Player Development

7 Tips to Strengthen Player-Coach Relationships

Communication can be difficult in sports, especially in any player-coach relationship. These seven tips are sure to help.

by Griffin Lloyd

Former college athlete and video editor. Current content creator, sports enthusiast and dog dad.

One of the keys to success on the field is clear communication with your players. As a coach, it’s your job to find ways to communicate more effectively with your team to ensure they understand your expectations and goals for them. This also helps maintain a fluid, positive relationship with each player, which is necessary to foster a promising season with any team. While it can be difficult to apply a one size fits all approach to communicating with your team, here are seven tips to better your approach:

  1. Create goals
  2. Use Video
  3. Pay attention to body language
  4. Talk with your players, not to your players
  5. Listen more
  6. Repeat important messages
  7. Be honest but encouraging

Create goals

A coach is responsible for leading the team, and the player is responsible for executing the game plan, which means everyone needs to be on the same page to succeed. However, achieving strong communication isn’t always easy. One way to improve communication is by establishing individual and team goals before the season. At the start of the season, sit down with each individual and find out what they want out of this season – knowing each player’s goals will allow you to maintain a relationship with them and encourage them to stay accountable to hit those targets. Coaches and players will develop a sense of unity and collaboration with established goals. When everyone is working towards a shared goal, it’s easier to have open and honest communication.

Use video

Coaches need to be able to communicate their ideas clearly to players. Using video is one way to do that. Video can provide new insight and perspective for both coaches and players. For coaches, video can be a helpful way to review plays and strategies with their team. They can quickly identify areas where players need improvement and offer suggestions to correct problems. They say video never lies – which is true, and why it establishes reality of when occurred on the field. This allows players to see things from your perspective off the field and begin visualizing what went right or what could have been. Reviewing game film as a team is also a great bonding experience, and is easy to incorporate a few minutes before practice each week. It’s even easier with an automated camera system like Trace, which offers the ability to automatically record, edit and deliver every moment in the form of a playlist after the game. With simple link-sharing and a cloud-based platform, showing and sharing video has never been easier – allowing you to communicate teaching points from every game with your team easily.

Pay attention to body language

When coaching, you must be aware of non-verbal signals. Are you crossing your arms or scowling too often? This can give the impression that you’re disappointed or frustrated. If you maintain eye contact and approach with an open stance, you’ll come across as confident and engaged. It’s no different with your players. Notice the small details, such as slouching or avoiding eye contact. Pay attention to positive and negative signals so that you can be proactive rather than reactive and address necessary feelings. Being mindful of the non-verbal messages you’re sending can help improve communication and create a more positive and productive environment for everyone involved.

Talk with your players, not to your players

Too often, coaches rely on barking orders at their players in an effort to get them to take action. But this approach often backfires, causing players to feel discouraged or disrespected. A better approach is to talk with your players instead of talking to them. This shows that you respect them as individuals and are willing to discuss what needs to be done on the field. It also levels the playing field, so to speak, making it clear that you’re all working together as one team. This type of communication can go a long way toward developing trust and rapport between a coach and their players and usually leads to better performance on the field.

Listen more

Listening is a critical skill among all leaders. If you’re beginning to hear that several of your players are tired after a long weekend on the road, maybe it’s time for a recovery day. Use that training day to strengthen another skillset and schedule a film session or soccer tennis tournament. As a result, your players will feel rested and understood – ready to hit the ground running the rest of the week. When you show you want what’s best for them, it demonstrates that you care and that mutual respect can make a world of difference.

Repeat important messages

Players have a limited attention span and may not always be ready to receive a particular message. By repeating important messages, coaches can ensure that players eventually hear and internalize what they’re trying to say. Of course, there’s a fine line between repeating a message and it becoming too repetitive. As long as coaches strike the right balance, repetition can be an effective way to get their point across.

Provide honest but encouraging feedback

Feedback is integral in a relationship between a coach and a player. Honesty is vital to maintaining trust, but it’s equally important to remain encouraging to promote player development. It can be difficult to find the right balance, but being honest and optimistic shows that you care about your players and the team’s growth and want what’s best for them. This level of honesty can help build faith between the group and encourage each individual to continue working to reach their potential.

The player-coach relationship is a unique one. It can be a challenge to communicate effectively, but with these tips you can overcome any communication barriers. Remember to stay positive, be clear and concise, and listen actively. With these techniques, you can create a successful and productive working relationship with any player.

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