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Be able to listen

Be able to listen

In this article I will show you how through a proper use of pauses, silences and brief encouragements you can facilitate dialogue and authentic listening with players
In the previous article we talked about authentic listening as an answer to children’s/kids’ need to find sympathy and acceptance from coaches and educators in general.

I would like to show you now with some practical examples the different communicative channels, verbal and non verbal, through which to transmit true listening and empathy.

Listening can be active or passive and it can be, as words suggest, more or less involved.


In active listening, the educator/coach at the right time and discretely, without being aggressive or intrusive, returns what he has understood about what the kid is communicating him: “I understand that…I think you are trying to tell me that…from what you are telling me I can imagine that…”.

There are no rules to understand when to open your mouth! We must finely be in contact with them, catch a pause, a sigh where our talking can help him to “take a breath”, to sort things out, to clear his head. It is sure that we don’t have to have our say at every single little pause: we risk would be to increase his anxiety and to rush him or not respect his own pace.

We have to remember that it is not easy to talk about our feelings, doubts and fears.

It is vital that return does not imply judgment, disapproval or criticism: the player has to feel understood and accepted. It does not mean that we have to always agree with him; it means instead that we understand and respect his past, his feelings and his point of view. Only from an initial true listening can then spring a healthy and productive discussion, if necessary.

As for passive listening, it translates itself in attentive silence, with a lot of benefits:
  • To help the continuation of communication from the child/kid
  • The players feels free to express himself
  • The player feels that the coach is listening to him and giving him time to express himself.

This last aspect is often the most difficult to carry out for a coach who, as every educator, is in a hurry: hurry to do, to talk, to go on with his plan, hurry to give answers and solutions when, as already stated, the athlete often only need to talk and feel for once listened to.

Silence has to be accompanied by little messages, verbal and non verbal, which reinforce listening: smile, nod, look for constant eye contact, but not invasive, little signs of understanding, short sentences or sounds that call for continuing: “I hear you…hum…go on…I understand…ok…”.

In communication it is called timing, which means synchronization, the ability of communicators, in this case of us as educators, to find the perfect alternation and balance between talking and keeping quite.

Even if we are all great at talking, as they say, keeping quite requires much more ability and openness towards people.

In conclusion, listening and tuning to the frequency of players should be the very first goal of coaches, not only to help the communication of goals, exercises, rules and or whatever, but most of all to empathize with them: understand that their reality in not our reality, comprehend their point of view that is not necessarily our point of view and that can sometimes be the right one!


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