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With heavy workloads and limited staff capacity, sport organizations are constantly seeking ways to improve efficiency. In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) tools have become an increasingly popular way for organizations to leverage their capacity.

In this blog, SIRC outlines 3 different AI tools and how they can aid sport organizations’ communications efforts.


DeepL is a free online translation tool launched in 2017. DeepL can be useful for sport organizations that must provide communications in both official languages, and for organizations seeking to reach a target community with specific language preferences.

To use DeepL, one can copy and paste a written text, or upload a PDF, word document, or powerpoint presentation. There are over 30 languages that can be translated.

For organizations that employ professional translators, running documents through DeepL before passing along to a translator can both lower translation costs and speed the process.

When employing DeepL, important documents should always be reviewed by a bilingual reader.


ChatGPT is a predictive text tool that mimics human conversation. Launched in November 2022, the free online tool has already revolutionized workflow for thousands of users from various sectors.

ChatGPT can help sport organizations with the following tasks:

  1. Writing press releases: ChatGPT can be used to generate draft press releases quickly and efficiently. By inputting basic information about a team, player, event or announcement, ChatGPT can generate a first draft for a communications employee to refine and edit.
  2. Drafting social media content: ChatGPT can be used to generate social media posts that are targeted to specific audiences. For example, promoting a game, sharing highlights, or announcing player news.
  3. Crafting messaging: ChatGPT can be used to help brainstorm messaging for various campaigns and events. By inputting key information about a campaign, such as the intended audience and goals, ChatGPT can generate messaging that is tailored to those goals.
  4. Data analysis and reporting: ChatGPT can be used to analyze data from sports events and provide reports that can be used to inform communications strategies. By analyzing data from social media, website traffic, and other sources, the tool can provide insights into what content is resonating with fans and how to improve engagement.

The key to using ChatGPT is to be as specific as possible. For example, providing the data sources or websites that you wish it to pull from, as well as being specific about your target audience and preferred tone of communication.


Similar to ChatGPT, ChartGPT allows the user to input data in the form of text and have it converted into a chart or graph. ChartGPT is a paid service.

ChartGPT can be leveraged by sport organizations to help with:

  1. Presentation visuals: Upload data into ChartGPT and have immediate access to graphs or charts suitable for powerpoint presentations.
  2. Social media assets: ChartGPT can create infographic-style materials that are popular on visual-based social media, such as Instagram.
  3. Research figures: Many sport organizations participate in research-related activities or partnerships, and may need to produce research documentation. Similarly, data can be uploaded to create figures for end of year reports to be submitted to stakeholders or board members.

Exercise good judgment when using AI

AI tools are not infallible, thus they are more effective for getting a start on a project, rather than producing the final, polished product. Content produced by AI should always be diligently fact-checked. OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT, acknowledges that the tool sometimes writes realistic-sounding, but factually incorrect answers. ChatGPT also has limited knowledge of events that have occurred within the last year (for example, ChatGPT does not know what ChartGPT is).

Final thoughts

AI tools are just that, tools to help people, rather than to replace them entirely. As intimidating as they may seem at first glance, it is unlikely that this technology is going anywhere, so adaptation and leveraging is the best course of action for sport organizations.

For example, portions of this blog were drafted using ChatGPT, and it was translated from English to French using DeepL. It was then edited and refined, and the translation was reviewed, by real humans at SIRC.

Sport researchers have demonstrated that unspoken communication is crucial, especially for coaches. Athletes respond to coaches’ body language more frequently and quickly (4.5 times faster) than verbal communication. To promote effective communication, coaches should be direct, take time to consider the best ways to communicate with athletes, and remember that their body language and timing matters.

In game 6 of the 2021 NHL playoffs, the Toronto Maple Leafs were down 1-0 in the third period and on the penalty kill. Toronto Maple Leaf Mitch Marner shot the puck over the glass, resulting in a penalty. While in the penalty box, Marner hunched over, looking anxious and defeated.

The Leafs would give up a goal on the resulting 5-on-3 penalty kill and ultimately, lose the game. Marner’s emotions communicated to his teammates a lack of confidence. Should blame be placed on Marner? No. But did his emotions rub off on his teammates and likely impact their performance? Yes.

Understanding emotional contagion

Emotion is a response to an internal or external object or event. An emotional response has 3 main characteristics (Jones, 2003):

  1. Physiological changes: Noticeable changes in facial expression and body language
  2. Subjective experience: An individual’s awareness of what they are feeling
  3. Action tendencies: The urge to perform a certain behaviour when experiencing a specific emotion

It is no secret that communication is a vital component of success in sport. However, the power of emotion as a communication tool is often overlooked. Like the flu, emotions are contagious between individuals (Barsade, 2002). Van Kleef’s (2009) Emotion as Social Information (EASI) model helps explain this phenomenon. The EASI model suggests that one person’s emotional expressions can influence the behaviour of someone they are interacting with in two ways.

First, the original person’s emotion can provide the other person with information about the originator’s feelings, attitudes, and behavioural intentions. To illustrate, picture two hockey players who play on the same line. If player 1 doesn’t pass to player 2, and then player 1 loses the puck, player 2 may express anger. Player 1 may realize that player 2 is upset, and then player 1 determines that they made a bad play, which motivates them to try and pass the puck more. This is an inferential process because one member makes assumptions about the other’s emotions and then changes their behaviour accordingly.

Second, the originator’s emotion can affect the observer’s own emotions. Due to their contagious nature, humans often mirror the emotion they are observing. Using the above scenario, if player 2 expresses anger, player 1 may catch this anger and may begin to dislike player 2. Then, the players may not want to be linemates anymore, impairing team cohesion. This response is an affective reaction, as a change in emotion impacts behaviour.

Why emotional contagion matters in sport

At its core, sport is a social activity where athletes constantly interact with teammates and other members of their team (for example, coaches). Athletes must be able to regulate their emotions to positively influence their teammates and as a result, enhance team functioning (Crocker et coll., 2015). Emotional regulation refers to an individual’s ability to control/change emotions and associated responses to accomplish set goals (Friesen et coll., 2012).

Womens Football Team Celebrating Winning Soccer Match Lifting Player upWhether you are an athlete, coach, or even a fan, your emotions matter. For instance, when teammates demonstrate happy emotions, this can positively influence the collective emotions of a team, that then further serve to positively shape athletes’ perceptions of their own performance (Totterdell, 2000). In addition, if you’ve ever watched a sports game, you may notice how a coach’s emotional expressions influence athletes’ emotions and behaviours. Recently, van Kleef et coll. (2019) found coaches’ who expressed happiness with their athletes predicted team success, while expressions of anger were negatively associated with team success. Similarly, coaches’ stress has also been found to negatively influence the emotions of athletes, resulting in increased levels of anxiety and apprehension, reduced enjoyment and self-confidence, as well as increased pressures to perform well (Thelwell et coll., 2017).

The following tips can help athletes, coaches, and support staff effectively manage emotional contagion on a team to enhance team functioning.

  1. Practice emotional regulation

Team development exercises should include an emotional regulation component. Athletes and coaches can practice their own emotional regulation and get a feel for how athletes within the team communicate using emotions. Here are some strategies that can be implemented to improve emotional regulation:

  1. Capitalize on your opponent’s emotional outbursts 

Try to manage your own emotions while leveraging others. Moll and colleagues (2010) found that two things occurred when a player scored in a shootout and clearly displayed positive emotion: their opponent was more likely to miss, and their next teammate was more likely to score. This was suggested to occur because they communicated feelings of achievement, happiness, and confidence that was contagious to their teammate and discouraging to their opponent.

  1. Sometimes, negative emotions need to be felt

Sometimes in sports, an extremely unfavourable event, such as losing a season-ending game, can cause negative emotions that are too immense to control. This is okay. Sometimes negative emotions need to be experienced, especially when all members are individually feeling down. In fact, not coping with a difficult situation as a team can impair member relations and social cohesion (Tamminen et coll., 2016). In a study of varsity athletes’ perceptions of the function of emotional expressions as social information, dealing with negative emotions as a team was perceived to strengthen social bonds and increase group-based identity (Tamminen et coll., 2016). Thus, in certain situations, negative emotions can be productive. With proper guidance from coaches and management, athletes should face such emotions as a team.

Final thoughts

Emotions can communicate important information about one’s thoughts and intentions as well as influence the emotions of others. Athletes can catch the emotions of their teammates, opponents, coaches, or even fans, ultimately affecting team performance. Hence, just like a slapshot, emotional regulation needs to be practiced so that it can be optimized in a way that supports athletes and their teams in the pursuit of athletic success.

Marner, as a devoted Leafs fan, I understand how you felt. However, your emotions told everyone that you were nervous and unhopeful. Would you ever say to a teammate that you have no hope in them when you want them to succeed? Probably not. On the playing field, your visible emotions shouldn’t communicate anything you wouldn’t wish to say out loud. 

When an athlete experiences a concussion, it is common for teammates and coaches to provide well-intentioned forms of support that are met with resistance from the athlete. According to new research, an effective strategy to support a concussed athlete is to ask them what they need from you. Every athlete is unique: They may want different types of support from different people at different times in their recovery.

Efforts to consciously improve inclusivity in sport communications can help reduce how often microaggressions, prejudices and biases are introduced or reinforced. Some strategies to improve the inclusivity of your communications include: providing communications in multiple formats, creating a list of inclusive terms to replace outdated language, using person-first language and choosing visuals that reflect the diversity of your organization.

Sport can be a powerful resource for children who had experienced trauma. A case study of BGC Canada’s Bounce Back League shows that new trauma-informed practices can be successfully integrated into communities by taking small steps, maintaining open communication, and building on existing club capacities.

To mark World Inclusion Day (October 10, 2022), SIRC wanted to focus on information about inclusive communications in sport. This blog post emphasizes why sport administrators, sport organizations and coaches should improve how inclusive they are, specifically in all the ways they communicate. It also highlights ways to check communications to make everyone in their audiences feel included, respected, accepted and valued. 

Inclusivity has nothing to do with political correctness. Everyone has the right to be communicated with in a respectful, accurate and equitable way, rather than being “othered,” made to feel inferior, demeaned, overlooked or excluded.

Anyone should be able to access communications, in some form, unless the communications are for a specific audience only. For example, a message may be of relevance only to elementary students who are already registered for a July 2023 soccer camp in Brandon, Manitoba.

While organizations are adopting hiring strategies and training plans to encourage more inclusiveness, there’s room to do better. Communications in sport is one area in which everyone from coaches to sport administrators can improve inclusivity. This means more than adding pronouns to your social media profiles and email signatures. It also means going beyond using gender-neutral words like replacing “linesman” with “line judge” or “linesperson.”

Why inclusivity matters

Disabled child on wheelchair is playing basketball on the lawn in front of the house like other people, Lifestyle of special child,Life in the education age of children, Happy disability kid concept.Efforts to consciously improve inclusivity in sport communications can help reduce how often microaggressions, prejudices and biases are introduced or reinforced. Without such efforts, communications can negatively affect diverse audiences based on their beliefs, abilities, gender, skin colour, income, education, culture, sexual orientation, first language, height, weight, backgrounds or other identities.

The stakes are high. Without inclusive communications, your messages may not reach or resonate with certain individuals or entire community groups. At worst, you risk unintentionally disrespecting or harming people.

When sport administrators, organization staff or coaches create, share or “like” communications that aren’t inclusive, their audiences will react in different ways. Audiences may overlook a misstep if they know you well. But, even fans will react if they feel they’re repeatedly excluded or disrespected. Such audiences may:

Making communications more inclusive

A coach with BIPOC basketball players in a huddle on the sidelines of a basketball courtInclusion spans all types of communications, such as emails, consent forms, medical forms, registration forms, presentation slides, surveys, speeches, annual reports, consultations, website content, social media posts, emails, videos, letters, signage, announcements, help files, transcripts, meeting agendas and minutes, data reports, team names, everything.

To be inclusive, sport administrators, organizations and coaches must be mindful as they plan their communications, before they’re created, approved or shared. Part of planning can be to prioritize the most frequently used communications. Then, after improving those communications, move on to other types. So, maybe start with emails and social media content, then review website content, handbooks, training material, and so on.

Signs that your communications could be more inclusive might be that you’re using words that reflect outdated views of families. For example, you might currently be addressing emails to “parents” instead of to “parents and guardians” or your forms might have a line only for “parent’s signature.” That doesn’t account for any children and teens who are raised by other family or community members, live in foster care or stay in a group home.

Maybe the term “coast to coast” appears in your messages, instead of “coast to coast to coast” to account for all Canada’s bordering oceans (Arctic, Atlantic, Pacific). Or maybe you refer to “he/she” or “his/hers” when you could avoid using gender pronouns. Or maybe your memes and photos only show people of one gender, who are white and without disabilities. If so, what steps can you take?

Strategies to improve inclusivity

Indigenous woman studying in a libraryMissteps happen, language evolves and demographics change over time, so you won’t always get everything right. What matters is that you learn from any mistakes and strive to do better. Asking people how they want to be addressed and what terms you may use when communicating about or to them.

Remember to also consider everyone who communicates on your behalf. For example, an assistant coach may send out messages when you’re on vacation or someone else may manage social media posts for your organization. Make sure they’re all aware of the steps you’re taking to be more inclusive.

Sample strategies:

More inclusivity tips are available in the resources at the end of this blog post.

Table 1. Sample words to replace non-inclusive words

Many coaches are familiar with the risk of concussions in sport, but may be unaware of how to best support an athlete through a concussion. Research shows that coaches can support concussed athletes by understanding their organization’s or school’s concussion protocol, and by actively working with healthcare professionals to support athletes’ concussion recovery.

Communication is most associated with purposeful, verbal interactions. However, a big part of how we communicate in life, and sport, is non-verbal (Mehrabian, 2017).

For example, simple acts of eye contact or body language are just as important than the exchange of words. In fact, experts assert that 93% of communication is non-verbal (Lapakko 2007). In this blog post, we’ll explain why non-verbal communication is important in sport. We also provide evidence-informed tips to help coaches improve their non-verbal communication with athletes.

Nonverbal communication in sport

Sport researchers have demonstrated that communication through means other than spoken language is imperative, especially for coaches. To demonstrate, Dobrescu (2014) found that athletes responded to coaches’ body language more frequently and quickly than other types of communication. In this study, athletes understood coaches’ body language 4.5 times faster than verbal communication.

Female volleyball players in yellow uniform huddling together before starting the gameAs another example, Lausic and team (2009) studied NCAA division I women doubles tennis players and discovered the most effective types of communication involved emotional and action statements and behaviours. Emotional statements are those articulating an individual’s feelings, such as their mood and reactions. These statements become behaviours when demonstrated in a nonverbal manner, such as a pat on the back. On the other hand, action statements explicitly express a desired action, for example, where to aim a serve.

Although non-verbal communication is essential, many teams lack this skill and suffer the consequences on and off the field of play. It’s important for teams to learn a wide range of communication skills. Based on research with hard-of-hearing or Deaf athletes who rely on non-verbal methods of communication, here is a list of tips for any coach to improve their non-verbal communication:

Tip #1: Be direct with your communication

Communication is easier when people share similarities such as a common language. It may be hard for Deaf athletes to communicate with their coaches because often the coaches are not hard-of-hearing, which creates a language barrier. It was found that Deaf athletes preferred training with other Deaf athletes to facilitate communication (Brancaleone, 2017).

Hearing impaired disabled happy family couple showing gestures.Rochon and colleagues (2006) noted that one way to address this situation is to use direct communication. In Deaf teams, this may be learning sign language to communicate directly with athletes. For hearing teams, this could be done through eye contact, having a more formal one-on-one discussion, or just generally being very clear in your expectations to decrease ambiguity (Young, 2016).

Tip #2: Figure out the best communication for the athlete

Using language and signs that athletes are familiar with is another way to improve your non-verbal communication with athletes. This not only reduces confusing messages, but also increases an athlete’s feeling of self-worth and importance, which is critical in a team setting (Rochon et al., 2006).

For example, Deafblind individuals have described feeling isolated from hearing people that did not put effort into learning how to communicate with them (Hersh, 2013). A similar finding was emphasized in a study of the 2013 Deaflympics, where the medical staff communicated with the athletes via their preferred style of communication (Brancaleone, 2017). Using communication behaviours preferred by the Deaf athletes increased both physical evaluation and overall attitudes, thus further supporting the importance of learning language catered to athletes.

Tip #3: Body language is important

Swimming coach standing on the pool deck watching a group of swimmers racing down their lanes.For hearing athletes, the importance of the coach’s body language is also important. For instance, Weinberg and colleagues (2022) found many coaches highlighted the importance of non-verbal communication as being a tell-tale sign of a coach’s emotions, regardless of what they were verbally expressing.

In Spring of 2022, Dr. Luc Martin interviewed coach Christian Hoefler of the Queen’s University men’s varsity soccer team for an undergraduate course in team dynamics. Much of the emphasis during the discussion was on non-verbal communication, and Hoefler mentioned the importance of body-language, suggesting soccer to be about “acting,” and the athletes showing engagement through physical body gestures.

Tip #4: Timing is everything 

Coaches have a range of roles they engage with across different sports. For instance, soccer coaches are unable to communicate with their players during the play, whereas basketball coaches are constantly shouting from the sidelines.

There is an interesting debate regarding which type of coaching style is more effective. In non-hearing teams particularly, Moffett (2001) suggested that the athletes did not pay attention to their coaches during the play and were only focused on the other players. This is perhaps because they were unable to focus on the game itself while also taking in information from the coaches.

In the interview with Coach Hoefler, it was noted that in a stadium full of fans, it is near impossible to hear the coach from the sidelines, thus athlete-to-athlete communication is vital during play. Hoefler asserted that as a coach, if he has done his job correctly, athletes should be able to solve most problems that they face on the field. Thus, to get the point across most effectively, it might be useful for coaches of all teams to prioritize communication before and after plays, rather than during.

Remember: Actions speak louder than words

Athlete standing with his back to the camera and looking at many rows of empty seats within an empty stadium.Perhaps the best way to summarize the importance of non-verbal communication is using a motto that researchers identified in a 2013 case study focused on the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team:

What you do shouts so loudly we can’t hear what you are saying.”

The Valley Female Leadership Network in Nova Scotia created an infographic to help make case for investment in girls and women’s participation and leadership in sport and physical activity. Reflecting on their experience, they advise: “You may find you have too much information but that’s okay, you can always create more than one infographic!” Learn more.