The July/August issue of Professional Skater magazine had a great article about communication for coaches. Written by Carol Rossignol (see right), head of Education and Accreditation at the Professional Skaters Association (PSA), the article discussed how communication is more than just expressing one's ideas to the student. Communication is also in large part about facial expressions, body language, sensations and other non-verbal cues. I thought the points raised in the article were universal concepts, not just limited to a coach-student relationship. Here is Part I of the article, which talks about positive communication.
(Reprinted with permission from the Professional Skaters Association (PSA) and Carol Rossignol)
by Carol Rossignol
What is the most important role that the coach has in coaching skaters? You probably would respond: "Teaching skating skills." Yes, that is an important part of coaching (teaching) but in order to teach, you must be able to engage effectively (communicate) with your students. Otherwise, learning does not take place. To coach well, you need to be able to communicate well. Coaching is as much an art as it is a science. Communication is more than just talking - it is a people process, a matter of sensitivity and responsiveness. Communication is a skill and meaningful communication can happen only if the wish to communicate is there.
The National Association for Sport and Physical Education, an association of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, has produced a publication, Quality Coaches, Quality Sports: National Standards for Sport Coaches, in which eight domains are identified and used to categorize the standards that reflect the scope of coaching responsibilities. Domain Five is Teaching and Communication.
It is obvious that the coach must teach skills and use appropriate instructional techniques in coaching. But how the coach does this will impact the learning, success and enjoyment of figure skating.
Communication is a continuous process, something you as a coach need to be working on all the time. Be alert to new communication strategies - see what works for other people and find out what works for you. On the other hand, you need to watch for signs that communication is not working and take steps necessary to correct the situation.
WHAT IS COMMUNICATION?
At the basic level, communication is the transfer of information from a sender (such as the coach) to a receiver (skater/student or group), with the information being understood the same by both parties.
Communication, as defined in Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
1. an act or instance of transmitting
2. a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs or behavior
At the PSA Conference, Frankie Perez presented on "Communicating Excellence" in Chicago on Saturday morning. Mr. Perez provided some excellent information and keys to communicating well.
Communication is more than just words. Communication is 7% verbal and 93% non-verbal (facial expressions, body language, voice-tone, smells, taste, sensations, feelings).
It is estimated that it takes FIVE positive statements to counter ONE negative statement. The average child hears 432 negative statements per day but only 32 positive statements per day (Jack Canfield, self-esteem expert). Eighty percent (80%) of people are hurt by words. Research shows that only about 20% of children and adults are able to handle put-downs without emotional pain or psychological damage (California Task Force for Personal and Social Responsibility).
Coaches need to think carefully before they speak, in order to make sure they are providing positive messages and feedback to their students. "Praise to the human being is what sunshine and rain are to the flower."
Communication from the coach should be "consistent, clear, positive, compelling, sensory-rich, and emotionally charged," says Mr. Perez.
- CONSISTENT - Always saying the same thing and making sure that your words match your body language. Saying one thing with your body language that is inconsistent with your words gives a mixed message.
- CLEAR - Use simple, understandable language so there is no room for misunderstanding. Plan ahead so you can organize your thoughts. Keeping it concise and to the point helps as well.
- POSITIVE - People respond far better to positive signals than they do to negative ones and skates are no exception. Be sensitive, tactful, courteous and criticize constructively. Deal with the idea or mistake and not the person.
- COMPELLING - Personalize what you say to help persuade and convince the person to act.
- SENSORY-RICH - Children learn through their senses: touch, sight, smell, taste and hearing. Engage as many senses as you can for learning to take place.
- EMOTIONALLY CHARGED - How you say something (tone), facial expressions, body language and gestures will reinforce the statement you are making.
Effective communication should be used during instruction, as well as during tests and competitions.
Tomorrow...Part II. Practical tips to effective communication.