Effective Communication And Managing Expectations In Sports
Undoubtedly, the coach’s ability to manage effective communication and team expectations are two of the most important components to ensure success on the sporting field. However, as important as it is, many coaches and sporting organizations still fail to prioritize communication among their staff and playing groups.
When we think of sports, most people immediately think of professional athletes, but most of those who play sports do it for fun and social interaction rather than money and fame. Regardless of the level of play, communicating effectively and managing team goals and expectations is critical to the success of any team.
Ask any elite coach or manager, and they’ll tell you that sporting organizations that emphasize communication perform better and have a much more cohesive team unit. Subsequently, such teams can overcome challenges and thrive in the face of adversity, while other teams “self-implode.”
By the article’s end, you’ll better understand why effective communication and managing expectations are so important. But more importantly, you’ll learn easy-to-implement strategies to improve these areas and help coaches and players reach their full potential.
Is Sport Communication Different From Workplace Communication?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines communication as “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behaviour.” Sounds like sporting communication to me.
The most common type of communication in an office or workplace setting is verbal and written. Colleagues discuss work projects during team meetings and email each other throughout the week to ensure things are getting done. (I had one colleague who loved Post-it notes, much to the dislike of everyone in the office.)
However, communication in a sporting setting can take different forms. The types of communication used will vary from sport to sport and situation by situation. For instance, in baseball, coaches use signs to communicate with players, while in basketball, coaches can yell, that’s right, yell, from the sidelines to get their message across to players.
When you think about it, though, these “sporting” gestures aren’t too different from those we use on a daily basis, such as waving to someone or giving a friend a nod of appreciation.
Put simply, sporting teams must emphasize effective communication and implement educational strategies to ensure coaches and players have the appropriate skill sets to tackle problems that arise within the team. Whether in the office or the sporting field, effective communication is critical for setting goals and expectations and bolsters team harmony.
What Is the Importance of Communication in Sports?
Sports teams that can effectively communicate with one another have greater levels of cohesiveness and tend to develop stronger bonds. These stronger bonds help teams overcome challenges, especially in times of adversity, such as extended losing streaks or a shock loss.
Coaches aren’t just responsible for implementing practice drills or strategizing a game plan for (hopefully winning) a series of tournaments; they are also responsible for creating an environment where players are encouraged to communicate positively.
What Makes a Sports Coach a Good Communicator?
- Great listeners (remember, communication runs both ways).
- Personable and trustworthy.
- Open to new ideas and non-judgemental.
- Leads healthy discussions among team member.
- Adapts communication style to athletes’ ages.
Applications That Help Coaches With Communication
Sharing feedback with players can significantly enhance your program while contributing to your overall player development. I’m not just talking about verbal communication. Today, coaches have access to a variety of tools that can significantly improve overall player development and feedback.
When focused on player evaluations specifically, there are 3 major problems that really stood out to us.
- Athletes almost never received any formal feedback on their performance after an evaluation
- Coaches spend countless hours doing data entry into spreadsheets to try and make sense of the data
- Parents are often unsatisfied with the justification for the placement decision of their kids and very seldom receive information to help understand what their child needs to work on and develop
It all comes down to information. A coach’s time is already spread thinly that they rarely have the time to reformat information in a spreadsheet, let alone share a format consumable for each athlete. As a result, the athlete and his/her parents never understand WHY they didn’t make the top team, or what areas they need to work on the most.
Today we can solve common headaches with evaluations and provide players better feedback than ever before. Having the evaluators gather information through the SkillShark app or website simplifies everything to the point that the young athlete can now receive a player report card on their performance before they even have their cleats off. A coach can spend time analyzing results and historical player trends instead of doing days of data entry. Lastly, parents can finally have a clear indication of what their child needs to work on in order to be considered for the top team next year.
Easily Analyze Data & Share Reports
Using applications like SkillShark help you gain a deeper understanding of your players while providing the feedback they need to move forward.
Player Report Cards
Instantly view or send individual player reports after each evaluation. You can easily customize the data you want displayed, and attach your club logo to each report!
Player analytics will be one of your strongest assets when it comes to developing players. With SkillShark, you can easily compare players and use historical data to track player progress.
The Role of Communication in Sports Management
Sports managers act as the primary link between the board and the head coach, helping to keep operations in check. Empathy, patience, active listening, and clarity are key characteristics needed for effective communication between both parties.
Sports administrators also play critical roles in other areas that demand high levels of communication skills, such as:
- Managing and coordinating events
- Booking travel and accommodation
- Liaising with relevant stakeholders
- Scouting and human resources
- Conflict resolution
TeamSnap is a great application to help with sports management. As a coach, registration, and team management are important for organizing your season, and more often than not, this process can be quite tedious. Team Snap makes it easier to organize your season and will take care of everything from scheduling to attendance and communication.
League and team administrators can easily access registration, payments, communication, scheduling, and reporting to bring you a true all-in-one club solution. With the next evolution of TeamSnap for Clubs & Leagues, you have everything you need to manage your clubs and teams in a solution your administrators, coaches, managers, and parents will love to use.
How to Set Expectations for Elite Sporting Teams
Many rookie coaches make the mistake of thinking that their players and coaching staff know exactly what is expected of them. But truth be told, players and staff can be left in the dark without clearly defined expectations and objectives.
As a coach, it’s your role to communicate these expectations. Remember, people are not “mindreaders.” Let’s take a look at three components that are vital when it comes to setting expectations in a sporting environment.
Clearly define your expectations
Ensuring your goals and expectations are clearly defined is the most critical component when setting expectations. Many coaches find that instead of focusing on defining the expectation, it’s better to define the behaviors “expected” to achieve those expectations.
Writing down your expectations is one of the best ways to communicate your goal, objectives, and expectations to your players and coaching staff. This way, there can be no ambiguity when evaluating athlete and coaching performances.
Schedule team meetings to communicate expectations
Scheduling regular team meetings is another critical component of the expectation puzzle. During team meetings, try to provide players and coaching staff with as many examples as possible to help them grasp and gauge exactly what is being communicated and, more importantly, what is expected.
Team meetings also present the perfect opportunity for players to ask questions and give feedback to the coach. Remember, what one thing means to one player might mean something entirely different to another, and team meetings provide the ideal place to clear those discrepancies up.
Reinforce your expectations
Finally, the best coaches in the world continually reinforce their expectations and lead by example. When athletes, parents, and coaching staff see you as the coach “practicing what you preach,” it makes it much easier for the entire organization to “buy into” your coaching philosophy, goals, and objectives.
Effective communication and managing expectations go hand-in-hand and are critical to the success of any sporting team, regardless of the level. Make sure your expectations are clear, well-defined, and unambiguous. Stick to these fundamentals, and you’ll be well on your way to getting the most out of your athletes and the wider sporting organization
Interested in learning more?
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FAQ – Effective Communication and Managing Expectations In Sports
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If you’re a coach, you need to take advantage of SkillShark. I’ve been coaching softball for more than 20 years and SkillShark is by far the most convenient and effective evaluation tool on the market.
Head Coach – Cougars
If it wasn’t for SkillShark I wouldn’t be able to rank my players and give them the feedback they need to move forward.
Founder and Coach
In the past, we used pen & paper to evaluate athletes. This process was messy and made it so challenging to compile all the data. Now that we use SkillShark, we have streamlined everything, and immediately know who our top picks are for the upcoming season.
Youth Hockey Coach