Take a look at the picture above. What message is this player sending to his coach? Does he look ready to go into the game and be a productive player? Is he being a great teammate and cheering for the players on the court? If you were the coach and you saw a player on your team sitting that way on the bench would you ever put them into a game? Body language is a simple tool that basketball players can use to send the message to their coaches and teammates that they care about the team, that they are coachable, and that they want to learn and improve. How you communicate with your body is important because research show that 60% to 90% of communication is nonverbal. To many coaches, body language is the most important aspect of communication because they believe it sends signals about how you really feel at a given moment. Try these tips to improve your body language and make sure you’re sending out the right message to your coaches and teammates!
Nod or acknowledge your coach with a “yes” after they finish speaking to you. If you don’t, I guarantee the coach walks away from that interaction having no idea whether you heard anything they said. A player responds in this simple way is viewed as much more coachable than the player that stares blankly and walks away, to say nothing of the player who pouts, rolls their eyes, or looks away.
When you greet someone with a strong handshake you convey the message that you are confident and successful. A weak handshake sends the opposite message, you lack confidence and may be easily intimidated. Take your handshake seriously. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. I highly recommend players work on their handshake. Coaches, demonstrate what a good handshake looks and feels like. This is a skill that obviously transcends basketball and helps your players throughout their lifetime.
Look your coach in the eye when they are speaking to you. We’re not talking about maniacally staring at them for two minutes straight, remember to blink and look away occasionally. Good eye contact lets your coach that you are receptive to their coaching and that you next time will try to do what they are asking. Poor eye contact sends the message that you aren’t interested in being coached.
Don’t cross your arms when your coach is talking. Crossed arms send the message that you are not open to the communication coming from your coach. Let your arms hang freely by your sides and you’ll be seen as more receptive to coaching.
When you lean in towards your coach when they are speaking you give the impression that you are actively listening and waiting to hear what is coming next. In a loud gym during a time out it may help you to hear the coach better simply because you are closer to them.
Look at that picture again. If you were the coach of that team and you looked down your bench for a sub to put in the game would you ever choose #1? That’s a bad look that no coach or teammate appreciates. Sit up and focus on the game. Pay attention to what’s going on out on the court, cheer for teammates, call out screens, shout reminders, but don’t pout or chill while sprawled out on the bench. No coach is going to see that and be impressed.
A player that is slouched over and looks like they could melt into the ground during a big moment in a game does not instill confidence in their coach. Stand up straight so you look (and hopefully believe) like you belong out on the court.
Many players often aren’t even aware of what their face is doing while they are listening to their coach critique their performance during a game or practice. Eye rolls, incredulous stares, or a pouting lower lip are all expressions that may be subconscious in some cases but are also destructive to your relationship with your coach. If you can get someone to film you during a coach-player interaction you may be surprised by what you see. If you don’t like it, change it!
Our body language is under our control, but we have to make a conscious effort to be aware of what we are doing. Hopefully these tips will help you improve your body language and become a more successful, confident player.
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