Effective Communication Gets Positive Results — 4 Tips

By Derek Smith, FNF Coaches Contributor

HBO’s NFL training camp series, “Hard Knocks,” documented the Cleveland Browns, losers of 31 games over the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was seen chewing out his players at every opportunity, while head coach Hue Jackson went with a softer approach. Which style is better?

Everyone knows a coach like Williams – the screamer, the yeller, the guy who gets up into a player’s grill and lets him have it.

But, his style is not the only. Other coaches choose to communicate differently.

New England head coach Bill Belichick seems to be the total opposite of Williams – cool, calm, collected.

Both men are obviously comfortable in their own style and have been successful in their own right in professional football.

Yelling and screaming might be considered an extreme form of constructive criticism while a coach who is more cerebral could be more comfortable using affirmation to get his message through to his team.

Dr. Drew Brannon, a sports psychologist from Greenville, S.C., explains the differences in the two forms of communication.

Affirmation is pointing out what is going well or what is working, and identify areas of success and constructive criticism, on the other hand, is highlighting what needs improvement and determining areas of growth.

“Both these ways of doing things have produced results,” Brannon said. “I think the key really is to know your guys.”

Building trust is crucial and it’s important coaches send the message they care, Brannon says.

“If they know you truly care about them you can get them to do almost whatever you want,” he said. “If they don’t trust that you’re for their development then they’re not going to want your feedback. It’s about that coach caring for the player and in ways beyond what he can give him on the field.”

Creating an emotional link, Brannon said, is another way to get the most out of an athlete on your team. Teams that share a common bond seem to work better together.

“I think it helps to connect what they’re doing with something that really matters,” he said. “Ask why this is important to him, what is the purpose. I think the biggest key to the whole dynamic is the nature of the relationship.”

Former Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox holds the dubious record for the most ejections in Major League Baseball history with 161 over his 29 year career. He was known as a manager who would protect his players and stick up for them, even at the risk at being ejected himself.

Brannon says, “If the player knows this guy’s got my back – and he’s demonstrated that over time – that builds a really strong foundation. And as a coach you’ll have a lot more latitude about how you can go about coaching him.”


According to a blog at Hudl.com, here are four ways for coaches to earn a player’s trust:

Create a Culture of Consistency – Remain consistent with your players and with the goals you have established for your program. Instill in your players the core philosophies that will guide the season and stick to these guidelines even when times are tough.

Treat Your Players as Valuable Contributors – Ask your players for their opinions. Try to teach them the why behind your philosophy, and, most importantly, treat them like real people.

Communicate Clearly – In order for your players to fully trust in your philosophies, they need to understand your message. Ensure your players understand their role and responsibilities by speaking to them one on one and then reinforce these ideas during larger group sessions.

Be Accountable – When a team loses, it is never one person’s fault. Your players may feel like their mistakes stood out the most and your fellow coaches may think their position group is to blame, but it’s important to remind them winning and losing is a team effort.

Do you have a thought about this article that you would like to share? If you do, email managing editor Dan Guttenplan at dguttenplan@ae-engine.com. Tweet us @fnfcoaches.