You may be brilliant at your sport but what are your sports communication skills like? Trying to get your new and exciting basketball drills - or any drill in any sport - across to your athletes needs exceptional communication skills. As sports coaches you have to teach in the wind, rain - and if lucky the hot sun - in the middle of a field or a large sports hall with no white boards or flip charts. The only way you can communicate with your students is by using your voice. You may have the best ideas and the best techniques in the world but if you can't communicate these ideas and techniques clearly to your pupils, no-one will ever know how good you are!
There are two easy ways to improve your communication. Firstly, open your mouth wider so that the sound can come out and secondly direct the sound where you want it to go.
Too many people try to talk with their mouths almost shut. Look at yourself in a mirror as you say, 'I'm too frightened to try and jump that high.'
On the 'i' sounds which sound like 'eye', you should be able to put at least two fingers vertically in your mouth! This will probably feel very strange and if you are speaking to an athlete who is standing next to you, you won't need to open your mouth quite as wide as this. However, if the athlete is standing at the other end of the field or court you will need to open your mouth this wide to let the sound come out.
You wouldn't expect to be able to hit a ball if you didn't move your arm, kick a ball without moving your leg or perform a basketball drill without moving your arms and legs - but hundreds of people try to speak without moving their jaw!The same also applies to the 'ah' sound found in 'car'.
There are plenty of voice exercises which can be practised at home to help with this. Click here for a list of exercises.
Once this sound has managed to get out of your mouth it has to be directed. If you are explaining your basketball drills - or any other instructions - to children make sure that you don't speak over the top of their heads but at the same time don't look down at such at angle that you end up directing your voice straight down at the ground.
If you were playing tennis and wanted to hit a ball crosscourt you wouldn't aim it down the line.
Think of your words as your sports ball - it could be a golf ball, tennis ball or basket ball - just remember to direct them where you want the words to go.
A sports coach is very much like an actor - you might wake up one morning and feel terrible. The last thing you want to do is spend the day demonstrating basketball drills or tennis drills (or anything else even slightly connected to sport!!). However, you have adults and children to coach all day and they're expecting you to be full of enthusiasm about your sport.
You can't expect your athletes to get excited about what they are doing if you sound dull and fed up!
You need to use your voice to make the words sound exciting even if you body isn't quite as 'with it' as it should be!
The show must go on!
When explaining things - this could be football drills, how to hit backhands or basketball drills - to your athletes it's important to pause between points. Give the athletes time to take in what you have just explained to them. When you're playing sport you make good use of the pause - in tennis you hit a winning shot, you pause - get your breath back, let the spectators cheer your fantastic play and give yourself a chance to think about the next point.
The same is true in any sport. When explaining you need to explain and then pause, allowing you to take a breath and think about your next sentence, and giving your athlete time to think about what you've just explained and perhaps ask you a question.
Remember that when you're explaining things only explain one thing at a time, otherwise you'll confuse the athlete. Explaining can also take a lot longer than you first imagine - what seems natural to you is new and complicated to your athletes.
Nearly all coaching courses require the trainee coach to demonstrate their communication skills without showing them how to improve these skills. It can be hard enough having to demonstrate your chosen sports skills - basketball drills etc - without having to shout the instructions in front of a group of strangers!
You need to slow your speech down, open your mouth and remember you do know what you are talking about so just enjoy it. If your enthusiasm shines through your speech your athletes will be only too pleased to perform those (some may call tedious) basketball drills all day long!