We have lots of meetings in baseball. There are team meetings before and after practice, pre-early work meetings for infielders, meetings for other positional groups and hitters to explain the fundamentals, staff meetings to talk about upcoming meetings, and many more! Over the years, I’ve consistently heard coaches stand in front of their players and utter two words that have a damaging effect on the messages they meant to convey to the group. Those two words are “real quick.”
I have a friend who worked at Sea World while we were classmates in graduate school. He worked in their education department, and part of his job was to evaluate tour guides and other public speakers around the park. As we know with human nature, most people rely on crutch words or phrases when they are nervous or when they are transitioning from one thought to another. Among other factors, my friend evaluated the performance of the speakers on how often and how many crutch phrases they used. You’ve heard these phrases when an athlete gives a post-game interview on ESPN. Many athletes say “you know” or “I mean” in between thoughts. Even Mr. Mackey, the counselor on South Park, has a trademark crutch phrase, “mmmmmkay!”
“Real quick” has become a crutch phrase for many coaches. The intent behind the words is good—you’re trying to let your players know that your address won’t take long. It is important to keep your instruction and speeches brief, because attention spans can be short and you can lose your audience if you talk for too long. But rather than conveying a simple schedule update, saying “real quick” before you address your team unknowingly turns them off. It gives the impression that what you’re about to say is not important enough to merit the interruption of practice or the delay of the beginning of your activity or the act of bringing your team together, whether on or off the field. Here are a few ideas for you if you are reading this and realizing that you say “real quick” really often!
Be real quick without announcing it!
You don’t have to tell your players that your message will be “real quick.” Just say what you want to say and move on to the next activity. If you get in the habit of simply beginning your meeting, you’ll find your crutch phrases disappearing over time. And as long as you stay concise and stick to the point when you want to be brief, your players will stay attentive and you’ll be an effective communicator.
Don’t worry about time
If you have something important enough to say to your team that it necessitates a meeting, then it shouldn’t matter how long it takes to tell them! If you have to explain how long it will take to deliver your message, it’s probably not worth interrupting practice, or starting a few minutes late, or bringing your people together to talk.
Explain your speaking style
Instead of telling your players you’ll be “real quick” before every meeting, tell them at the beginning of the year that you like to give simple, brief instructions and reminders and that you’ll always be quick with your messages so they don’t have to wonder how long your meetings will take.
Why are you speaking?
Remember that the point of addressing your team is to give them important information they can use. If you ramble in your meetings, if you outlast their attention spans, if you don’t give them relevant information, or if you undermine your own messages by making them seem less important, you risk your players tuning out. Communication happens when one person sends a message and another receives it. Make sure you’re doing everything in your power to ensure that your players receive your messages...mmmmkay?
Optimize Mind Performance is an app that links athletes with some of the most renowned mental skills coaches from around the world through the content they create. The materials available in the app cover all the foundations of sports psychology and sports-specific mental skills. Geoff Miller has spent the better part of two decades working in Major League Baseball for multiple organizations, and is creating an ongoing series of mental skills training and commentary meant to reach a wide range of ballplayers at all levels. For more information, visit www.optimizemindperformance.com.