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The Importance of Communication in Sports


If you are considering a career in sports administration, it is a good idea to think about what drew you to sports in the first place. Perhaps it was the hard work and physical conditioning, or maybe the fun and excitement of the game. For many, playing sports is attractive because of the social interaction: being part of a team working toward a common goal. The desire to be part of a community is an important aspect of human nature, and communication is perhaps the most important part of developing a healthy community.

The same is true in a sporting community. Research shows that developing good communication between coaches and players results in better, more effective teams. In addition, healthy communication — both internal and with the public — has been shown to be vital to creating successful business environments. These are some of a sports organization administrator’s most important responsibilities. While earning an online master’s degree in sports administration, candidates will study the nuances of communication in sports and how it relates to effective leadership.

Is Communication in Sports Different Than Communication in Other Areas?

Generally put, communication involves people interacting with one another to convey information. The most obvious form of communication is linguistic (expressing oneself verbally or in writing), but body language, behavioral mannerisms and many other interpersonal signals are also forms of communication.

When thinking about communication in sports, the available methods can seem very specific. A quarterback uses a nod of the head to indicate which direction the receiver should cut. The coach calls a play using a series of gestures known only to his or her team. Although these forms of communication may seem particular to the game, they are analogous to non-verbal cues people use in everyday life. A nod or shake of the head, a thumbs up, or any other motion or gesture that people use to convey something to someone else are all similar types of non-verbal communication. As far as interpersonal verbal communication goes, clear and constructive communication between players, coaches, administrators, parents and others involved with a team parallels positive communication in any other organization — like a business.

The Importance of Communication for Coaches and Players

Many studies have shown the benefits of good communication in competitive athletics. Players who know how to effectively interact with each other will work together better, forming a stronger overall team. However, learning to communicate one’s thoughts and feelings clearly and effectively without hurting or offending others can take time. Fostering this knowledge in players is primarily the responsibility of the team’s coach. Workshops in effective communication are a part of many successful athletic programs, and coaches who communicate openly with their athletes can model effective interaction by speaking directly, listening attentively and valuing others’ opinions. Positive communication in sports can also benefit from common practices like pre-game meetings, when the team and coaching staff can come together to give feedback, discuss strategies and set goals for the day.

The Importance of Communication for Administrators

Administrators have many responsibilities in sports organizations, as they have a hand in overseeing every aspect of their organizations. Most of these aspects involve communication, including coordinating and monitoring the coaching staff, making budgets with financial planners, interviewing prospective employees and athletes, and meeting with investors, owners, or officials. Improving the communication of the staff and management of any business has been shown to maximize productivity and improve employee morale. This can result in a more successful business with higher retention rates.

Another important aspect of administrative communication in sports is an organization’s public relations with parents, media and fans. Administrators need to work hard to develop good relationships based on clear and constructive communication with parents in the collegiate and high school settings. In professional sports, interactions with the media and fans are integral. New research shows that an authentic and genuine connection with fans through various forms of communication, including social media, plays an important role as well.

The importance of communication in sports is clear to researchers — it is integral to successful sports organizations. Teams that promote positive communication and respect among players improve overall motivation. Coaches who learn to communicate effectively with their athletes can deliver positive feedback and constructive criticism in ways that actually influence players’ performance.

Similarly, administrators who support open interaction in the workplace create positive working environments, which can result in more effective organizations. Communicating directly and positively with the public through every available channel (including traditional and social media) fosters public support and the personal connections organizations need to build committed fan-bases. By pursuing a master’s degree in sports administration, you can develop the communication skills necessary to administrate effectively and lead others by example.

Learn more about Arkansas State University’s Online Master of Science in Sport Administration.


Communication & Sport: Communication and Sport, Where Art Thou? Epistemological Reflections on the Moment and Field(s) of Play

Human Kinetics: Communication Vital for Team Success

Human Kinetics: What Communication Means for a Coach

Athlete Assessments: Importance of Communication in Sports

Journal of Applied Psychology: The Preliminary Development of the Scale for Effective Communication in Team Sports (SECTS)

Sport Marketing Quarterly: Attracting Facebook ‘Fans’: The Importance of Authenticity and Engagement as a Social Networking Strategy for Professional Sport Teams

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