5 Communication Skills That Separate Great Coaches from the Rest (And How to Master Them)

“We didn’t tackle well today but we made up for it by not blocking.” Coach John McKay, USC

Great coaches build success by understanding communication—how we connect, persuade, and lead. Let’s break down the non-negotiable communication skills if you want to rise to the top of your game.

Coaching isn’t just about X’s and O’s. It’s a high-wire act of managing personalities, expectations, and the relentless glare of the media spotlight. Your communication skills are your safety net—or the reason you faceplant.

The Non-Negotiable 5:

Authenticity Under Pressure:

The media can smell a phony from a mile away. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Own your mistakes and victories, and let your real passion shine through.

Pro-tip: Prepare for tough questions. Have a few go-to phrases that express your core values, even when feeling the heat.

Player Whisperer:

Every player is different. Some need a kick in the pants; others need an arm around the shoulder. Knowing how to tailor your message to each individual is the key to unlocking their full potential.

Pro-tip: Listen more than you talk. The best communicators are often the ones asking the right questions.

Mastering the Art of the Pep Talk:

Motivation isn’t about screaming until you’re hoarse. It’s about finding the words that ignite a fire within your team.

Pro-tip: Tap into the emotions of the moment. Use vivid imagery, tell stories, and make your message personal.

Navigating the Administrative Maze:

Your relationship with the administration is a partnership. It’s about clear expectations, open communication, and working together toward a common goal.

Pro-tip: Don’t be afraid to push back, but do it respectfully. Always come to the table with solutions, not just complaints.

Crisis Management Like a Pro:

When the you-know-what hits the fan, your communication skills are your most valuable asset.
Pro-tip: Have a plan for handling a crisis. Who will you talk to? What will you say? The more prepared you are, the better you’ll be able to weather the storm.

Your Communication Skills Are Your Coaching Superpower

Master these five skills, and you’ll survive in the hot seat and thrive. You’ll build a reputation as a leader who can handle anything, a coach who inspires loyalty and trust, and a winner who knows how to get the best out of everyone around them.

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