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by Danny James

Laconic Coaching

“He who knows how to speak, knows also when” – Archidamidas

Ancient Greece was a fascinating culture, and a fascinating time. Even the way they communicated is fascinating. Greece was obsessed with rhetoric; the ability to debate, and to deliver elegant and persuasive speeches was highly prized in society.

The exception to this are the Spartans. The residents of the ancient city of Sparta (often called Laconians, after the region that Sparta was capital of) were known to abhor the typical longwinded Greek obsession with language.

These days, through what we know of their history, Spartans are remembered not only for their courage, frugality, and simplicity, but for their economy of speech; so much so that we call this manner of speaking ‘laconic’.

“Spartans were expected to be men of few words and stick to the point”
They felt that there was power not only in what is said, but in what is not said.

One challenge for coaches is to be ‘Spartan’ with our language; to use as few words as possible, and allow learning to be driven by the athlete’s experience with their surroundings and the task we give them.

We must get to the point – quickly; economy in language is crucial if we want to be heard. Attention spans are diminishing by the day. This makes it especially important for us to be concise; to shorten our message.

We can always add details later, if necessary.

Too often, words get in the way. We use them to mask our insecurity. In our desire to prove to the athletes how much we know, we often overwhelm them with information.

Like the Spartans, the wise coach will know what not to say – not just what to say.