"The quality of our CULTURE depends on the quality of our RELATIONSHIPS which depends on the quality of our CONVERSATIONS."
Whether we are talking about the culture of our team, or the larger culture in which we live, this statement holds true. Thus, one of the most powerful and practical tools we can teach our athletes is how to be good communicators. In team sports the ability to communicate effectively during competition is critical, and often the determining factor in the outcome. In our locker rooms the communication that takes place will either enhance or undermine all of the work we build in practice and our team activities. In our homes, both scenarios are true...when times get tough and urgent decisions must be made, poor communication leads to mishandled situations; and unhealthy communication will destroy even the best of intentions and efforts. Unhealthy communication ultimately produces losses, dissension among the team, and broken homes.
So how do we build effective communicators? For starters, we must model the kind of communication we want to establish as the norm. How and what we communicate to parents is often the first (and most critical) building block. Communicating clear boundaries and expectations will alleviate countless problems that become pitfalls for building healthy culture.
One of the most effective ways to ways to do this is by being direct and not allowing things to fester. Do not avoid conflict or run away from uncomfortable situations. Step into them with calm, clear communication and purpose for the greater good of the relationships. Healthy relationships lead to healthy cultures. Healthy cultures built on healthy relationships lead to an incredibly powerful united group of people! And as the great Coach Lombardi said, "People who work together will win, whether it is against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society."
In summary: If you want to win (in competition, in building healthy culture, in building good communicators), then you must start by modeling healthy effective communication.
In part II we'll focus on how to build healthy communication skills with your athletes...