One of my early influences when I became serious about coaching volleyball was Mike Hebert. I read his books, The Fire Still Burns and Insights when I was coaching for Dean College. I coached against him once when I was at Brown and he was at Minnesota. His most recent book, Thinking Volleyball, is one I strongly recommend.
Mike authored a post for the Art of Coaching Blog. It’s focus is on the subject of acknowledgement. Basically, the rule was an individual must always indicate they heard something said to them. That applied to both something said by a coach and things said by other players. Mike developed a rule about this for his teams based on an experience with a player who didn’t show she’d heard what he was saying to her.
I think we’ve all been there. It’s really frustrating, isn’t it?
Of course, it’s not just a question of showing you heard something said to you. There’s more nuance. Mike had a set of acknowledgement rules to encourage constructive communication. Here they are in an edited fashion.
- When spoken to by a coach or teammate, acknowledge to the speaker that you heard and understood them – without emotion.
- You can make your acknowledgement verbally or by gesture, but it must convey that you heard.
- Keep in mind, acknowledgement does not necessarily mean agreement.
- Develop an acknowledgement style that invites further communication.
- Respond every time a coach gives you feedback or instruction.
- When a teammate communicates something in the heat of battle that offends you momentarily, acknowledge in a non-inflammatory manner.
As you can see, Mike went beyond simply showing that you heard. He also addressed how you indicate. You do not get emotional, and possibly inflame a situation. You try to demonstrate a willingness to communicate.
Importantly, as Mike says, acknowledgement does not have to mean agreement. You can acknowledge and still disagree. In doing so, you demonstrate respect for the other person and do not appear to be dismissive. This can foster more positive communication and lead to better team cohesion.