The Lethal Weapon of Silence

The following article from Coach Reed is an excerpt from his free eBook: "The Untapped Power of Silence in Coaching." Get the free eBook here.


This is the best advice I can give your for knowing when silence could be a weapon. Be sure to break the silence in the following situations:

When They Make Mistakes and Stop

A child who messes up but keeps trying is already an independent problem-solver but a child who stops may need a little support. Do not stay silent, but don’t yell at him, give him feedback he can use to overcome the mistake. Encourage him to try again too.

When They Have “That Look”

Give yourself credit for being intuitive and empathic. As a coach, you can read and understand children to a modest enough degree to know when a child has hit his wall. They stop playing the game and looks like work. They don’t smile much. They seem to “trudge” through training, and they have a certain look. That is the moment they need you most. It may not be sport-related, but that child is looking to the shoreline for a beacon. Turn on the lighthouse and talk to him. Elevate him above whatever it is that has him under siege. You don’t need to be a psychologist to help. You just need to show him you believe in him and everything is going to be okay. Many times in my career it was those moments when coach would say “Reed, you got this. I am proud of the hard work you put into all you do. You got this, keep doing what you do”, that kept me off the rocks.

When They Ask For Communication

This sounds silly, but I have seen it too many times. A child will ask for something and coach is too busy, dismissive, or gives vague answers. If a child has the courage to ask you something, you need to have the courage and respect to look her in the eye and answer with honest, actionable information.

When Someone Else Has Shut Them Down

You have seen this many times. A child makes a mistake and a player or parent, or even someone from the opposing team shuts them down with a quick word. Typically, it’s a word of discouragement that shuts the player down. His fear that making mistakes will prompt repercussions has now been validated. If you do not step in with a word of encouragement, he will most likely abandon that risk behavior for much safer waters. Your silence is a tacit consent to whatever was said. He will look to you for support. Speak to him and encourage him to try again. You do not have to negate what was said by the other, especially if it was a well-meaning, but over-zealous parent. Simply let him know it’s okay to make mistakes, growth happens in the struggle, and move on.


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