Non-Verbal Communication in Athletic Competition

Nonverbal Communication

Non-Verbal Communication in Athletic Competition

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Non-verbal communication (or NVC) is carried on through presentational codes such as gestures, eye movements, or qualities of voice. These codes can give messages only about the here and now. My tone of voice can indicate my present attitude to my subject and listener: it cannot send a message about my feelings last week. Presentational codes, then, are limited to face-to-face communication or communication when the communicator is present. They have two functions.

The first, as we have seen, is to convey indexical information. This is information about the speaker and his or her situation through which the listener learns about her or his identity, emotions, attitudes, social position, and so on. The second function is interaction management. The codes are used to manage the sort of relationship the encoder wants with the other (Sullivan, 2009). By using certain gestures, posture, and tone of voice, I can attempt to dominate my fellows, be conciliatory towards them or shut myself off from them. I can use codes to indicate that I have finished speaking and it is someone else’s turn, or to indicate my desire to terminate the meeting. These codes are still, in a sense, indexical, but they are used to convey information about the relationship rather than about the speaker (Nunnaly, 1970).

People enjoy watching sports. And sports are almost always about nonverbal communication. They may be the greatest instance of nonverbal communication on hand — and their reputation may be the effect of their intense use of nonverbal communication.

Sports Are a Universal Nonverbal Language

The World Cup. The SuperBowl. Wimbledon. The Olympic Games. What is it concerning sports that bring in so many people?

Undoubtedly, there is a component of physical attraction to some fans’ interest. But a large amount modern cultures are not as fixated — at least not so honestly — on physical attractiveness as the earliest Greeks were.

The application may have a little more to do with straightforwardness and the clearness that sports offer. As one prominent Manhattan commercial attorney said, “The higher I get in my career, talking corporate transactions so complex that no one in reality knows everything that’s happening, the more I long to watch a Yankees game when I get home. There’s a lot less B.S. Jeter is secure or he’s out. That’s it.” As a consequence, athletes take for granted metaphoric roles that obey the rules to primary nonverbal messages. At the summit of public regard, we have athletes like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Magic Johnson — who unite above-average skills with outstanding discipline and work ethics to express a nonverbal message of humbleness and reliability. A stride (or several) underneath, we have Kobe Bryant, Terrell Owens and Allen Iverson — great people who struggle to find their best feat. At the base, we have neurotics and hard cases like Dennis Rodman, Rickey Williams and Mike Tyson (Timmers et al. 2008) strange characters who fritter away the public’s good will on decadent behavior. People need models of human conduct and these athletes, much as superstars in general, fill that need. This why, at the height of the Cold the most famous human being in world was the heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali (Pedhazur, 2002). The President of the U.S. And the Secretary General of the U.S.S.R. may have had control over the nuclear missiles, however they were obscure sorts. (at any rate until Ronald Reagan — a swimmer turned actor turned politician — came to power in the U.S.)in numerous cases, athletic celebrities criticize about being strained to take action as role models…when all they want to do is engage in recreation and games. This makes complete sense; on the athletic arenas, these people are gods of every nuance and sign. Off the field…well, they’re as misplaced as you would be as a nickel back brought in to circulation man-two exposure against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Nevertheless role models they stay. There’s a rationale for why people expend so much money on imitation jerseys and outfits of their preferred athletes. Average people want to have a piece of the elegance or humility or erratic brilliance or absolute freakishness of those players (Timmers et al. 2008).

The Power of Nonverbal Communication

Together with the quarterback and running back, one more example was a football player who had the edgy tendency of flexing his fingers prior to a play at the line of tussle when he was the most important receiver. And when he was not, barely ever flexed his fingers in expectation of catching the football. Word about this nonverbal trait rapidly spread and, for the duration of the twilight of his career, the receiver caught dreadfully few passes for the reason that he was directly guarded on passing plays.

Baseball Is Full of Nonverbal Cues

Nonverbal communication in sports has been around for the duration and history of games and long as they have been played. In baseball, it is the nonverbal link between pitcher and catcher that covers positive outcomes in a game. When the two of them are in coordination, the game is in fine hands. It has been repeatedly said, “that behind each first-class pitcher, there is an important person situated precisely 60 feet 6 inches away, catching his throws (Pedhazur, 2002).The catcher nonverbally corresponds with the pitcher how a batter is reacting to the pitches by how they shift their feet. If a pitcher is to be victorious, he ought to be on the same page with the catcher in nonverbally reading every one of the batters. It is more often than not the catcher who nonverbally communicates his self-assurance in the pitcher to chuck a particular pitch; one that the pitcher might not have great self-assurance in throwing. And when it happens to be victorious, the pitcher’s self-confidence is significantly increased: Winning a baseball game is time and again the result of such nonverbal self-reliance between a catcher and pitcher (Kneidinger, et al. 2009).

Casual audiences often don’t become conscious of the catcher’s importance to the baseball team’s general success. Besides catching the base-ball, he in addition calls which pitch is to be flung. He in addition teaches the fielders where they ought to stand to have the most excellent chance of catching a particular player’s hits. In baseball, it is imperative for fans to understand that pitchers know pitching, but catchers are acquainted with hitters.

In a few games, when the pitcher does not have the customary zip to his fastball or dip to his curves, the team still turns out to be victorious. On such days, the majority of pitchers will tell you they attained the victory exclusively because the catcher did a fine job of nonverbally interpreting the hitters and knew which throw to pitch and at what mark in the batter’s box. There are times when a catcher gets to be acquainted with a pitcher’s ability better than a manager or a pitching coach. And accordingly, the catcher may persuade a manager or pitching coach to permit a pitcher to face a perilous batter at a decisive time in a game as an alternative to replacing him with an additional pitcher. Such a state of affairs occurred more than a few years ago during a vital World Series game. The bases were laden in the late innings in a tied game and the manager walked out of the dugout fully certain it was time to switch pitchers. As is customary in such state of affairs, there is a lot of talk on the pitcher’s mound as the new pitcher gets time to limber up in the bullpen. The umpires are conscious of the coming up game taking place and over again will walk to the mound to speed up matters. When this occurs, the manager has just moments to indicate a new pitcher into the game, or permit the pitcher to continue in the game. And a catcher who has self-confidence in the pitcher’s ability can pressure the manager’s choice. The most horrible thing that can take place to a pitcher is when he begins to mislay coolness in his pitches (Pedhazur, 2002). When this happens it isn’t the pitching coach, manager or any other player who helps the pitcher recover the lost confidence, it’s the catcher: The one who catches the smolder in the pitches and the only one who can reinstate a pitcher’s confidence. In that vital World Series game, following a great deal of thought by the manager, he determined to go after the catcher’s advice and permitted the pitcher to stay in the game. His choice turned out to be wise (Kneidinger, et al. 2009) for the reason that the next batter hit into a dual play that finished the game and in the end lead to winning the World Series. In all athletic competitions, there is no sport that employs more nonverbal communication than baseball. Prior to every pitch is made, the catcher gestures to the pitcher the pitch he wishes him to throw. If the pitcher does not agree, he shakes his head, jiggles his glove or makes some other sign. Then the catcher will make an additional sign and the procedure goes on until they both have the same opinion on the pitch to be thrown.

In the interim, the batter glances at the third base coach who goes through a sequence of signs from touching the nose to rasping his hand crossways on the letters of the uniform: Gestures intended to convey — nonverbally — what he desires the batter to do. All of these signals start off from the manager sitting in the dugout who gives signs to the third base coach who on the other hand sends them to the batter.

Body Language and Nonverbal Communication in Sporting Contests

Of the numerous types of nonverbal communication, body language is conceivably the most understandable means through which humans express judgments and emotions and so make depictions of their knowledge evident to others. It entails gestures, facial expressions, eye movement, breathing movements, skin color variations, muscle tone, interpersonal distance, and stance. Iain Greenlees and his contemporaries looked at all these together with clothing and reviewed their impact among table-tennis players.

Some players might trudge unenergetically across the arena, shoulders limp, head disposed downwards. The body language signals a reception of crushing. Different table-tennis players may stride out anxiously to the table ahead of their opponents, frequently tapping their racket heads against their legs and gazing attentively ahead. They are watchful, enthusiastic and impatient to compete; their excitement level is elevated. Other players move around their eyes darting, as they hang around for their opponent to straighten out. Their actions deceive lack of self-control. Those players who showed “positive body language” were spoken of as ‘more self-confident, forceful, competitive, skilled, confident, optimistic, focused, comfortable, and fit than the models who showed negative body language (Sullivan & Short, 2001). Clothing did not make a great deal of differentiation. The insinuation is that before and during a contest, each athlete communicates facets of him or herself, occasionally purposely but more typically unintentionally. Body language often reveals a demonstration at odds with the athlete’s express purpose. No participant wishes to exchange a few words nervousness, acceptance, apprehension, or any other form of pessimism; up till now they are frequently unable of suppressing the nonverbal signs that correspond exactly these. Body language, similar to other nonverbal communication, entails cryptogram and decoding. People, not just athletes, may knowingly program their body movements and signs in expectation that teammates, opponents, and viewers alike all interpret in accordance with their purpose. Otherwise, they may be uninformed that their actions are revealing more than they wanted (Pedhazur, 2002). Worse yet, they may program important information about themselves simply for others to decipher a totally unusual message. In sport, roughly all of the communicating is completed by means of the body. Precompetition body language has turned out to be very much part of the show. Players of practically every contact sport will try to communicate a sense of fierceness during the beginning of a game, keeping up an uncompromising facial expression, maintaining muscles loose and walking assertively. The study of Greenlees et al. shows the value of this method of body language on anticipation, which itself has an effect on performance. During a sporting contest, body language has more than a few tasks (Kneidinger, et al. 2009). For the most part explicit level, a greeting, a thumbs-up sign, or a clenched fist, might work as symbols communicating generally acknowledged meanings. There may also be nonverbal prompts that run, steer, or control the flow of a competition. Case in point, a basketball or soccer player may arch arms downwards and spin palms towards the outside to signify to a teammate that he or she should take ownership of the ball. Body language may intensify speech: Coaches time and again frown and point arms or punch the air as they issue orders; team players regularly gesture extravagantly as they give confidence to each other. In every one of these examples, the substance of the communication could have been displayed by speech (Sullivan, 2009). but, a. Kendon says, gesture has diverse characteristics and purposes to speech. As an unspoken but noticeable mode of communication, it can be practical in sport; for example, by being a focus for the attention of a teammate but not an opponent who may be looking in a different way, or by conveying a purposely vague piece of information concerning tactics; this may be functional in warning that something is going to occur and possibly provoke tension (Sullivan, 2009).

Seeing substantiation of an opponent’s naked competitiveness may also make athletes cautious “Players like [Lleyton] Hewitt and Kobe Bryant are perceptibly very competitive because they thrust their fists,” Pete Sampras once spoke of his tennis opponents, adding that his own body language divulges the same sporting spirit, though in ‘a significantly understated way. People who are acquainted with him know when he is competing. You can observe it in his eyes and his look. He just does it in a more withdrawn way (Timmers et al., 2008). To turn our attention to Greenlees’s work, contestants reported decreased self-assurance in their ability to conquer an opponent when they saw them portraying positive body language, suggestive of the intimidatory potential of body language. So, commemorating every moment of success in a competition might transmit this potential. Possibly the most fascinating features of body language are the signals, facial expressions, and body stances that adjust in the situation of a contest and happen without known consciousness (Timmers et al., 2008). Nothing like most areas of life, in which language and body movement go together each other in communication; sports show the prospect for contradiction. Nonverbal prompts can clash with speech. A person may reassure another, “I’m completely undisturbed,” while dilated pupils may imply otherwise. Sincerely, it’s the truth,” may come with by what P. Ekman and W.V. Friesen, in the 1960s, showed “non-verbal leakage” in which information about a ruse is conveyed by means of body movements (people attempt to be in command of facial movements when trying to mislead others and are more probable to give themselves away with arm and torso activities) (Sullivan & Feltz, 2003). Sports competitors are never determined to confirm to an opponent that he or she has misplaced serenity and is prepared to accept to defeat. Up till now, their body language may do exactly that.


Kneidinger, L.M., Maple, T.L., & Tross, S.A. (2009). Touching behavior in sport: Functional components, analysis of sex differences, and ethological considerations. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 25, 43-62.

Nunnaly, J.C. (1970). Introduction to psychological measurement. New York: McGraw Hill.

Pedhazur, E.J. (2002). Multiple regression in behavioral research (2nd ed.). New York: Holt.

Sullivan, P.J., & Feltz, 13. L. (2003). The preliminary development of the Scale for Effective Communication in Team Sports (SECTS). Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 33, 1693-1715.

Sullivan, P.J., & Short, S.E. (2001). Furthering the construct of effective communication: A second version of the Scale for Effective Communication in Team Sports. Paper presented at the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPSPA), St. Louis, MO.

Sullivan, P.J. (2009). The relationship between team communication and performance. Paper presented at the Canadian Society for Sport Psychology and Psychomotor Behavior (SCAPPS), Montreal, PQ.

Timmers. M, Fischer, a.H., & Manstead, a.S. (2008). Gender differences in motives for regulating emotions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24, 974-985.

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