"Communication" would have to be one of the most used answers to the question, "What could we do better?"
I have often responded with "What does that mean?"
And I genuinely mean that question. What detail does the word "communication" have when asked in the context of a sporting skill environment? On it's own, it is so general and lacks any real use when we return to the drill.
As good coaches we need to get our players to work in greater detail when it comes to communication.
How can we do this?
Firstly, by not doing exactly as they do. Saying "We need to improve our comms" is the same as them answering our question with it. That statement is not detailed enough. We need to at least go to the next level and be more precise and specific with the type of communication we are referring to. Is our language clear? Is it our body language we need to improve? Do we need to put a name to our comms? This is the level of detail we need to achieve, for the players to be able to do something constructive. A player can talk more and think they are improving their comms but they may not be saying anything useful, so it becomes white noise and hinders and confuses communication.
Secondly, we need to act on it. When I say 'we' I mean us as coaches. We need to back our detailed words up with appropriate body language. When our words don't match our body language, we will confuse players, because they will respond to our body language more than our words sometimes. So, if we want them to provide more communication when setting up for set piece, let's demonstrate with energy, put a name to a statement, use key points, or be very concise on what we are seeing and expecting.
The same can apply to players, in game, on the field. As an example, an inside centre could communicate with their fly half prior to a scrum, by saying the fly half's name first, to grab their attention, establish eye contact, then say that they have noticed the opposition centre drifting off early, and providing the name of a move enabling them to exploit the weak inside shoulder, as the opportunity. They could then turn to their outside centre and blind winger, and by name with eye contact, make the call of the move. If they do this with energy and enthusiasm, then it brings confidence and certainty to the plan, and those key personnel around the inside centre are certain of what is happening, and then prepared.
If we can create a language that makes it easy to communicate quickly and with certainty, and we use quality communication skills, then our coaching and the players ability to play the game more effectively adds to the chance of greater success.
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