Body Language In Sport – By Daniel Scarpino

One of the most overlooked and underrated things in sports is body language. The same applies to life – A person does not even have to speak for this to be recognized – Body language, in so many respects, shows whether or not a person is interested, motivated, engaged, happy, sad, or enthused. We sometimes wonder why certain players don’t get into games. We sometimes wonder why a player plays poorly. We sometimes wonder why players act the way that they do. All of these things and more point directly to body language – You can quite literally tell if someone is mentally present just by their demeanor.

So, when looking at this in a rather particular way, we must analyze what body language actually is. It’s the way someone portrays themselves, the way they act, the way they talk, the way they socialize, the way they interact, the way they prepare, and the way they appear to the public. We can tell a lot about a person just on body language alone. Does body language tell the full story? – No, but in sports, it certainly does represent a big chunk of what a player does and who a player is.

Body language is so incredibly important and I cannot stress that enough. Coaches will often look at their players and say, “I’m going to play this player in this position, at this time, and for this long”. – WRONG! As a coach, you CANNOT predetermine what you will do with your players in terms of playing & playing time – Why? – Because you can have a plan, but if one’s body language is not adequate then your plan will change and throw everything else out of whack.

We, as coaches, must also recognize personalities within our teams. Every player is going to be a little different in terms of how they act, so recognizing this early on in the year is incredibly important. This will help a coach determine when something seems “off” about their players. This will also help a coach read body language more precisely and more accurately.

Having said all of this, the takeaway from this is that body language is absolutely imperative when it comes to sports. It quite literally tells the coach whether or not you care or want to be at the sport in which you are playing.

If a players body language is bad, then he/she does not play – End of subject. – Why? – If a player is not mentally engaged, you can expect for their performance to be poor/not up to par. I don’t care if that person is your best/star player; if your body language is bad, you sit. In addition to that, players need to know this. If you are not engaged when you are at the facility training/playing, then you can expect to be on the bench. No excuses. If a player is sat on the bench for a while and then the coach goes to sub them in and they look upset, grumpy or unenthused – then guess what – that player needs to stay on the bench for a little while longer until they can sort out, for themselves, that the team is bigger than they are.

For me, as a coach, I would rather field fewer players on the playing surface and lose a game by a massive margin than to have a select few players on the playing surface who “just kind of want to be there”. It’s either you’re in or you’re out – No gray area; no in between.

Body language is crucial for becoming a great player. If you consistently have bad body language, then your playing future will be grim and bleak. Being engaged is sometimes difficult given that we all have lives outside of sports, and life sometimes does get hard. However, as a player, if this is the case, then it’s important that you speak with your coach before the session begins to let him/her know what is going on. Otherwise, the coach will believe, and for good reason, that your body language is poor and that you are not engaged.

Coaches -> Make sure that you are looking for all the tell-tale signs of body language. In order to put your best team on the playing surface, reading body language needs to be mastered.

Players -> No matter the circumstances, be engaged. Show your coach that you are always ready to play and that you want to be there.

Let’s always have positive body language and our playing & coaching will be reflective of that