One of the purposes in my own practice is improving coach player relationship. Mainly because I rarely ever had a good coach player relationship myself. Its a sad reality for most young athletes who’s careers hang on these relationships. Many talented young athletes have lost interest in growing their talent due to a coach who turned their thrill of playing baseball into a nightmare or a frustrating mess.
I am sure most baseball players have had this experience. I moved around to three different colleges due to my injury and also trying to find a coach who was willing to build a healthy relationship with me for my recovery. Still today my best coach player relationship was in high school. I truly believe if I would have continued to have a coach player relationship like I had in high school, I would have had even more success in my career.
In this article, I will breakdown the importance of improving coach player relationship with guidelines on how to build it correctly. I will also talk about how important it is for rehabilitating athletes post injury and what to do with challenging coach player relationships.
The Coaches Role of Communication with Player
Unfortunately, in the game of baseball, communication on the field is given much more attention than in the training room. Coaches are some of the worst but also the best communicators in the world. The problem is the worst seriously outweigh the best. Coaching tends to attract, like Medical Doctors, those who want to put themselves into a position of authority. Many of them are on power trips which couldn’t be farther from what the job demands daily.
It is the job of a Coach, Doctor, Fitness Instructor or Health Care Professional to be in the business of customer service. Problem is, Coaches find coaching as another opportunity to continue the player lifestyle. The moment a player or a person makes the decision to become a coach or a fitness instructor they must put themselves after their players or clients. This is critical for not only their careers but the success of their players or clients.
Here are some common pitfalls and guidelines of improving coach player relationship. This information is for medical professionals but can easily be applied to fitness and sports (Wood, 2013):
- Not listening intently
- Think before you speak; try to understand your patient’s issues
- Keep spontaneous rather than to a formula
- Avoid being over-tired or stressed (a therapist who is tired from a heavy case-load will be quick to respond and could react in a more confrontational manner)
- Do not talk in medical jargon or overuse abbreviations; tailor your language to meet your patient’s understanding
- Do not pre-judge your patient or jump quickly to a diagnosis; develop empathy towards your patients and show respect
- Limit the amount of information, so your patient will recall the salient points after their appointment
- Actively include patients in the discussion of their treatment options and management of their condition.
Is Baseball Improving Coach Player Relationship
It is truly unfortunate the lack of emphasis on communication in baseball for improving coach player relationship. Most Coaches seem either bitter from their playing days of not reaching the level of play they expected or over playing the role of the hard-nosed coach because they are not confident in their own abilities to hold the position. Either way it is the worst persona for a coach to have whose job is to help a player get better.
It gives the impression that the better coaches are poor communicators. The only way this is even possible for these coaches to have success is if they are just great recruiters. Outside of recruiting, communication is critical for coaches to be successful. It’s the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” I would like to see the Major League Baseball (MLB) highlight positive coach player relationship more often so it would trickle down to the lower levels and become more popular for coaches to communicate with their players. This would have a dramatic effect on not just the players in the game but I would bet the injury rate which in baseball has become an epidemic.
Quality of Communication in Coach Player Relationship
The quality of communication is most important when working with a troubled athlete for a coach. For example, an athlete that has gone through a traumatic injury to the point of career ending is in a very vulnerable place in their life. I have worked with several MLB pitchers who have come to me in this situation. They usually screen me extensively to make sure I have the expertise and their best interest at heart to help them at this point in their life. Reinjury anxiety is one of the most common psychological reactions experienced by injured athletes (Tripp, Ebel-Lam, Stanish, Brewer, & Birchard J, 2007). I have experienced this first hand with my own almost career ending injury and with many of my clients. The emotions they go through is frustration, depression and anger. You must become a life coach more than just a coach at this point in someone’s career and the only difference between the two is a coach must be a communicator when working on their skill but the life coach must be the communicator with them all the time. You must support them not just on the field but mostly off the field in their personal life.
This isn’t just my opinion on how to treat injured athletes. We have several studies on psychological intervention for injured athletes that show a benefit in their behavior and success. Here are some of the outcome measures reported (Laura, Reese, Pittsinger, & Yang, 2012):
- Reduction in psychological consequences including decreased anxiety and feelings of devastation, restlessness, and dispiritedness;
- Increase in psychological coping including improved mood, self-efficacy, and psychological flexibility;
- Reduction in re-injury anxiety.
It is so much more fulfilling to help an athlete in their career and their life than just being a coach for their skill. I have remained very close friends with those I have had this experience with.
Using Science in Improving Coach Player Relationship
If you are a coach, when it comes to the role of communication in incorporating science into your practice, you must make sure you know your clients level of education. Some people can handle a lot of information but most cannot. In my practice, I have structured my business model where I only have a short amount of time with most of my clients. I chose to dump everything I have on them when they arrive but to prevent losing them, I give them a simple calendar training system to follow when they leave. I tell them all this information is documented for you to re learn in my training course. So, what they missed or lost in my time with them can be relearned in the material.
I try to relieve their anxiety of information overload with helping them remember the core principles then educating them on the drip method which is informing them to read every day or watch a small piece of information and soon they will have a good understanding of the process and begin to have success.
Challenges of Improving Coach Player Relationship
The most advanced level of communication is when you are dealing with a person who has been traumatized or who is a poor communicator themselves. If an athlete is struggling to communicate then it is critical for a coach to become more of a listener than a teacher. Recognizing nonverbal cues is vital for a coach to help an athlete disclose their burdens in training or life to set them free. My undergraduate degree was in Art Therapy which is one of many approaches to therapy through nonverbal communication. Basically, it is the art of diagnosing the psychology of a patient without dialogue.
If more coaches saw value in helping their players reach success with better communication skills, then we would have healthier successful athletes in this world. Some of our biggest public figures in society or athletes and the stereotypes of athletes even today are that of poor communicators and ego driven personalities.
I don’t expect society to demand more communication from their coaches and athletes but I do expect coaches and athletes to demand more ability to communicate for themselves. In my book, it’s called being a good human being when you have developed the skill of communication.
- Wood, L. (2013). Effective patient communication. SportEX Dynamics, 36, 22-26.
- Tripp DA, Ebel-Lam A, Stanish W, Brewer BW, Birchard J. (2007). Fear of reinjury, negative affect, and catastrophizing predicting return to sport in recreational athletes with anterior cruciate ligament injuries at one year postsurgery. Rehabil Psychol; 52(1):74-81.
- Laura, M, Reese, S, Pittsinger, R, Yang, J. (2012). Effectiveness of psychological intervention following sport injury. Journal of Sport and Health Science, Volume 1, Pages 71-79.