In baseball, signals reveal plans, strategies, insights and sometimes, they are used to throw off the opposition. Signals matter.

The father-son team that I met recently are also a coach-player duo, and they realize how important clear signals really are. Clear communications indicate intent, purpose and meaning.

The father-coach was discussing the challenges of how to coach one’s child, and conveyed a conversation that he had with another father-coach. Having played that role well over a dozen times myself, I was intrigued by his wisdom. We both agreed that a parent can’t play favorites with their own child. The negative aspects of doing so can poison an entire team. Finding a way to be fair is the main challenge. The relationship with the team is one thing, but the relationship between parent and child is altogether more important. It is through this perspective that he saw a solution. A brilliant solution. A nugget of wisdom for life.

He described situations when his son is near a group of kids who are acting up. The dad-coach calls out discipline and/or correction, spoken to his son but actually aimed at the kids nearby. It tends to catch youngsters’ attention when the coach is calling out his own kid’s name. He can easily call out, using his son’s name to command “you guys cut it out.” Here’s the clincher: If the comment is not really directed at his son, but he is only using his son’s name to help get the desired effect with the other nearby players, the dad-coach pats his chest over his heart while calling out. His son immediately knows the meaning of the signal. Such signal gestures are not uncommon in baseball; this particular use of a signal certainly is, though.

We could all do a better job of giving signals to reinforce or clarify our communications and messages. Tone, body language, gestures and expressions are only a few of the clarifiers that we can use. Kind words alone are nice, but accompanied by a wink or a hug or a smile creates clarity and value. Strong words are sometimes necessary, and other signals can help keep the words from being damaging. In baseball, coaches go to great lengths to be sure the players understand meaning, plays and strategies. We should go through such efforts for clarity in life. Signals matter.

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