Is What You Said, What They Heard?

In every interaction there is what was said and what was heard; and they aren’t always they same thing. Who’s job is it to make sure that communication and understanding mesh? Does that burden fall on the communicator or the receiver? The coach or the athlete? The answer? Both.

Are you a YELLER and TELLER? You’re athletes may not know what you REALLY want!


Your communications must be purposeful and deliberate to have an impact in actions. How so we achieve this?

  1. Have a clear objective for the outcome of the interaction. What are you trying to achieve with your cuing, drill or exercise?
  2. Use concise language which matches your athlete’s knowledge base. Visual cues (video, demonstrate) are a good way to bridge vocabulary gaps.
  3. Don’t assume understanding. Even on the most basic of tasks be sure to obtain confirmation that you are on the same page.
  4. Encourage and be open to follow-up questions.


Communication is a two way street.

  1. The first line of defense is active listening. Eyes up and free of distractions.
  2. Ask questions where they arise. Not just how, but why? The deeper your understanding of a drill or exercise, the more you will get out of it.

The key to effective practice, whether in the gym or on the ice/field/court is communication. Coaches, it starts with you, even before you say it. Is the environment one that facilitates open exchange of ideas, do you have a clear understanding of what you are trying to accomplish and do you know how to effectively express that expectation? If you don’t have those two pieces in place, the most spectacular program design means nothing.

There's always what was said and what was heard

The athlete has a role, but in the end it’s up to the coach to adapt to the players needs. If someone doesn’t know what to do, guess who’s to blame?

Practice effective, active communication with your athlete’s and watch them become empowered!

Thanks for reading. Please share and provide feedback. Let’s keep this conversation going!

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