One of the (many, many, many) reasons that I do not like the focus on calling on the court is that it, by exclusion, it ignores the impact of all of the other forms of communication that are going on all the time during the course of any team activity (practice, competition, meetings, bus trips). Verbal communication is such a tiny part of total amount of information communicated in any given situation.
One of the most important areas of communication for the coach is the tone with which they speak. Everyone knows the classic joke about the coach that bring their team together in a timeout puts their head in the huddle and shouts ‘You have to relax out there!’ at the top of their lungs. The actual words end up being irrelevant because the tone with which those words are spoken is much more immediate and powerful.
In coaching (as in life) a simple sentence takes on completely different meanings when the tone of the deliverer changes. The same group of words can convey an accusation, a threat, a piece of advice, a level of urgency or positive reinforcement. I have been around plenty of coaches who guarantee that players will not pay attention to them because every piece of feedback is delivered as a challenge or an accusation. I have seen plenty of coaches on TV who shout in timeouts when the team needs to be calm or remain calm when the team needs a greater sense of urgency. And if you add to that milieu that each individual recipient’s perspective changes the meaning then you start to get a feeling for how complicated coaching (and communication) is.
As a rule of thumb, you can say that words transmit information, and tone transmits feelings. So the tone of your words should match the feeling that you want the player to take away. That should be your starting point, then think of the words.
And don’t forget body language has tone too 😉
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