Thursday, September 18, 2008

How to Communicate to the Coach About Playing Time

By Nate Barnett
Playing time is an interesting thing in youth baseball. Somebody is never happy. Players get frustrated if they are not getting field time. Parents become agitated if they are paying money for their son to be on a team but yet he is sitting on the bench more than he is playing. However, when all is said and done, there will always be hitters who sit on the bench. It's a numbers issue since no team can run solely on nine players for an entire season.

Most coaches are fully aware of the playing time issue and do all they can at the younger levels to get all players in the game. But, what is truly frustrating to a head coach or a coaching staff is how most playing time concerns are communicated by players or parents. Because many communication problems spiral out of control and cause more damage to all parties involved, I'd like to explain a few thoughts and guidelines on the topic of communication.

There are essentially three ways to communicate to a coach. The least effective is listed first, and the most effective is listed last.

1. In writing, that is letter format, email, text messaging, instant messaging, etc.
2. Over the phone.
3. In person and face to face.

The reason why written communication is the most insufficient form of communicating emotional concerns is because it's difficult to express emotions in the correct manner. It is tough to make sure that the emotion one felt when writing is read with the same emotion in mind. If an athlete is frustrated when writing the message, it may not be read as a frustrated tone by the coach. He may have interpreted the words as challenging, or argumentative. Therefore, writing should be used (for the most part, not always) when conveying thoughts that are non-emotional.
Phone conversations are much more effective when attempting to communicate issues of emotion. The reason this is the case is because the coach on the other end can hear tones of voice and voice fluctuation. Thoughts and concerns via the phone are far less likely be interpreted incorrectly when compared to written communication.

Lastly, and most effective is face to face communication. While often the most intimidating, talking with a coach in private and without distraction is valuable for a couple reasons. First, a coach can hear tone of voice and read into the emotion being communicated. Secondly, and most important, body language can be displayed. Much of in person communication is performed through body language. Therefore, live conversation is far more effective when issues of emotion at the topic.

In my experience in working with athletes and running baseball teams, many communication problems can be averted if there is open lines of communication between everyone who has a vested interest in the success of the team. Remember, back biting, rumor spreading, and open complaining only does more damage to team chemistry.

Nate Barnett is owner of BMI Baseball, a baseball instruction website. Nate's has written two ebooks on hitting mechanics as well as mental baseball drills to improve performance.

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