Coach Communication + The Importance Of Relationships

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Patrick Nolan

Patrick Nolan grew up just outside of Chicago, Illinois where he was a three sport athlete competing in football, baseball and hockey.  He then attended Florida State University where he played club hockey and earned his B.S. in Exercise Science in 2013.  

Before moving to Denver, he worked as a sports performance coach at TCBoost Sports Performance in Northbrook, IL along with being the head strength and conditioning coach at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, IL.  

Along with working at Landow Performance, Patrick is also the head strength and conditioning coach at Ponderosa High School in Parker, CO.  He is also currently serving as the Colorado State Director for the National High School Strength Coach Association (NHSSCA).

Patrick has worked with hundreds of athletes ranging from 10 years old to professional athletes.  He has worked with athletes that have gone on to earn NCAA D1 scholarships along with athletes participating in the NFL Scouting Combine.  Patrick is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Patrick has also completed all three phases of EXOS Sports Performance Mentorship in San Diego, CA and is a certified EXOS Performance Specialist (XPS).   Patrick also holds his Level 1 certification in Functional Movement Screen (FMS).

If Patrick, is not training athletes, he is probably out playing a sport himself.

Communication is everything when it comes to building a culture.  Lack of communication between anyone in the chain is a kink in the armor, ultimately leading to a dysfunctional culture that tolerates harmful behavior.  Communication lines need to be clear along all channels – from the head coach to the assistant coaches, to the captains and leaders, all the way down to the last player on the totem pole.

Effective communication is best exemplified by the school game “telephone.” Is the message repeated correctly down the line or has it been altered?  In order to be successful in “telephone” the message must be consistent throughout, which means the message must be simple enough to grasp, and everyone had better listen. Keep it simple, keep it consistent, and listen!

Communication needs to be simple. Whether you are communicating core values, a slogan, a practice plan or directions about an event, the message needs to be simple.  Think in terms of your athletes and what the high school brain can handle. Then think about all the other external and internal factors affecting that athlete such as lack of sleep or self-confidence issues.  If you can make the message simple for your athletes, they will understand it better, which creates buy-in, which ultimately leads to a desired culture. If your culture is in disarray, it’s because the message from the top wasn’t simple and clear.

Your message also needs to be consistent.  What message are you verbally conveying and is it consistent with your actions?  By message I mean what are you ultimately trying to pass down to your athletes? If I want to communicate with all my athletes that I want them on time, prepared and to work hard – guess what?  I need to be always on time, always prepared and always out-working everyone else on a daily basis. If I consistently do those three things, the message is simple and will be communicated clearly to my athletes. On the other hand, if I stress to my athletes to be hard working, full of energy and good citizens but I’m always tired, lazy and absent at community service events, that becomes a complex message to the athlete. The athlete concludes it must not really matter because it doesn’t seem to matter to the coach.

“The best leaders are the best listeners” – Jeremey Boone.

When we think of communication, we often think of the leader doing the communicating.  But communication is two-way street. In order to improve communication, you must work on your listening skills.  Patience is one key to improved listening skills. If you want your athletes to hear you, you must be able to hear them and truly sit down and listen with no distractions.  Personally, I think it’s a bad day when I don’t have an athlete come and talk to me in a one-on-one situation. That is because I have built trust in my athletes that I have patience. I will stop what I am doing and listen to everything they have to say – whether it’s an issue with a teammate, an exercise they are not comfortable with, or they broke up with their boyfriend/girlfriend.  Whether it’s a hard-nosed, tough-shelled athlete or a freely-spoken athlete, they will gravitate to you if you honestly show you are willing to listen. And after each occasion with an athlete, the communication will improve not just between you and the athlete, but between you and your team/class/school etc.

As you work with your high school athletes, always remember to keep your messages simple, consistent and be the best listener your athletes can possibly have.  If you master those three objectives, communication along all lines will improve, the culture created will be a positive one, and the relationships built will last a lot longer than just four years.

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