EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

6 ways to use words wisely

Communication is critical at all coaching levels. Choosing the right words can engage and motivate your players – just as the wrong words will turn them off. So adopt the language of success…

1 Why “WHY” is bad

Players will become defensive if you start a question with “why?”, such as: “Why did you drop the ball?” It forces them to justify themselves, rather than admit to a mistake or offer a better solution.

Don’t exaggerate

Words like “everyone”, “all”, “always” and “never” can create a block in communication between coach and player, because the statement tends to be dramatic rather than accurate. The listener knows this and won’t listen with the same enthusiasm.

So, often a sentence to encourage the player to hear what you’re saying: “You’re often late for training…” or “Almost all the scrums were poor”.

3 Assume will make an ASS out of U and ME

Before you jump in with a statement, try to establish the facts. You might have missed something that will have a bearing on your conclusion.

For instance, “You three weren’t at training on Thursday and there was no message, so you’ll start on the bench today. We cannot run a team without total commitment and running through the moves.”

Instead, try: “You three weren’t at training and I didn’t get a message. Is there a reason why?” They might have a valid reason, such as that they were delayed at school and asked Jones to pass on the message – and he forgot.

4 Open questions open doors

Using words such as “what”, “how”, “where” and “when” will give you more information and engagement than starting a question with a verb.

“Did you see the space?” would give you the answer yes or no, whereas “Where was the space?” makes the player consider what you mean. He has to think to give an answer.

5 Using “you” can be negative

Research suggests that starting a sentence with the word “you” sounds like you’re accusing someone of something. For example, “You missed too many tackles.” Be more constructive in your statement to help make the player listen, even if it’s criticism. “It would be better if you didn’t miss so many tackles.”

6 Soften the message

Don’t be definitive with your answers. It can turn an opinion into a fact. “That was our poorest session for a while” is pretty direct. So look at softening the message by using expressions like “I think”, “I would” or “I feel”. For example, “I think that was our poorest session for a while. What do you think?”

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