For Coaches: The Power of Open Hands
A couple months ago, I had the privilege of being the Strength and Conditioning coach for a local volleyball club. In all, I had two groups of 50 girls that I trained 2-3 times per week. Now I'll admit, working with 100 middle and high school girls that were all taller than me was not on my coaching bucket list, but over the course of several months they taught me more lessons about coaching than any other group I've trained.
But in all of these things, one stands out in particular. Like any group with diverse experiences and backgrounds in training, working with a huge group can be tricky. We struggled for the first few months to understand each other and get through training sessions on time since practice was immediately following training. One of the major things that we as a collective group struggled with was communication of expectations and what the day to day training entailed. Until I remembered the power of Open Palms.
I was watching a Ted Talk a few years ago, when a recommended video popped up in the sidebar that caught my eye regarding the topic of body language and the power of open hands. The speaker, Allan Pease, breaks down the psychology of the palm of your hand, and how hand gestures can be used to show authority or submissiveness or neutrality.
According to Pease, people will be more likely to comprehend instructions or the things you tell them when your hand gestures display an open palm. The open palm, it seems is a less commanding gesture and more a gesture of welcoming or asking. People want to be valued, heard, and trusted to do things you ask of them, so commanding them to do things may be met with the subconscious desire for independence. With my volleyball players constantly asking me what they were supposed to be doing, I figured it was worth a shot to be more conscious of what my hands gestures were like.
Now before I go further, I will mention that it was not every athlete that had a hard time understanding every sessions instructions or felt like I was unapproachable. But there were multiple individuals who consistently struggled with the instructions and comprehension of the expectations for the day.
But when I started becoming more aware of the placement of my hands, things started to shift.
The question of "what am I supposed to be doing?" turned into "Am I doing this right?" Not only did the group have a better comprehension of the daily training session, but started to put more conscious effort into the things they were doing. Just by changing one aspect of coaching that my athletes didn't even consciously take note of they started listening more and training harder.
I write this for the other youth coaches out there, because often times getting youth athletes to do what you're asking them to do can be a painstaking process. But by investing a little bit of time into it, you'll start to realize the power in the palms of your hands.