Thumbs up, fist pumps and high fives. How non-verbal communication can turn a team right side up.


A swimmer gives a thumbs up to her teammate four lanes over. She's got her back. We are not sure if she is congratulating her teammate's performance or consoling her. It doesn't matter. The gesture speaks a thousand words. Non-verbal communication is foundation to a strong team. The messaging is I am with you... no matter what. 

I have watched teammates who do not touch each other going on or off the bench or when mistakes are made or points are scored. Without a doubt, it is a simple practice and can change everything—including results. 

Many believe that up to 93% of communication is non-verbal. What does this mean?

Texting is bad?

Don't e-mail unless you have to?

We know that using these methods of communication can lead to mis-understanding because we are not able to see things like facial expressions or hear tone. But there is more to it. In sport the goal is a winning team culture that allows for mistakes and thrives on teamwork. As a team member or coach the way you listen, look, move, and react sends your team a message. That message can have an enormous effect on how a team performs.

Never discount the power of eye rolls, turned backs or deep sighs. Conversely, fist pumps, thumbs up, hockey stick tapping, back pats and a arms around each other at the half time meeting can have even greater influence on outcomes.

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Non-verbal communication can define a team's culture. It can impact play and change moral.

Imagine your teammate at the free throw line. They miss the first shot. You stay back - no shoulder touch. You are thinking I hope they don't miss the next one.

Same situation but this time you touch your teammates shoulder. You are non-verbally telling them and thinking to yourself don't worry, you'll get the next one. 

With one simple gesture you have the choice of the message you are sending your teammate and yourself. Which one is going to help win the game? Which one is going to deepen your relationship and build your team's moral for the next game?

So reach out - fist pump, high five, tap your stick, pinky luck. Do it coming on and off the bench, out of the pool, on the ice - wherever you are. Try this small thing. Do it constantly and frequently. Make it a part of your team's routine and the culture. You will be astounded by the impact.


Nadia KybaComment