Building on my last blog related to creating an environment for communication, it is important to establish an expectation of positive communication and interaction among members of your team – players, coaches and parents. In general, there is a tendency to see the things that went wrong rather than what went right. We definitely need to identify areas for improvement but we need to expect a culture of positive communication from those we lead so we can improve in the future. Establishing a positive communication environment is promoted through accepting the differences that people have in their behavioral and motivational styles, abilities on the field, and learning how to modify our approaches accordingly. As coaches, we need to model the behavior we expect from our players and parents.
It is important to set expectations with regard to communication in the context of openness, professionalism, and respect. I try to model this to my players when I communicate what they can expect from me and, in turn, I also communicate what I expect from them. I share my coaching, educational, and/or management philosophy with my players, employees, and/or students. Sharing this with them gives them a better sense for who I am, which helps in the development of trust. For my soccer players and students, I want them to tell me when they are going to miss practice or class. Communication needs to be more than just a text that says, “I will not be at practice (or class).” I expect them to tell me why they are not going to attend. Communication is not just a one-way street – learning to effectively listen and trying to understand the situation from their perspective without being judgmental is critical. Asking them questions to help clarify the situation is important. Through careful listening, I (hopefully) expect them to let me know when and how they are being challenged so I can help.
As part of an open communication policy, I strongly advocate that everyone use the “24-hour rule.” This rule is particularly important when stress and emotions are involved. The purpose of this rule is to delay your communication until you have calmed down, to reduce the chance for an emotional overreaction, and increase the opportunity to more rationally think and communicate about the situation. Waiting 24 hours will increase the probability that you can more clearly communicate your issue in a cool, calm and collected way.