Throughout our lives various mentors in our lives have always been sure to tell us to think before we speak. Whether that person was a parent, grandparent, teacher or some other at some point I’m sure we’ve all heard that phrase. So it seems we are more cognizant of the power of our words and have a pretty good understanding of how to choose our words wisely. But what you may not be aware of it that when it comes to communication, the words we use only make up 7% of what we are communicating to people.
So what determines the other 93% of your communication? Well 38% is the tone you use and 55%, over half of your message, is being communicated by your body language! But no one ever warned us growing up that we needed to watch our body language so how would we know? For many of us we may have never even considered what out body language is communicating to others. I know for me I never was conscious of it until taking my first Communications course in college.
Not sure what I mean when I say body language is communicating a big message? Try this: While watching the NCAA tournament, watch how players react to being subbed out of a game. Are they walking to the bench hunched over, head down? Are they jogging over high-fiving the incoming player and pointing out who they had? Do they interact with other people on the bench on the way by? How about the interaction with the coaches do the make eye contact and listen or are they looking away? What is the story this athlete is telling.
When a call goes against the player what do they do? If they don’t get passed the ball during an offensive possession how do they react? When getting beat on the defensive end? When a teammate gets beat? How about after a mistake by a teammate or themselves? All of these moments our body language is conveying a message.
Then think about yourself. What do you do in those situations? What message is your body language telling your teammates, coach, and those watching. You may think this isn’t very important but the message you are communicating tells people what kind of person you are.
To get you started on the road of improving your body language here are five tips:
There was under a minute left to go in the game and we were down 5 with a baseline out of bound at our hoop. We set up a play that was our go to play for getting a quick 3. As the ball was inbounded it was clear from the sidelines that the other team was prepared for it and they defended it well. The ball swung to the player who was supposed to get the shot out of the play and he was closely guarded by two defenders. He shot the ball anyway, and immediately you could tell he knew he shouldn’t. His hands went right to his head and then head down as the shot missed and the other team got the rebound.
We fouled immediately to send them to the line. The shooter was walking up the court head down in hands, clearly dejected that he had made the mistake, when the captain of our team, the individual who had taken the ball out, ran up from behind gave him a pat on the head and butt and simply said “We got this”.
That confidence and support gave the rest of the team a boost that there was still enough time to win that game. We did end up winning that game, scoring 6 points in the final 30 seconds to send it into overtime and winning in overtime, but it was a simple gesture that sparked the whole thing.
The ability to control ones body language and be cognizant of its power on the message we are trying to deliver is arguably one of the most valuable communication skills one can master. This is especially true on the basketball court. As a player, your body language is often the only thing that is communicating to those in the crowd , your teammates and coach. Focus on telling the story you want.
In life we get mixed messages about dreams. As a kid we are told we can be whatever we want to be when we grow up -- and then as we start growing -- we get told a lot of reasons why we can’t be what we wanted to be when we grow up. Those who impart these words of advice to chase more practical plans are usually very well intentioned. Perhaps they themselves had someone steer them off their very own dream so they feel it is best to “Save you” from the heartache of failing. But dreams are such delicate things.
I had one of these childhood dreams. I wanted to coach basketball. I had fallen in love with the game as a third grader and never looked back. There really was nothing in the world greater than the game of basketball.
Signing up for classes for my first semester in college I saw an Introduction to Coaching course, that I was promptly denied entry into because it was only for students in that program and you couldn’t take it until junior year. As a 19 year old college student, I was accepted into the Coaching/Administration undergrad program and I was finally going to be able to take that coaching course.
In the Spring semester of my sophomore year I had a meeting with the head of the program to discuss what I wanted to get out of the program. This individual was a Hall of Fame soccer coach who had won over 400 games in his tenure, one of only four coaches to amass that total. I left that meeting having received one message from him,: Having not played college basketball, I’d never coach at that level. Immediately I gave up on the dream.
I ended up changing schools, and going into Sports Management. I stayed involved in coaching at the youth level all the way through school. Then upon getting a job back in my hometown I was able to start coaching at the high school level. It was then that I realized my dream never died; it still burned deep inside. But I could still hear that voice in my head that it would never happen.
With that in mind, I stayed on course with what I was doing. Continued to work full time in my position at the local community college and coached the high school team.
One day as I was teaching one of my classes, we were discussing dreams and the importance of writing them down and making a plan. I started the lesson with a motivational video that had a mix of speakers including Eric Thomas, Les Brown and Tony Robbins. During the video there was a line that stood out, “if someone else in similar or worse circumstances has accomplished it, then so can you.”
It was in that class that I announced to the group I would become a college basketball coach.
You see several Division 1 College coaches have never played college basketball; Tom Crean, Marvin Menzies, Steve Hawkins, Scott Drew, Frank Martin, Bruce Weber, Bob Marlin, Cliff Ellis, Mick Cronin, Rick Majerus, Mark Few, Buzz Williams, Will Wade, Frank Haith, Greg Gard, Chris Beard, and Matt McCall to name a few. Why not me?
So here I am now, one year after reconnecting to my dream to coach as a career, and I’ve officially left my job. I am taking a leap of faith that I can -- and will -- make this happen no matter what.
As I take this leap, I think back to that meeting with the advisor and realize that what I took from that meeting wasn’t exactly what he was saying. I can hear him now, telling me it wouldn’t be easy, that I would have to get involved in as many ways as possible, be it officiating, as a manager, a GA, or with the high school team. He wasn’t actually telling me it couldn’t happen, but that’s what I heard on that day.
The lesson I hope you take from this is don’t give up on your dreams. Know that there will be perceived detractors along the way but don’t let them deter you from chasing it. And if you listen closely you might realize they aren’t necessarily trying to change your path they are just giving you a difficult road map that it’s going to take to get there.
Lastly if you truly want something, know that it will not come easy and there will be sacrifices and tribulations along the way. Keep fighting.
State championship winning basketball coach, Chris Woodside, shares his journey to becoming a college level coach as well as life lessons learned on + off the court.