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The right height

The right height

How a proper use of height in relation to our players affects the message that get to them

We have been dealing with effective communication for a couple of months and my hope is that every coach is becoming increasingly aware of his communicative mode and, if necessarily, he is working on himself and on his approach to players.

In this article I want to emphasize how a proper use of the height of the body in relation to our player affects the messages that arrive to them.

When we talk to our players, or with a single athlete, we can have different goals and be in different situations: Am I explaining them an exercise? Am I informing the team about some incorrect and dysfunctional group dynamics? Am I talking to one of my players who is in time of need? Am I talking to a group of children who are at their first training? Am I having rules respected? Am I encouraging my players pre-match?

There is a wide range of cases, and it is clear that we can’t analyze here all type. Let’s try, however, to understand how a conscious and proper management of our height according to our players already conveys very important messages that can be in accordance or contradict what I am communicating them verbally.
Position of “greater height” in relation to my players: I can do it by having my team sit on the floor while I keep standing, or I can have my body in an upright and frontal position, with open shoulders and arms folded or hands on your hips. This kind of choice could be right if my goal is to:
  • Keep an authoritative leadership 
  • Stress the relation of complementarity between me and my players
  • Underline and show confidence in what I’m expressing
  • Reinforce through non verbal acts my disappointment at for example misbehaviors/broken rules etc.

Position of “equal height”between coach and players: it means to place myself on the same level, by sitting for example near one of them on the bench, on the floor with my players or by talking to my team frontally, in a circle (see article on equidistance), without showing off safety and authority through other non verbal channels (keep therefore the body “fluffy” and asymmetrical). I opt for such a solution if my goal is:
  • Keep a more democratic leadership
  • Create sympathy
  • Create emotional closeness
  • Be in a condition of Authentic listening
  • Create a relation of greater symmetry for that specific moment.

If I don’t use properly this communicative element the risk is that I convey messages diametrically opposed to my intentions. For example, if in moments of difficulties instead of being on the same level of my player I stand upright while he is sitting depressed, he could read our non verbal as a lack of listening and understanding, hurry on our part, or expect a scolding.

Therefore, the more the communication takes place on the emotional/personal level the more there must be a closeness that can be expressed also in being at the same physical level of the athlete. Instead, when communication moves to a technical/strategic level or to the management of group dynamics (respect of the rules, of roles, expression of authority, etc.) the coach puts himself in a complementary relationship to express his “superiority” in terms of greater technical and relational skills and greater experience.


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