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Eyes on me!

Eyes on me!

Eye contact as a means to transmit significant messages at emotional, psychological and social levels

Let’s continue our analysis of communication means (see our article on body orientation) by examining eye contact as an element of non verbal communication.

One may ingenuously think that the best way to look at our players is to look straight in their eyes.

Actually, eye contact has to be carefully and properly modulated depending on our context and objectives.

When confronting the whole team it is essential to share our gaze among all the group members.  The reasons are similar to those mentioned for equal distance (see our article in March). Equally distributed eye contact:
  • makes everyone feel equally important;
  • makes everyone feel equally involved;
  • makes everyone feel a member of a team;
  • improves team building;
  • Allows the coach to read non verbal feedbacks (puffs, shaking heads, etc.);
  • Allows the coach to draw greater attention from the players and verify their level of attention;
  • Improves communication exchange;
  • Doesn’t invade personal space.

I can deliberately decide to stare at a single player in the moment I wish to emphasise that the message is directed at him in particular. The more or less positive connotation of my eye contact will then result from the intensity of my gaze and proper facial gesture.

If our gaze overlooks a member of the team we may transmit wholly incorrect and negative messages.


A neglected player can:

  • Feel he is not involved in what they are talking about (tactical choices, locker room problems, merits, etc.)
  • Feel he is not appreciated;
  • Feel he is not a member of the team;
  • Being distracted more easily;
  • Distract others more easily;
  • Omit transmitting non verbal signals, thus limiting communication exchange.

Also the other members of the group could change their attitude about the “outcast”.
On the other hand, if we stare always the same player we might embarrass him, invade his personal space (see our article on proxemics), make him feel different from the rest of the group as happens sometimes at school with clever students (a sort of “geek effect”) or charge him with responsibility.

Sometimes personal insecurities make certain coaches look away or seek validation by staring those players that support them totally, their favorites or more fragile players who never react.

The bottom line? I think it is essential to have a good self awareness as a coach, in order to be able to understand and properly control your players and situations also by means of what they call the “windows to the soul”....


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