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Coach/Team Communication: Replacing the Whistle

By Steffen Parker on March 12, 2019 hst Print

Technology changes faster than . . . technology. And that makes writing a technology article on any specific topic a challenge. When it comes to communication between a coach and his or her players, however, the age-old way of communicating remains in effect today.

The whistle is still a very powerful tool for any coach to signal starts and stops, times to come together and times to separate into tasks. Technology has not, so far, replaced that with an app. But what the coach shares with his or her team during those times together can be significantly reinforced with the use of a variety of generic and some sport-specific technology. As with any selection process, clearly defining one’s needs makes finding the appropriate tools easier, more efficient and more effective.

Applications (apps) for these purposes fall into two broad categories: 1) generic – ones that will work for any coach/team combination, and 2) specific – ones designed for one sport or one type of sport, such as team, high school, intramural, etc. Most of the features have a generic and sport-specific version available. What you may not find, however, is one app that does everything, especially if you want it to be focused on your sport. Here are some things to consider in choosing an app for coach/team communication:

  • Communication (internal): One way (coach to team / team member only), two way (coach to team / team member and team member to coach) or full functioning (coach to team / team member, team member to coach, team member to team)
  • Communication (external): Apps that expand the basic connection between coach and team member and provide contact with parents, school officials, social media, as well as local print and broadcast media, can prove valuable to enhancing the community’s connection to the team and their efforts.
  • Calendar: Tracking of practices, events, trips, etc. to make sure everyone is where they should be when they need to be.
  • Statistics: One of the growing uses for such applications is the inclusion and analysis of statistics, both team and individual. From the basics of win/loss, to individual player performance indicators as well as stats from practices, weight room sessions and individual preparations.
  • Sharing: Like social media, these have the ability to share stories, speeches and videos, with the focus on inspiring the team and building anticipation and enthusiasm among the members. One aspect of this type of app is the sharing of strategies, tips, practice ideas, etc., between coaches, especially as some American sports, such as basketball and baseball, become more popular globally.
  • Practice Drills: Providing your team members with clear instructions on how to run their practice drills (either for actual practice or individual effort) can be enhanced through the use of apps that show diagrams, documents, explanations and sample videos.
  • First Aid: Besides having a certified trainer available and emergency numbers on their phone, all coaches should have a First Aid app (the Red Cross one is excellent) on their phone to better support their athletes and coaching staff.
  • Fitness: There are many apps for the athletes themselves to track their own efforts, but one area that may be overlooked, especially for high school boys, is diet. Having your team members use an app that helps them better track their food intake and how that can be adjusted to enhance their athletic performance can be a very positive way to use technology.
  • Video: Video of practices, games, drills, etc., can be generated by team members, parents and community members, providing a platform where that video can be collected, catalogued, analyzed and notated – and then shared (the big plus here) – makes an invaluable tool for team improvement.
  • Sport-specific: The fastest growing use of technology in high school athletics is the evolution of sport-specific apps that provide some or all of the basic needs (communication, calendar, stats, etc.) but also information on the athlete’s needs to enhance his or her performance. From endurance sports (for all ages) to level-specific team sports, these apps provide coaches and players with the help they need to excel.

While there are hundreds of apps that a coach can use with his or her teams to communicate, share, teach, analyze and support, too much of a good thing becomes too much. Take the time to determine your needs and prioritize those needs with a list of what really will help, and then do the research before purchasing any app for the intended purpose.