There are lots of good youth hockey coaches out there, but even the best coaches can sometimes lose control over their players and fail to get through to them effectively. When this happens, more often than not it is the result of poor communication between the players and the coach, but it doesn’t have to mean that things have to stay bad. No, there are many ways that coaches can improve their communication skills and thus develop better rapport with their young players.
First things first, it is important to understand that good communication with players stems from a place of trust. Players have to feel like they can trust their coaches to have their best interest at heart and to treat them fairly. Thus, if coaches can gain their players’ trust and respect, they become better, more effective communicators by default.
So, how do coaches earn trust and respect? Well, to start with, they need to share their ideas, feelings, and intentions honestly and openly but in a way that is always constructive and never critical just for the sake of being critical. They need to go out of their way to make their players feel valued and cared about. If they can do that, then their young players will listen to everything they have to say.
Positive communication, thus, is really the key. Positive communication is uplifting, reinforces a job well done, and, above all else, is consistent. A coach can be nice and constructive 95% of the time, but players will remember that 5% of the time they lose their cool or say something hurtful to their players. Thus, coaches have to make it their job to use positive communication at all times, not just when it’s convenient or when they’re having a good day.
Coaches should also be aware that their communication doesn’t just come in the form of verbal communication. Their body language also conveys a message to others. Coaches should be mindful not to show aggression or frustration through their gestures, their facial expressions, or their general posture/stance and body language. Young players are very perceptive, and they will see negative body language if it’s there.
It may seem like coaches are expected to be “perfect” at all times, but this is not the case. They are allowed to get tired or frustrated with their players…but they really shouldn’t make it obvious to them. Coaches need to focus on providing positive feedback and motivating players through constructive words, rather than destructive ones. If they can master this, they can master communication and gain or regain control over their teams.