All the Wrong Communication

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Sydney Williams October 2, 2021 Founders Corner

A Lesson In All The Wrong Communication

The kind of day we often hear about:

A high school student gets on the bus for school. She opens her TikTok app, and watches videos that her friends are sharing. She still hasn’t gotten to Coach’s message. The night before, he texted the team a link to a video showing a new play he wants to install at today’s practice.

Separately—a short while later—the school’s athletic director emails Coach a list of athletes whose parents have signed the permission form to pick their kids up after the team’s game on Thursday. The AD sends the same email to several coaches of teams about to play games.

In the evening, after practice ends, Coach emails his athletes a reminder about the game and quick thoughts on the practice. Coach hoped to catch up with a few athletes, but practice runs late and everyone rushes to waiting cars and buses.

Coach, meanwhile, prints out the AD’s email to have on hand at the game.

Over the past few months, we polled coaches and ADs about different issues they face. We learned from coaches that they rank communication breakdown among their biggest risk factors.

How can that be?

We live in a connected world. We contact each other constantly on multiple platforms every single day.

Maybe it’s not what we think.

Did the athlete ever open the video link? If she did, did she know how to review it? And what about the coach’s follow-up email? How many high schoolers nowadays take the time to read their emails?

Coaches of course open and respond to emails that ADs send, unless job security doesn’t really matter. But how much information exchange is happening? How deep does it go?

One-Way Communication

The scenarios described above capture a typical day. In each case, the sender is declaring that the recipient takes action. Call it one-way communication.

Multiply these types of communication over weeks and months and the breakdown problem becomes easier to understand.

Today’s fashionable forms of communication tether people to one-directional conversations.

A coach, in sending out informational emails and texts, likely checks the communication box. Same with the athletic director.

They’re both thinking: “I’m sharing important information directly with each person who needs to know.”

What they’re not thinking: “Could there be an equally important response?”

That person who played sports in the 80s and 90s knew a different world. Information exchange may have been short on in-depth analytics, but it was face-to-face and two-directional.

Some folks argue that coaches and athletes today are less informed than in the days before instant messaging became a thing.

At Stride, we take these information gaps seriously. Our platform empowers each person across a sports program.

Coaches send information, but athletes send information back.

Our system looks and feels like what people are now used to. They write quick notes on their phones, click on tasks, and press send buttons.

It goes further: Feedback loops and goal-setting engage athletes and each user. A person receiving a message opens it and responds in an informed way.

We think of our conversations as new-school data combined with old-school information exchange.

Coaches avoid trapping themselves in all the wrong communication.

Sydney is Stride’s Founder.