It’s difficult, but learning to communicate remotely teaches you the value of time and helps determine what really matters. Be patient with yourself and with your team — no one is going to be perfect if they’re not used to talking and training remotely, but small gestures go a long way.
One of the best things you can do to make remote communication as painless as possible is establishing expectations with your team. Remove the guesswork by answering these questions upfront:
How can players reach you? How will you be contacting them? Do you prefer to text, email or instant message? Or would you rather take a phone call? Be sure to review and follow your organization’s policies for contacting players.
When can players reach you? Are you available to talk anytime, or do you have dedicated periods of time for your athletes? Consider creating “office hours” where you’re on a video call to field questions, assign homework or just chat. You can make these mandatory, or allow players to join and leave at their convenience. Sticking with your regular practice times for “virtual practices” can help give your players and their families the structure they’re used to.
What are you going to talk about? Is the goal to have a digital film review session, or are you setting up a time to socialize as a group? Whether you’re meeting with your players one-on-one or as a full team, setting an agenda is important so everyone knows what to expect and can come prepared — even if it’s just a check-in to see how someone’s doing. (Keep in mind that players might be joining these conversations while family members are around. Giving them a preview of what you’ll discuss helps them find a space where they’ll be comfortable having that conversation.)
Your remote sessions don’t have to be about “business” — having a video call to play trivia or other games as a team is a great tactic to engage players.
Finally, remember that you set the tone. Communicating via video, call or text can be awkward if you’re not used to it, so it’s up to you to show compassion. You won’t have the added benefit of all the nonverbal communication you’re used to — even via video, facial expressions aren’t as easy to read. Pay attention, show you’re listening and ask questions to make sure you’re on the same page.
Find the Right Tools
There are plenty of resources that help you connect with your team and distribute content. (If you work at a school, you might need to use software that’s approved by your district — be sure to check with your administration to see what’s available.) These are some of our favorites:
These platforms all offer free versions, as well as paid plans with expanded features.
- Google Hangouts allows up to 10 participants for an unlimited duration.
- Zoom allows up to 100 participants for 40 minutes.
- Cisco Webex allows up to 100 participants for an unlimited duration.
- Skype allows up to 50 participants for an unlimited duration.
- UberConference allows up to 10 participants for 45 minutes.
- Microsoft Teams is free for teachers and students.
For iOS users, FaceTime is another great option.
If a group text isn’t working for you, these apps are all great options to communicate with the entire team or one-on-one.
These tools are designed to help you share video and other content.
- Hudl makes it easy to share video and PDFs with your team.
- Google Drive allows you to share documents, spreadsheets, presentations and other file types.
- Google Classroom is free for anyone with a .edu email address, though your school’s IT department may need to set it up for you.
Using these tools and the guidelines above, you’ll be able to stay in touch with your players when you’re not able to physically get together. Read on to learn why this is so important for team morale.