what you have to say.
Exercise #3 - Sit in a circle and say one thing you appreciate about the person on your left. This will open up communication and improve team relations. Do this periodically (i.e., every 3rd team meeting, to help keep the environment positive).
5. Be a good listener:
• Paraphrase for verification/acknowledgement (nod head), this way you can question as well as clarify what you are hearing."What I hear you saying is that . " This will help avoid any misunderstandings and let the other person know that you are actively listening. You have to really concentrate to get the full scope of what the other person is saying.
• Invite the person to open up and say more (expand on thoughts), be encouraging and show empathy.
• Summarize what is being relayed.
• Positively reinforce the fact that the person is expressing their feelings and thoughts to you. This will encourage this behavior to be a regular occurrence.
6. Having an open door policy is crucial - Letting the players know that they can come and talk to the coach about whatever is on their mind (basketball, school, social problems) is very important. Having this open communication will establish a norm that will be conducive to optimal performance. They must be encouraged to openly express ideas and opinions. Questions must be welcomed.
7. Potential problems that may get in the way of you being a good listener are: preparing what you are going to say while the other person is still talking; interrupting to give your opinion, rather than waiting for the person to finish their thought; and listening out of obligation rather than with a desire to really understand what that person is saying and where they are coming from.
Effective communication is the life-line for success in all aspects of your life (Brennan). During the 1996 Summer Olympics, AT&T had a commercial saying, "Because when people communicate, there's no limit to what they can do." This statement sums it up perfectly! There must be a good rapport for there to be successful communication, this means you must feel comfortable going to your coaches and teammates when there is something on your mind, and everyone must constantly be aware of what it means to be a good communicator - being able to say the right thing, at the right time, in the right way. This encompasses being a good listener, good problem solver, and good at giving and receiving feedback - all of the things that were talked about in this chapter.
Check back next week for continuation of this interesting article about preparing yourself mentally to Coach.