The Importance of Nonverbal Communication in Sports
Tyler J. Segerstrom
University of Oklahoma
Nonverbal communication is all around us in the sports world today. Many people don’t realize the importance of communicating without speaking in sports games. “We can define nonverbal communication as those behaviors and characteristics that convey meaning without the use of words” (Floyd, 2013, p. 104). Nonverbal communication is not just commonplace in team sports; it is sometimes essential to the success or failure of a team. Communicating nonverbally through gesticulation and dynamic body language is necessary in sports. All different types of sports use gestures and body movements to their advantage. These sports range from baseball coaches using signs to tell the runner when to steal, all the way over to Romania where they compete in “hammer throwing” competitions. Communicating nonverbally in sports is just as important as communicating verbally by using gestures and body movement instead of speaking and using words. Nonverbal communication between athletes and coaches is important for team success in all different sports.
The game of baseball is a great example of a sport that uses nonverbal communication every single play. The game of baseball is almost ruled by the signs and signals it uses. “People routinely communicate more information through nonverbal behaviors than they do through spoken language” (Floyd, 2013, p. 104). One of the most common nonverbal communication usages in sports is between the pitcher and catcher on what pitch to throw. Before the pitch is thrown every play, the catcher will use finger gestures and call specific pitches to the pitcher by putting down a certain number of fingers in a certain order. The pitcher then decodes the message on what pitch he needs to throw and confirms the call from the catcher with a nod or declines the pitch with a “headshake” and the catcher calls a new pitch. It is extremely important that the right pitch is called for the right pitch count, for example, if it’s a full count with three balls and two strikes the pitcher knows that if he throws the wrong pitch he could walk the batter or the batter can get a hit off of him, when his goal is to strike the batter out. The third base coach communicates to the batter and base runner at the same time with a series of coded hand gestures. Gestures are used by the third base coach to let the base runner know if he wants him to lead off the plate more or steal the base behind the pitchers back. Gestures are also used by the third base coach to tell the batter if he wants him to bunt, take a pitch, or just take a big swing at the ball. “Examples of the third base coach’s body gestures to call a play include: wiping a hand across the chest, touching the belt or rim of the hat with a specific hand, or wiping a hand down a specific arm” (Goldberg, 2010). If the batter or runner doesn’t pick up the coded sequence, the play will usually result in a strike out or the base runner misses the chance to steal a base. As you can see, nonverbal communication is extremely important in the game of baseball. However, it is not the only sport that uses nonverbal communication almost every single play.
Football teams use nonverbal communication every single game they play. The most used nonverbal communication in a football game is at the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped. The quarterback tries to read or guess what the defense is going to do; if they are going to blitz or if they are doing a certain defense. Depending on what the quarterback thinks, he will use common nonverbal signals and gestures to communicate to the receivers, running backs, or tight ends. To indicate which receiver should be sent in motion from one side of the field to the other, the quarterback will either tap his left or right foot or tap the left or right side of the centers leg to the let the receiver know which way to go. The...
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