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Developing employability through sport and physical activity
Developing employability through sport and physical activity

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1 Game changing connections – communication in sport

Described image
Figure 2 Footballer encouraging his teammate inside the dressing room

According to research conducted by the National Soft Skills Association, communication has emerged as one of the primary employability skills highly sought after by employers when evaluating their employees (Blue, 2023). Communication tends to serve two main functions:

  1. Conveying information from you to other people.
  2. Social interaction which enables individuals to engage in conversations, express their thoughts, and establish connections with others.

Communication is more than just what is said. It is a mixture of verbal and non-verbal messages that can change depending on individual preferences or the circumstances (UK Coaching, 2018). Broadly speaking, when we refer to communication we are thinking about:

  • Verbal communication: spoken words, pitch and tone, pronunciation, articulation, expression.
  • Non-verbal communication: eye contact, body language, facial expressions, gesturing, listening, written text.

As you progress through life, your communication style will adapt and vary based on the specific context and situation. For instance, the way you interact with your friends is likely to differ significantly from how you communicate within a professional work environment.

Engaging in sports can have a substantial impact on improving communication skills, both at an individual level and within a collective setting. In the upcoming activity, you will begin to investigate how you regularly employ your communication skills while participating in sports.

Activity 1 Team talk

Timing: Allow approximately 25 minutes

Consider your involvement in sports (whether as a participant, coach, or a combination) and document the various methods through which you communicate with others in the text box below. You might choose to divide these up between verbal and non-verbal communication.

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Now watch this video of Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] during their match against Tottenham Hotspur. It was recorded during the Covid-19 pandemic with no crowd in attendance. While watching, take note of the various methods Tierney employs to communicate with his teammates, and consider whether these communication patterns resonate with your own style of interaction.


No doubt there will be a multitude of ways that you communicate throughout your engagement in sport. It goes without saying that some elements of your communication are likely to be better honed than others, but sport is certainly an arena where you can practice and develop this skill. As you will have seen in the video, Kieran Tierney displayed several methods of communication during Arsenal’s match. His ability to project his voice so that teammates could hear him is particularly important despite this game being played behind closed doors (think what it would be like in front of 60,000 shouting football fans!). Do you feel proficient in projecting your voice so that your teammates can hear you? That is a very useful skill in the workplace when, for example, delivering a presentation or speaking in meetings.

As demonstrated, effective communication is vital in both sport and employment (Gould and Carson, 2008). By fostering teamwork, leadership, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, cross-cultural communication, and effective communication in competitive environments, individuals can develop well-rounded communication abilities that benefit them in various aspects of life.