Communication and working relationships in sport and fitness
Communication and working relationships in sport and fitness

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Communication and working relationships in sport and fitness

1 Life and death communication in motor racing

In this first activity, you will watch a lively extract concerning life and death decisions during a motor racing pit-stop.

Described image
Figure 2 Communication in the pit-stop can be crucial.

Activity 1 Chris Hoy’s motor racing pit-stop

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

When multiple Olympic cycling champion Sir Chris Hoy retired, he took up motor racing and went to the Le Mans 24-hour race to compete. Watch the video of Chris Hoy’s motor racing pit-stop but please be warned that there is some swearing in this clip so carefully choose where you watch it so as not to cause offence to others. In addition to Chris Hoy who is driving, there are two other main people interacting: the race engineer (coordinating radio communications) and the team principal leading the pit-crew. Using examples from this video make notes on the following questions:

  1. How does the competition situation influence the purpose of the communication and the tone that is used?
  2. How are relationships strengthened or threatened through this exchange?
Download this video clip.Video player: e119_2018j_vid008-640x360.mp4
Skip transcript

Transcript

CHRIS:
Front right, flat spot. I've flat spotted the front right tyre with bad vibration.
STUART:
OK, see if you can keep your pace up. If the vibration is too much, then we'll bring you in. Jonathan, if he locks the tyre and goes through, we'll have a puncture and we're fucked. Soft set for the car please. Soft tyres for the car immediately. Johnathan, why change all four? He's just going to kill us.
JONATHAN:
I can't do anything about that. If he's on track and he's losing that much time, he's going to kill us anyway.
STUART:
Just put one.
JONATHAN:
I can't make sets, Stuart. That's just stupid. There will be a balancing difference.
STUART:
They do it in Formula 1. They do it in this series. Just put one tyre on.
CHRIS
Can you please stop talking. I'm going to have to come in. I can barely see the windscreen.
JONATHAN:
Chris, you have to wait. I'm afraid you've buggered the tyres. I cannot just fix it like that. You have to continue driving until I've got to a point where I can stop you to fix the problem.
STUART:
What are they? We need hot soft. Johnathan, there's no soft tyres at all. You'll just have to go with one tyre.
JONATHAN:
He's flat spotted both fronts. Just do the whole set.
CHRIS:
I'm going to have to come in, this is getting fucking dangerous now.
JONATHAN:
OK, we've got to take the chance. Box now.
MAN:
They're cold, all the tyres.
STUART:
Oh, fuck me.
NARRATOR:
Using cold tyres can be like driving on ice.
CHRIS:
I'm sorry about that. It was so annoying. Flat spotted going into the Mulsanne corner.
JONATHAN:
So what's done is done. We can't change it. Just concentrate and we'll go again.
CHRIS:
Copied.
STUART:
Are you going to tell him these are cold?
JONATHAN:
We'll do it once you're done. OK, Chris, nice and easy. The tyres are cold. So just be careful with them.
STUART:
Chris, really careful, the first two laps, extreme care. I know what's happened. Because Jonathan's worried about each cycle you were waiting to put the next set of mediums in. But what happens is, if you wait, you get fucked. Fuck him. I know what I'm talking about. Always have a set of hot tyres in.
JONATHAN:
OK, Chris how are you feeling? Is everything OK?
End transcript
 
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Restrict yourself to 20 minutes for this activity. It would be easy to spend hours on it with a very in-depth analysis; instead restrict your time, give your initial responses to the two questions and then read the Discussion to reinforce your learning.

Discussion

  1. This is a very high-pressure situation requiring fast decisions and communication during competition: a race track pit-stop needs to be quick. Their communication has an information function (e.g. ‘replace all four tyres’) and/or an interpersonal function in developing confidence and/or trust and rapport. Analysis of individual interactions when taken out of this intense competition context should recognise the needs of this demanding environment.

    There are numerous examples of ambiguous communication or too much information or messages dominated by anger; this often makes these messages less effective. For instance, at one point Hoy has to say ‘can you please stop talking, I’m going to have to come in …’ as he fears for his safety.

    The first successful piece of interpersonal communication occurs when Chris Hoy (CH) comes into the pit-stop when his confidence has been threatened:

    • CH: ‘I’m sorry about that, that’s so annoying …’ [i.e. an apology to the team]

      Race engineer: ‘What’s done is done, we can’t change it, lets concentrate and we go again’ [supportive and positive]

      CH: ‘copied’ [I have received the message].

  2. In terms of relationships being strengthened or threatened, you might have noticed some of the following examples. Throughout the exchanges tensions run quite high and the team leader’s anger could harm the relationship with his race engineer and team colleagues. One outburst appeared ego-centred and perhaps unusual, e.g. ‘F*** him [i.e. the race engineer], I know what I’m talking about’.

    The penultimate exchange between team leader (TL) and race engineer (RE), however, demonstrates listening to each other in the heat of the situation and the working relationship being maintained:

    • TL: ‘Are you going to tell him [Chris Hoy] that these [tyres] are cold?’

      RE: ‘Will do once you’re done’.

    After the pit-stop it is noticeable how the race engineer attempts to build rapport and confidence with Chris by asking ‘OK Chris, how are you feeling, everything OK?’

Although we all communicate every day, this video and research into the topic demonstrate that communication and working relationships are a complex set of social skills and behaviours (e.g. Bowes and Jones, 2006). However, here in this course, it is broken down into parts – thereby making it easier to study – and you will revisit this video in Session 2 to make further sense of it.

Right now, at the beginning of this course, you should consider to what extent you use small talk when you catch up with someone. Is small talk pointless chit-chat or a social lubricant?

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