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Communicating effectively when language is a barrier - a coach's experience


Communicating effectively when language is a barrier - a coach's experience

I always knew the art of communication was an invaluable skill but not as much until I came to India this year, to work as a strength and conditioning coach for Pro4Sport Solutions on their Khel Vikas project.

First impressions

Many times in my coaching life I have felt frustrated with my athletes for not understanding what I was teaching them.

I knew I was going to have to adapt quickly to my new environments and learn the local language, Oriya.

My initial plan was to learn the anatomy of the body in Oriya and different movements like bending, jumping and sitting, so that I could communicate the basics in our training sessions.

As soon as I arrived the children wanted to teach me all about their culture and language, so I decided that every day after training I would get together with the children and we would teach each other our native language.

Sticking point
Even though the language was a bit of a stumbling block on a regular basis, I found ways to communicate through visual aids and practical demonstrations.

I knew that coming from a tribal background these children had a strong association with symbols and pictures, so I used chalk and a blackboard to illustrate the techniques I was trying to coach.

Final push
Four weeks into the program, I am now drawing sketches on the walls, the floors and the doors, anywhere I can, to communicate and get my point across.

In every sporting situation a relationship develops between a coach and his athletes, this has been no different in my case. After a while you start to understand each other’s body language and characteristics which can often tell you a lot more than words ever could.

My experience so far has shown me that the world of sport is a funny place, where words are not necessary to speak the same language.

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team]


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Cormac Whelan


Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - 23:00