As I discussed in my recent Five Ways To Be Memorable The First Time You Meet Me post, sociolinguist Albert Mehrabian’s assertion is that in a face-to-face encounter:
- 7% of a message is verbal ie comes from the words used
- 38% is vocal coming from the vocal tone, pacing, and inflection; and
- 55% of the message is visual, being transmitted visually by the speaker’s appearance and body language.
This positive body language is of course highly relevant in the workplace and in this excellent stack.com post reproduced below it is obvious how important it is in basketball too. Furthermore there are some really good examples here of good and bad body language that we can take from the court back to the office.
You don’t have to speak to send a message.
While there’s no section for it in the box score, body language can have a huge impact on an athlete’s play and the success of their respective team. Bad body language tells both teammates and opponents you can be easily rattled and distracted, while good body language screams focus, energy and mental toughness.
Don Showalter, Director of Coach Development for USA Basketball says “I go watch literally thousands of players each year and (watch) how they communicate with their body language when they’re sitting on the bench, how they communicate with their body language with their coach when he talks to them. Those things are very important, and what they do is portray what kind of person that player is.
We tell our USA junior national team players all the time, if you have bad body language on a consistent basis you will never play for us. First of all, it’s a strong way to get across the fact that you have an attitude that’s not really what we want. Poor body language shows us that you’re susceptible to what happens on the court and you can’t play through things. I think young kids need to know that,” Showalter said.
Acts of bad body language can often be spotted from across the gym. They include hanging your head, sulking, slouching, throwing tantrums, looking disinterested or lackadaisical, rolling your eyes when a coach is speaking to you, etc. Acts like this, whether they be on the court or on the bench, send messages of selfishness, immaturity and fragility.
Avoiding these acts will automatically make your body language more “neutral,” but what qualifies as “winning” body language? What can a player do in terms of their body language to stand out in a positive manner?
They can start with thinking about being a great teammate at all times. If this is your guiding principle, you’re going to naturally exhibit a lot of excellent body language. High five them. Pump them up. Pick them up off the floor. Stay in their ear with encouragement through thick and thin. Listen to them when they talk. Be invested in their performance.
“We emphasize all the time to be great teammates…How are you when your teammate comes off the court? How are you when you go in? Do you encourage them? Are you a positive guy, a positive role model? All that says a lot about who you are as a person, but it also goes a long way towards how your team does,” says Showalter.
“If you’re sitting on the bench, you’re into the game, you know what’s going on, you’re watching the player you’re gonna guard when you come into the game so you know his tendencies. How are you when the coach talks to you? Are you a guy who looks away from him, or are you a guy who knows how to look a guy in the eye when you communicate? Young people don’t really know how to communicate. So we teach (our players) to look them in the eye, follow their direction, (and) listen. Listening is a choice. You don’t just wait for a turn to talk.”
It’s one thing to simply avoid bad body language, but acting with great body language on a consistent basis can help an athlete take themselves and their team to the next level.
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