Using Different Approaches when Communicating

Communication is a fundamental part of coaching and there are a number of different communication styles. Which style a coach uses will largely depend upon their overall coaching style, but will also depend upon the context in which they are communicating.

These styles can be described utilizing the framework of the DISC personal assessment model originally developed by Dr William Marston:

  • Dominance - this is direct and decisive communication. It is typically suited to technical instruction, particularly in a time-sensitive situation (e.g. adjusting team tactics in a game);
  • Steady - this is two-way communication, where the coach asks the athlete questions to guide them, rather than providing direct instructions. This is suitable where there is more time (e.g. developing team rules);
  • Influence - this is energetic, highly interactive and provides motivation to athletes. It is most suited to “non- technical” communication but where a situation calls for high motivation (e.g. half time team talk);
  • Conscientious - this is detailed and well planned and is most suitable where athletes are confident in their ability to execute what is asked of them (e.g. season planning).

Most of all, the coach should respect each athlete. Coaches may feel frustrated when they believe they have explained something several times only to have a player ask a question about that very thing! Perhaps the athlete wasn’t listening, but it is also possible that the coach’s explanation was unclear.

Instead of being frustrated, the coach should be thankful that the athlete has asked the question as the alternative is that the player is unsure but says nothing, which is much more likely to result in something going wrong!

Particularly where the coach feels they have already answered a question, they may use other athletes to answer – asking a teammate “what would you do in that situation?” can result in the team learning from each other. Or, if the teammate also doesn’t know, it may be further evidence that the coach has not communicated their message effectively.