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The Importance of Language in Coaching

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A colleague of mine, Colin Bennett shared a recent article around the concepts of Language in Coaching and it reminded me of a previous blog of mine around how use of language is so important in promoting learning and development

As a coach educator, I promote the concept of simple, basic, easy to understand phrases when delivering coaching sessions and when speaking to children. Here are some of my top tips:

  1. Listen to yourself - Have you ever really listened to what you are saying? You may understand what you mean, but do you really? And more crucially, do your players? Always check that your players, and fellow coaches, understand what you mean.
  2. Listen to others – Building on from above, listen to what your coaches and players are saying. It is a great way of checking for understanding, but you may also be confused as to what they are saying. Make sure you check for your own understanding as well their.
  3. Count your words – don’t over talk! You can often get your point across in under 30 seconds, so don’t use 5 minutes to make the same point. Be brief, let them play and if you need to repeat the information, be brief again... and maybe try a different way of explaining.
  4. Count your information – don’t overload the information. Give players a single piece of information to develop at a time. This avoids confusion over your message, and can always be added to when progress is needed. You build a jigsaw piece by piece, and not all at once.
  5. Paint the Picture – do you even need to talk? Demonstration is a great way of sharing information. If you can’t demonstrate the skill, there are lots of ways to show it: for example, the players themselves, video clips. Tell me and I may forget, Show me and I may remember, Involve me and I will understand.
  6. Don’t talk.... – your players may already know it and/or can figure it out by themselves. So why coach something that is already happening? Let them play and set them problems to solve and adapt to.

Obviously, the emphasis on the above points varies from group to group, and with individuals within the groups. It isn’t all about just talking, or just showing or giving the players the opportunity to solve problems on their own, but a balance of them all. The right intervention at the right time will develop players and their understanding.

It would be great to hear of your top tips around the use of language, and how you develop learning and understanding - remember, sharing is caring...just add a comment below!

Jon

If you enjoyed this you can find all my other ConnectedCoaches blogs here.

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Comments (11)

   
CatherineBaker
Great post Jon, communication is so important. When we run our communication and interaction workshops, we find it's the simple things that resonate best. For example, 2 ears, 1 mouth. 'Headlining' - research shows that you have someone's full concentration for no more than 7-10 seconds, before their brains start making connections and slightly tuning out, so we show people how to headline when they speak. And then there's 'chips'.....this goes down well with the businesses we work with as a tool to improve listening. You have say 5 or 10 'chips' for the meeting - so can only make 5 or 10 contributions. This tends to ensure that your contributions are worthwhile, and that you listen more than you speak. If you haven't tried this before, give it a go at your next coaches' meeting.....!
04/03/16
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JonWoodward74
Thanks Catherine - love the 'chips' idea! I will definitely be utilising that...would be interested to see who runs out of chips, and those who don't...

Two ears and one mouth - I use this quite a lot (often with my daughters)

I also use that Silent and Listen use the same letters.....

Have a great day!
04/03/16
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traceyhutch
Great insights, Jon. I also find that if I can use language that appeals to a variety of senses, more learners will easily engage. So, for example 'do you have a grasp of the exercise?', 'when you see the difference that this exercise makes' etc.
08/03/16
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JonWoodward74
Thanks Tracey - excellent points! Engaging the senses is key...
10/03/16
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SarahBennett
Golf has numerous words which if misused can cause vaery different outcomes, here are a couple for you.
"Today we are going to learn the grip" or "Today we are going to learn the hold" In my experience the first statement can give an impression of " tension" before the new player has even started, it is their perception. For those members of Connected Coaches who play golf can appreciate tension is absolutely to be avoided at all costs!
Just a verbalisation with no demonstration on the second phrase below can cause some interesting movements!
" I would like you to focus upon the toe pointing upwards on the backswing" A key word.. Of the club, has been left out with the potential for the new player to be rather confussed!
In a group session I always check for understanding by watching players body language and expressions during the explanation. I am sure most coaches would ask the player (s) upon completion of the session for their summary or one take away point checking their level of comprehension and your delivery skills.
11/03/16
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JonWoodward74
That must be where I have been going wrong with my swing for some many years Sarah.....!

It is a great point about the checking for understanding (in any form) during the session is an excellent one. If you the first instruction/guidance is ms-understoood, then the impact following from this is significant.

The inclusion of the relevant terms and the full terms is massive. Reminds me of the Blackadder Goes Forth sketch where George reads out his statement in court and finishes by saying "Captain Blackadder is completely and utterly guilty" - then turns his paper over a few seconds later and continues "....of nothing more than trying to do his job in very difficult circumstances"
11/03/16
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CatherineBaker
Really useful tips and tools in this thread; thank you. Sarah, the use of words reminded me of the concept of priming and the classic experiment by the psychologist John Bargh. He and his collaborators asked students at New York University – most aged 18-22, to assemble four-word sentences from a set of five words. For one group of students, half the scrambled sentences contained words associated with the elderly, such as Florida, forgetful, bald, grey, or wrinkle. When they had completed that task, the young participants were sent out to do another experiment in the office down the hall. That short walk was what the experiment was about. The researchers unobtrusively measured the time it took people to get from one end of the corridor to the other. As Bargh had predicted, the young people who had fashioned a sentence from the words with an elderly theme walked down the hallway significantly more slowly than the others. The ‘Florida effect’ contains 2 stages of priming – first the set of words primes thoughts of old age, though the word old is never mentioned. Second, these thoughts prime a behaviour, walking slowly, which is associated with old age. All of this happens without any awareness. This research, and other fascinating pieces of research along similar lines, is described in Daniel Kahneman's book Thinking, fast and slow; a great read when you can find the time!
12/03/16
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AndyHolladay

Great post. It's important to think too about how you getting the message across. Is it positive, does it create an opportunity or are you unintentionally creating a block? Can hugely influence performance.

28/10/16
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IanMahoney

number 3 is very important, some of the posts on here are far too long, hasn't the coach got better things to like actually coaching than writing an irrelevant novel. the 30 second rule is discussed in every sports coach UK work shop,

07/02/17
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KateO

Great blog. I have been doing some coach education work and most new coaches 'over talk'. It made me look at my own practice with more scrutiny!
In swimming, with pool noise and fatigue people can only take in one coaching point at a time (if that!)
The demo is king!

14/04/17
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AndyP

I've heard it attributed to Gandhi, but I'm sure many others have said it: 'Speak only if it improves upon the silence.'

There's a lot of truth in that.

18/04/17
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