Monthly Archives: March 2015

Communicating with Young Players

In my last post, we talked about breaking down situations so that players can begin to understand how to find different solutions to specific problems.  A critical part of that process is the language used by the coach – how the coach communicates to the player.

But what is communication?  Here is one (very technical) definition:

Communication is defined as a process by which we assign and convey meaning in an attempt to create shared understanding. This process requires a vast repertoire of skills in intrapersonal and interpersonal processing, listening, observing, speaking, questioning, analyzing, and evaluating. Use of these processes is developmental and transfers to all areas of life: home, school, community, work, and beyond. It is through communication that collaboration and cooperation occur.  1

OK, so that’s really academic.  Here is the relevant part though – communication is “…an attempt to create shared understanding.”  For me, this is the piece that coaches of young players (or simply grown-ups relating to kids in general!) struggle with.  The language must be clear so that the listener (not the speaker) understands what the speaker is saying.  It’s kinda like witnessing a conversation between people who speak different languages, and one person raises his voice as if saying it louder makes the message clearer (it doesn’t).

Any coach of young players will get frustrated at times.  I can recall becoming somewhat exasperated when players failed to understand what I considered to be very basic instructions (I didn’t think I could make “RUN THAT WAY!” any simpler).

Any communication – at any level – consists of language that needs to be understood by the listener.  Particularly with kids, it should go without saying – there is no use talking about sophisticated defensive tactics with young players.  However, phrasing instructions in ways they can grasp and appreciate will help ensure that they’ll embrace the concept.  There has been so much progress with coaching education.  Most coaches at all levels have heard the “No Laps, No Lines, No Lectures” mantra.  Unfortunately, though, we all see coaches occasionally stand and lecture kids.  What they’re going on about – I have no idea (and I doubt the kids do, either).  Consider this quote from Manny Schellscheidt, who decades ago became the first coach to receive a U.S. Soccer coaching license:

“If you can’t say it in 20 seconds, you probably don’t know what you’re talking about anyhow,” Schellscheidt says. “The coach is really a substitute voice. We want the players to hear the silent voice, the game. The game is actually talking to you.”

- Manfred Schellscheidt 2

In other words, if you can’t explain it simply and concisely, how do you expect the child to understand?