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opinion, Strength and Conditioning, training methods

Positive Language in Coaching

One just for the coaches here.

You may have heard of various methods of how you communicate with your athletes. PCP is one of them, and I’m not talking about drugging yourself or your athletes, it stands for Praise Correct Praise. For example if I want to see better technique, or if I have a technical correction I’ll say “That’s good, you’re doing well (praise), just try to get down lower, you’re a little high (correct). Do you feel that? That’s what I want you to do, that’s great work (praise)”. That’s a fairly simple one that many coaches just know intuitively, that they don’t want the message to be about the negative aspect of the correction, they want the conversation to be centred on what the athlete is doing well and for the take home message to be a positive one. Simple enough.

That’s a specific technique and just an example, but I actually want to write about generating a positive environment rather than a few positive phrases. I speak to coaches I work with about this all the time. Travelling from group to group like a coaching hobo, I see a lot of different team environments, and I see negativity and what it can do to a group. There’s a specific case I’m thinking of. Last year I worked with a team who had a good player who while fit and strong, was slow. (Take note of that sentence for later!) The management were keen to get him moving quicker around the pitch since he was a pretty vital cog in their team. We were introduced, and in front of the whole team the manager said:

“This is X, he’s too slow, we need to get him faster”.

Language has a power of it’s own. Look at that statement. If I was the receiver of that message and I wasn’t all that confident in the first place, what I’d hear is “This is X he is too slow” as a message in itself, which kills my current game. Then I’d hear “We NEED to get him faster”, ie. if we don’t get him faster, he’s useless to us. Not just that, but everyone heard it. Everyone else gets “The manager thinks he’s slow”.

Now first of all everyone already knows this guy is slow. He’s slow to the ball in matches, he’s last in sprints in training- this is not a secret, so the manager wasn’t betraying anyone’s confidence, but what he was doing was publicly displaying a lack of confidence in the player and highlighting his weakness in front of everyone else in the side.

That might sound a little dramatic, but enough to make a confident guy less so in one blow, and enough to take a shyer player down a good few pegs. This is what I mean when I say positive environment. A subtle change in language and the way you communicate messages can make a huge difference. Here’s the same sentence rewritten by me for the Hollywood movie of that kid’s life:

“Hey X, come over here I want to speak with you and Barry privately. X is a vital part of the team, but we think he can be faster. I think it would be a great addition to his game”.

It might sound like a self-help book, but when dealing with younger players in particular I think picking your words carefully can be a good way of getting them on board with new ideas.

Just a thought for a Wednesday!

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