Apr 27, 2018
Digital Strategy

Whether it’s the middle of a game or in the weight room, top-notch communication skills can make the difference between success and failure for a coach. While that truth is a constant, methods of communication have changed a lot over time. Coaches obviously need face-to-face communication, they can’t ignore electronic interaction.

No development in the past 20 years has changed the way coaches communicate more than the evolution of email and text messaging. Teenagers today are accustomed to a non-stop flow of information, and texting is the quickest, easiest, and most immediate way to share a message. In fact, some coaches report their players only check email every couple of days and thus they no longer send important messages that way.

“A lot of times, I’ll have to text a player to tell her to check her email,” says Steve Florio, Head Volleyball Coach at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, who has produced a video titled “Team Talk: Talking Your Way to Volleyball Success.” At the request of his players, he and his staff now even take a picture of travel itineraries and send out the image via a group text message.

Making and answering phone calls also has fallen out of favor among members of today’s digital generation. “It’s rare when kids answer the phone,” says Jenny McDowell, Head Volleyball Coach at Emory University. “It probably happens only 10 percent of the time. I need to text a recruit in order to build a relationship. From there, we’ll schedule a phone call.”

Thanks to a variety of apps, coaches can send instant notifications and reminders to all players and parents at once. Many have found this to be helpful. They send quick notes about travel plans, game day attire, schedule changes, birthday wishes, and more.

Stephanie Rivera, Head Volleyball Coach at Lutheran West High School in Rocky River, Ohio, uses texting in some unconventional ways, including as a motivation tool. When senior Margaux Thompson was closing in on the school’s record for career aces, Rivera let her know via a text message. “I had no idea [about the record],” Thompson told The Morning Journal of Lorain, Ohio after she broke the record. “My coach just texted me because she likes to keep us up to date if anything like that is in reach.”

“When I know that they’re going to take the SAT, I send a quick ‘good luck’ message,” Rivera says. “I try to keep up with things like that. It’s important to let people know you care.”

At the same time, coaches have to be careful not to use texting for more than brief notices. Mary Jo Cerqua, Head Volleyball Coach at Baker High School in Baldwinsville, N.Y., says that if a player sends her a text about playing time or anything else of a serious nature, she schedules a meeting. “The players know how I feel about this,” she says. “I’m always there for them, but I won’t text about important issues.”

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