How to Communicate Better in Soccer: 8 Tips

Good communication between, players on the field is only as good as the communication between players and coaches off the field. Coaches who can present their messages simply and have a better chance of success. Understanding creates composure. In this article, I decided to provide 8 tips to help coaches communicate better in soccer.

What are the 8 tips to communicate better in soccer?

  • Provide thinking time
  • Plan your key points
  • Utilize your resources
  • Always ask: Who needs to hear this?
  • Consider making changes during the practice
  • Know your ball rolling time
  • Simplify the message
  • A picture paints a thousand words
What are the 8 tips to communicate better in soccer?

The 8 tips presented above will support a coach’s ability to communicate effectively with their players.

Coaches must read the tips and try to implement the ones which are most relevant to them. Some of these tips you may already do well or have in place.

Personalize the tips to your level of coaching and pick the ones that will have the biggest impact on you and your players.

1. Provide Thinking Time

It is generally accepted that people learn best when they get to figure the answers out for themselves.  Quite often in soccer coaching, there is more than one solution to a problem so rather than telling the participants what you think they should do, how about you allow them to figure things out for themselves. 

Intervening at the first signs of a mistake may be interrupting the problem-solving process for the child. Therefore allow for around 5 minutes of uninterrupted practice at the beginning of any new session to allow some thinking and figuring out time. 

When asking any questions to the group, rather than requesting immediate answers, ask the children to show you the answer first through the practice, then after some time pose the question again to see if they can give you an answer of what worked and what didn’t work for them.  

This is a much better way of influencing learning because during this process lots of mistakes will occur and mistakes and setbacks are vital to learning as during these moments they can start to establish the where, when’s and how around the topics and problems they are trying to solve. 

The message to coaches here is to not be afraid to let the players make mistakes and fail within a practice, it’s important the children you coach are not overprotected from errors and that they are actively encouraged to make errors,

It is good as a coach that you want to reduce errors occurring in practice and this would be correct for familiar practices that have been done on numerous occasions however new practices should actively encourage, experimentation, creativity, and mistakes thus making an effective learning environment for the performers.   

2. Plan your Key Points

Try to think about manipulating the practice design so you do not have to keep stopping the practice, interfere and give lots of corrective detail.

Whatever the session topic is, try to create a game-based practice that creates the repetition of the skills or tactic you want to occur then you can observe the players and plan interventions in terms of communications you wish to make during a break in play.

This may be in the form of questions, it may be some basic key points you wish to address or some individual challenges you may set an individual based on your observations.  

Any coaching interventions need to be clear and if they cannot be explained within one minute, ideally around 30 to 45 seconds then maybe consider using some questions instead. The players have to use practice to answer their questions and the coach will just review the players finding post-practice rather than rambling on when they could be practicing.

Plan your Key Points

3. Utilize your Resources

Encouraging the performers to help each other problem solve is a good way of building communication within your group.  Not all information and communication need to come from the coach.  Try to catch the performers providing good information during practices and once the stoppage occurs try to get them to feed it back to the group. 

This should hopefully encourage other players to offer similar help and support to teammates and can be a helpful way in helping children find their solutions alongside their teammates.  This way of communicating information can be much more powerful than the players always listening to their coach.

In these types of instances, your job is to act as a mediator and facilitator which allows the players to digest the information provided by teammates. 

Things to try could be asking players to share their thoughts about improvements the players could make in a practice in front of the other group members or players who may be a little intimidated by this could pair up with a teammate to provide their responses and ideas to questions or the quality within a practice.   

The main concept is to catch the players communicating well and let them know they are doing it well, if questioning try to provide clear thinking time and then limit the response time so these sorts of interventions do not take up too much practice time. 

If a team has access to pictures or video clips of key points they wish the players to implement then these could be a good resource to support learning and aid players understanding of a particular topic.

For example, you could show your team a picture ask them to look at the positions of team A when they are defending on the picture? Ask them what do they notice? Provide then 30 to 60 seconds thinking time then give them a 5-minute opportunity to show you in the practice.   After 5 minutes have a break in play and quickly review their thoughts and ideas. 

4. Who Needs to Hear This?

Each time you wish to communicate information, try to decide who will get the most benefit from this stoppage and discuss with them rather than stopping the whole group, this can help the session flow better and it can also allow you to talk in smaller groups or numbers which should hopefully increase the engagement of the players to try and implement the detail or information that has been communicated to them. 

Group-level interventions are best kept for things that relate to the whole team as opposed to things that could have been explained in a small group. 

Think about yourself here if you were stopped from coaching every few minutes to be told something you were doing anyway how would you feel? Frustrated comes to mind, therefore the message here is to stop the people who need to be stopped rather than disrupt the ones who are progressing or addressing what was asked in the first place. 

If you were stopped every few minutes to be told you were doing something wrong, how would you feel?

THINK ABOUT IT

This is where the planning process comes in because if coaches have planned they will have an idea of which moment of the game they wish to focus the practice on and then this should help identify which players could benefit the most from intervention during practice. 

It’s important to use interventions in a way that allows the session to flow whilst helping those who are struggling with a task.

How to Communicate Better in Soccer: 8 Tips

5. Consider Making Changes During the Practice

Children adapt well and they adapt quickly, when you want to enforce a change on a practice think about whether it needs a stoppage or if you could just make an organizational change and let a practice flow. 

For example, if a pitch area needs to be bigger could the practice continue while you make it bigger could a progression just be shouted to the players while they are playing as opposed to a stoppage. 

This may seem minor, but stoppages soon add up and your one-hour practice time could easily be reduced to about 30 to 40 minutes ball rolling time if the coach keeps stopping to adapt and make minor changes. 

As a rule of thumb if you can make the change without minimal stress then do it and if the players do not adapt them you can make the stoppage and inform the players of the rule change. 

Think about transitions between practices here, rather than set up practice one, give the players a break then set up practice two, try to have as much of the whole practice set up as possible then communicate the rules, challenges during water breaks, etc. to allow the session to flow and to keep disruptions to a minimum. 

6. Know your Ball Rolling Time

If your communicating too much or feel like you waste a lot of time explaining things have a parent or assistant coach time your interventions so each time you are speaking start a stopwatch and then each time to finish speak stop it. 

This will provide the coach with a ballpoint figure as to how much talking has been done and if the communications you have with the players could be condensed or more concise. 

Ideally aim to keep coach communications between 30 and 60 seconds and keep the ball rolling time above 85% of the total practice time. 

This intervention alone should make the players more responsive if they know communications are kept to a minimum and also the quality and tempo of sessions should increase because the players get more time to show you rather than being told what to do.  

7. Simplify the Message

Try to simplify the information you want the players to remember so many games which you explain should be able to get started within a minute of explaining it.  

If it takes longer than this to explain and get started then maybe think about introducing rules as you go, get players to demonstrate what you want the practice to look like, have a 10-second stoppage to add a new rule, ask questions to review if they have understood what your asking then let the practice flow. 

If activities are too difficult or complex you may need to address this and regress this to make it simpler to understand, be aware of this in the drills you run with teams, keep an eye on the explaining time and simplify if it is taking too long to get the ball rolling.  

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

8. A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

When communicating coaching points to players try to use stories and imagination to get the message across. 

For example, with really young players a technical dribbling session maybe become a story about driving a car, each time you hold up a red cone the players must stop as this refers to a red light, a green cone means that the players must go, have areas where the players park the car (ball) and they reverse out (turn), build in motorways to allow players to speed up, etc. 

This is a brief example of telling a story to get the players to use their imaginations and follow along. 

The coach could also get the players to imagine they are doing something to get them to take up the correct body position for example when waiting to receive the ball the coach could tell the players they are playing in thick mud and if they stand still they will be stuck, therefore the best way to not get stuck in to be light on their feet and their toes. 

Be creative with these imagination ideas and you may unearth some great ideas to help the players understand what you want them to do with the ball.   Then when games are going on you could remind players to not get stuck in the mud. 

The actual use of pictures, images, and video to support learning and understanding are excellent learning aids if coaches have access to them or they can use them as they go through their session delivery.  Coaches should take the time to prepare these as they will enhance and speed up getting the message across to the players involved in your practices. 

In Summary

Each of the tips provided can be used to improve a soccer coach’s communication. Much of this relies on taking the time to plan your practices and have an idea of what you want to say, who the message is for, and how long it is going to take to provide it. The best coaches communicate well through their intervention’s authority and tone of voice.

Try not to get drawn into shouting and screaming at the players and commentating on the themes or topics you are coaching. Be focused on what you are going after and try not to get distracted by other issues use a coaching process to help you communicate your messages. Start with the messages you want to send to the players on the ball, then think about the players around the ball. Finally manage the players away from the ball.

Using a process alongside your communication can help to keep you on track and ensure you do not get distracted by trying to put out fires everywhere (manage everything that goes wrong). Reflect on each of the tips and decide if they are things you need to address or could have a place in your current coaching. Remember these things can take time to implement so I would recommend choosing a couple at a time to go after.

Related Questions

Are there any other tips to improve communication? Yes, try to be aware of your body language, it needs to communicate that you are engaged, interested, and confident in your actions. I have linked an article below from this site that will cover additional tips and non-verbal communication.

Here is the article: Tips for Successful Soccer Coaching – Communication

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