Coaching Advice: Failed Communication

Seeing as we do it every day, most people consider themselves experts in communication.

But, here lies the problem with instructional communication. It’s not just about what you see or hear – it’s what you remember.

The greatest problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished

This is of significant importance to coaches – only the information that our athletes retain is of any use to them.

The best way to get retention is:

A) Repetition

B) Giving information in digestible chunks

C) Having the athlete think for themselves

D) Give the same message in a variety of different ways.

We want to achieve learning that’s ‘sticky’.

If you’ve ever driven near a school in the UK or through construction areas, you’ll notice a variety of different ways of communicating that you should be driving at an appropriate speed. These are often emotive and frightening, and as a result, stick with you.

Here are some examples:

‘My Daddy works here, please slow down.’

‘Kill your speed before your speed kills.’

’50 accidents were reported here in the last 12 months.’

‘Children play here. Slow down.’

‘There’s no need for speed.’

These communications coupled with other deterrents such as flashing lights, speed bumps and speed cameras make for an effective way of enforcing and communicating your message.

Unfortunately, though, these deterrents only work for a limited time. Once the threat they warned of is gone, their messages leave our minds.

That’s not to say we forget the rules – we always know them – but once they are no longer relevant to us we don’t think of them until they are present again.

Therefore, this raises the important question: what percentage of communication do athletes retain?

Consider the factors below:

You Aren’t Heard

In busy, loud gyms, this is more common than we might think. Or, perhaps, you don’t have the athlete’s attention at all.

Information Isn’t Remembered

This often occurs when coaches give multiple bits of feedback in the same instance or too much information in general. Most information is not retained.

The short-term memory, on average, can only retain seven new pieces of information at a time. Therefore, if an athlete is given more than this they will not remember it. This is worsened if they are distracted too.

You Aren’t Understood

By giving feedback in language and terminology that is not appropriate to the athlete’s age, technical understanding or ability, they will not retain it due to a lack of understanding.

You’re Ignored

You’d like to think this happens the least, but there are times when this does, sadly, occur.

This can occur when athletes are tired of hearing the same message repeatedly.

If the information has been heard and understood, it is down to the coach to help the athlete discover new ways of understanding and applying it.

Sometimes the athlete just can’t ‘feel’ the error, or the way in which they can resolve it. In which case, a ‘diversion’ is often appropriate.

If an athlete is struggling to learn something new after a period of time despite being given the correct advice, consider changing the way you communicate the information:

Enforce the message: make it clear what you are trying to convey.

Change the Language: try an alternative way of ensuring the message is understood.

Create a Diversion: find an alternative approach to the skills methodology.

One of the greatest qualities a coach can have is their ability to communicate and enforce a message correctly.

We should all strive to achieve communication that is heard, understood and retained – without all achieving all these components we have failed.


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Article by Nick Ruddock – resident coaching expert and former Team GB Coach.

Coaching Advice: Puppies vs. Children!

More in common than you think...

Coaching Advice

Many UK homeowners will own a dog. They’re man’s best friend after all! Whilst they’re loyal, cute and fun to play with, they’re also exceptionally needy and need a lot of guidance.

Recently, one of our staff got a puppy and whilst it’s a lot of work, they’ve found it incredibly educational and rewarding.

Due to this accurate comparison, we thought it would make a valuable piece of coaching advice for you in relation to the athletes in your charge and how to go about your coaching in the future.

Puppies are incredibly excited, almost all the time unless they’re tired. Then they just sleep.

They LOVE positive attention.

They LOVE to play.

They respond very well to praise. (Who’s a good boy!)

Coaching Advice: What Makes a Great Coach?

Guest Article by Nick Ruddock



Here is one question that troubles me greatly, and it’s one that arises in nearly ALL coaching courses and workshops I have attended:

‘What makes a great coach?’

Just writing it is making my blood pressure rise

Some years ago, I would have put together a long list of qualities that great coaches have… but not today.

The thing is, I’ve travelled the world and worked alongside a tremendous number of coaches, many of whom are at the height of their respective fields. And it is during this time that I’ve come to recognise that many high performing coaches are totally flawed in the characteristics we often associate with high performance.

High technical knowledge? Not always important.

Organised? Quite the opposite.

Positive? Nope.

‘People person?’…. Definitely not!

Growth mindset? … I wish.

You get the gist.

Jigsaw Pieces or Cogs?

I used to see the coaching world as a jigsaw puzzle, with coaches who are lacking in important qualities as being ‘incomplete’.

I’ve now moved to a ‘cogs’ model.

The more cogs that are moving, the more efficiently a system runs. But even with fewer cogs (or in our case, desirable qualities) the system still runs, albeit not quite as efficiently. The coach can still produce results, but it might require more work, or have a few more bumpy roads to ride down first.

What Makes a Great Coach Anyway?

Yes, there are some characteristics that many great coaches will have in common, and it’s wonderful to dream about what qualities a ‘complete’ coach would have, but we shouldn’t delude ourselves that ‘great’ coaches hold all of these.

Besides, what does it mean to be a ‘great’ coach anyway?

The status of being a great coach often gets attributed to those who produce athletes that can (and do) win medals at an international level. But I’m often a little more curious (don’t mistake this for being pessimistic or cynical) as to how those results happened.

A coach whose athletes win international medals but are left emotionally broken wouldn’t earn my badge of being a ‘great coach.’ That would be mistaking being a great ‘technician’ for being a great coach. A BIG difference.

Neither would I consider a coach ‘great’ who manages to squeeze one athlete into the top spot, but in the process manages to physically or technically ‘wreck’ another 40.

You could say a wealthy drug dealer knows how to make money, but you’d question their ethics and are unlikely to hold them in high esteem. In much the same way, this is how I view unethical coaches who leave a path of destruction in their wake. They don’t get my vote, regardless of the size of their medals haul.

Some of the best coaches I know have never actually coached at a high-performance level. They are, however, in the elite at running a recreational class or a class full of pre-school children. That’s an art in itself and requires a mass of experience and skill.

Article by Nick Ruddock: Pay Subs Online’s resident Coaching Expert and Consultant.


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Coaching Advice: Are You Creating Robots, or Building Relationships?

Fear of consequences influences an athletes' behaviour

Coaching Advice

We’ve often said that any training plan should focus on building positive relationships, through communication, trust, and engagement.

In a previous coaching advice blog post, we talked about how great student-coach relationships do not happen organically. As with any other kind of relationship, they develop over time and often require work to make them great.

A love for their sport is what drives many coaches, along with valuing the time they spend with their young, budding athletes. Why? Because they discover coaching children is fun! As the years go by, many fond memories are linked to times of happiness and laughter with these athletes, and not just when they have achieved something great or won medals.

This is why it can be hard to understand why some coaches choose to develop a training plan which sees their athletes train like robots. It may not be a deliberate act but is often inevitable under the coaching regime and conditions their training plan provides.

Here is our coaching advice…

Coaching Advice: Helping Athletes “Be More Confident”

How good are you at giving your students feedback?

Coaching Advice

It may sound like a strange question, but when it comes to coaching, this is something I think about often…

…helping athletes “be more confident.”

On its own, telling an athlete to be more confident is not going to magically flick a switch which will make them immediately feel competent enough to perform skills they previously struggled with.

As a form of feedback, “be more confident” is useless! Outlined below, I’ll give some coaching advice to remedy this.

Tackling a Lack of Self-Belief

By definition, confidence (or self-confidence in this case) is ‘belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities.’ Ask an athlete to perform a skill they lack self-belief in, and their chances of performing it with ‘confidence’ are limited.

Could confidence be something someone could fake? Could it be something they can simply ‘switch on’ when asked?


Coaching Advice: What Does Great Coaching Look Like?

Creating a positive working environment is a great motivator for both athletes and coaches alike.

Coaching Advice

In one of our recent coaching advice posts, we discussed the importance of coaching the mindset, not just technique. Closely aligned with this is the importance of developing a strong coach-athlete relationship.

Creating a positive working environment is a great motivator for both athletes and coaches alike. As our previous post suggested, coaches who approach training through military style ‘shout and command’ tactics will quickly find their students demoralised and motivated only by a fear of failure.

Let’s look at this from another perspective.

Imagine sitting in your workplace each day, with your boss shouting at you for the entire day? How long could you last? How long before your motivation wanes and resentment towards your employer builds?

In such an environment it doesn’t take long before your performance levels drop as your self-esteem hits rock bottom. The same is true in a coaching relationship.

Why Coaching Is About Mindset, Not Just Technique

Coaches have a responsibility to look after their athletes' mental well-being, not just their physical well-being



When you think about ethical coaching, what values and philosophies do you attach to it? Many coaches will have their own ideas about what it should look like, along with a number of irritations firmly placed under the umbrella of ‘bad coaching practice.’

New coaches often begin filled with a sense of power and authority over the young athletes they are coaching. If there is one thing Spiderman taught us it is that “with great power, comes great responsibility.”

This responsibility doesn’t just apply to the physical aspects of coaching, but emotional well-being too.

Confidence and Coaching

Creating a positive coaching environment is a great motivator for both coaches and students alike

Confidence and Coaching

Coaches who approach training through military style ‘shout and command’ tactics will quickly find their students demoralised and motivated only by a fear of failure.

Let’s look at this from another perspective.

Imagine sitting in your workplace each day, with your boss shouting at you for the entire day? How long could you last? How long before your motivation wanes and resentment towards your employer builds?

In such an environment it doesn’t take long before your performance levels drop as your self-esteem hits rock bottom. The same is true of the coach/student relationship.

Remember Who You Are Coaching

The big problem here is that the students in your charge are children, not adults. As adults, we are able to express ourselves, communicate discontent and take action to remedy the situation.

Children, however, are not as adept at communicating their feelings. They arrive at each training session with a desire to learn and trust in your coaching methods. They have no flexibility in the training provided and no ability to defend themselves.

Are You Pulling In Opposite Directions?

This kind of ‘yelling and telling’ environment is a slippery slope. The more demands placed on them, the greater the chances they will not want to perform. At this point, a tug-of-war then develops between unhappy children and an aggravated coach.

Within any high performing culture, morale is an important asset – the rapport between coaches and their students must take precedence over the potential rewards.

Rapport Must Come First

Building rapport is easy. Truly, it is. The first thing to remember is that you should treat others as you would expect to be treated yourself. Be courteous and respectful. They are children first, your student, second. This is the secret to long-term morale.

Often coaches become immune to the emotions of their students, developing instead an inferior, sterile form of teaching.

The coach who invests in the emotional well-being of their pupils and takes the time to build a rapport with them will discover they then perform better.

Rapport Building Coaching Tips

Where many coaches come unstuck is in failing to get to know the people they teach. Find out more about them and their life – Do they enjoy school? What did they do last weekend? What are their favourite things?

The most important element in building rapport is trust. Make sure you build it, not break it.

Being approachable and showing empathy will make it easier for your students to share their concerns with you too. Children will not communicate if they feel intimidated or fear consequences.

Show you can cater to the needs of individuals as well as the group, and treat everyone equally. When it comes to giving feedback, make it positive and authentic – they need to feel it is genuine.

The Best Coaches….

Are those who have the best understanding of their pupils. As Tony Robbins said –

“Most teachers know their subject, but they don’t know their students.”

While it may be easier to build rapport with the parents than the children themselves, shifting your focus to the child is essential if you are to develop a deeper understanding of them.

Why? Because this is the only way you can hope to discover what drives them, what motivates them, their inspiration, their goals. More than this, you will learn how to read their emotions, feelings, their body language….

The time you spend developing a great coach/student relationship is an investment. One which will save you time, and make your time coaching much more fulfilling.


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Article by Nick Ruddock, resident Coaching Expert, and Consultant.