Communication in football is essential both on and off the pitch. In this 6 Ways to Improve Player Communication blog, we are going to explore some ways in which you as a coach can help your players to communicate but also support them in how they communicate too. Firstly, before we begin, it’s important as a coach you begin to understand self. Understanding self and how you communicate, will be an important step in the process in enabling your players to communicate more within your environment. A great way of understanding how you communicate is to film or record your session, watch it back and then look at how you communicate and what effect it has had on individual players. Here are some examples of the types of things that you may want to look at when understanding yourself and how you communicate:

  • Types of communication i.e. command, questions, guided discovery etc.
  • Body Language
  • Communication with individuals i.e. do you speak with some individuals more than others?
  • What do you speak with your players about during your sessions?
  • Tone and type of language

All of the above are some examples of how you may assess your communication, but also how it may impact on your players and the environment. For example, if you as a coach ‘coach led’ in your approach and lead on the majority of your session, does this impact on the players having a say and sharing their thoughts with you, but also between them? Therefore, however you want to your players to communicate in your sessions and games it’s important to look at the mirror first before looking at the players.

As well as filming your sessions on how and what you communicate, here are some other strategies that you may want to implement in your sessions to help your players communicate:

Social time: Creating social time within your training sessions is essential. Providing opportunities to frame Social Construction in your sessions will help young people to communicate with one another as they look to build their understanding of the environment and what is around them. The more comfortable the players are within your setting, the more likely and able they will be in how they communicate. Ultimately, children thrive of interaction with their peers, and appreciating this as a coach is essential in developing a learning environment. Therefore, creating opportunities for players to talk during drink breaks, before and after the training sessions shouldn’t be undervalued – it’s a great time for kids to be left to be kids!

Giving them ownership: The more we as coaches lead on the coaching sessions and games, without providing players with their say the more you’re developing a hierarchy that places you at the top as the authoritative figure. As a result, this may limit how much your players communicate with you. A great measure of this, is at half time or at the end of a period, when the players come over to you; do they wait for you to begin talking or do they start talking between them? Encouraging players to share their thoughts on the challenges and problems that they’re facing in training can be a great way to create conversations off the pitch, that then impact how they communicate on it. Giving players ownership to share their thoughts and find solutions to the problems at hand, with you simply guiding and providing opportunities for them to share will create an environment where they begin to feel comfortable to communicate with the coaches but also their peers.

Using players to help others communicate: Supporting those that want and can communicate to help individuals that may find it more difficult can be a great way of strengthening the communication skills of those that can, but also that need help in doing so. For example, you may have a player that is at the forefront of your group discussions and is always keen to share their ideas or opinions and rather than suppressing this, using it to help others share theirs can be invaluable. If you have a quieter player in the group, or someone that may be is upset or frustrated, challenging players that relish of communicating to help those individuals can provide them with responsibility but stretch them further with how they speak with others too.

The power of questions: Asking questions and getting players to share their thoughts is a great way of creating open communication between you, them and also their peers. Open questions like: “what did you see?” “how do we solve the problem in this game?” are two examples of questions that you could use with individuals or with the whole group to get them talking. The challenge for the coach is not to give solution to the problems, but give players problems and support them in finding solutions! Ultimately, the more able players are to communicate with one another both and off the pitch about problems, solutions and ways they can work with one another to achieve success the better your group of players will be at communicating based on what they see and feel.

Peer to peer feedback: Encouraging players to give peer to peer feedback is also another brilliant way to get players communicating and sharing with their team mates. You may encourage players to feedback to one another on how they’ve done in a task, how they’ve found the challenge or what solutions they could come up with for the challenge at hand. Allowing for peers to speak with one another in a small group or in pairs, may allow for certain individuals to feel more comfortable when sharing as well as helping them to learn how they communicate with different players too.

Practices/challenges that can communication: Providing games where there is an element of communication in can challenge players on the pitch in how they communicate. For example, you may set up a practice where players have to communicate with one another on a strategy or a rule. Likewise, playing games where players cannot speak can also be a fun way of challenging them on how they can communicate with their body, whilst highlighting the power that voices can have when communicating too.

To conclude, it’s important that you understand yourself as a coach and how you may impact on how players communicate within your environment. Likewise, it’s equally as important that you create opportunities for players to communicate through your practice design, coaching style and by paving opportunities for conversations.

For some further knowledge check out this podcast interview with Sally Needham: