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One of the most obvious differences when watching different levels of soccer is that the higher the level of play, in almost all cases, the more communication is taking place on the field.

The definition of Communication is The exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, signals, writing, or behavior."

Based on this definition, communication is much more than just talking. Its the actual exchanging of information which, when done verbally, would mean talking, listening, and understanding of what was being said.

Examples of good communication on the field would be when a pass is made to a center midfielder either instructing them to turn, play it back, or that they have a man on. By giving their teammates these types of directions it lets the player know what to do (or at the very least it gives them an idea of their options) at the earliest point possible. The more advanced notice the player can be given these types of directions, the easier it will be for them to respond. This means that if a ball is played to a center midfielder and right before she receives the ball she is told man on she might be able to hold the ball and either maintain possession or to play it one touch away from pressure. If she werent given this notice, she might try to turn right away and lose possession of the ball right away. Even better though would be if the direction was given even earlier which would allow the receiving player to calculate her options earlier and make the right decision consistently. The earlier (and louder) the verbal communication the more effective it will be.

One key to communication is to understand the significance of the timing. If a player has the ball and another player behind her calls for a back pass, its important to understand that what she is saying is that the back pass is available NOW.

Too often a player calls for a back pass and the player with the ball takes two, three, or even four more touches on the ball before making the pass and the opportunity for the pass is no longer there. When a player calls for the ball, its important to know when they are referring to and to not assume that what is available when the call was made will still be available five or ten seconds later. Too often communication is only done when it directly involves the person doing the communicating. What this means is if I am on the field, I only communicate when I want the ball. However, communication is frequently most effective when it involves a third person. An example might be one player communicating to another player to play the ball out wide to a third player.

Effective, early communication makes individuals better players and teams better teams and the frustrating thing about it is that its not that difficult to become an effective communicator. One of the things that prevents some players from being effective communicators is they are afraid of sounding bossy. These players must be told that its not a case of being bossy but rather a case of helping their teammates become better players. Also, the fear is that if they tell someone what to do, the other player will yell back at them. In this case, its the coaches and leaders jobs to let the players know the benefits of effective communication and to let the team know that talking back to a player on the field who has given directions will not be tolerated. An example of talking back would be when one player calls to another player to turn and rather than continuing to play, the second player yells back I know what I am doing or something to that effect.

Becoming an effective communicator can be achieved in a training environment. One example of how to do this would be to scrimmage with the condition that no one can mark anyone else unless the keeper or another designated player instructs them to. This works on assigning defensive marks, responding accordingly and also prioritizing the marking assignments. Another game you can play is one where a player cant do anything with the ball without being told to do so. For example, if Player A receives the ball she cant pass, dribble or shoot unless being instructed to do so. If Player B tells her to dribble to goal, she can do that but cant pass or shoot without further instruction. This is a confusing game at first but as they get better at communicating they learn how much easier the game of soccer is to play while communicating. Another game you can play to show how important communication is in soccer is one where no communicating is allowed. Its a completely silent game so that players dont get to benefit from any verbal communication. They will quickly realize how much easier it is with communication.

It takes time to become an effective communicator but when you consider the benefits of being one, its definitely worth the time and effort involved.

Please feel free to email or with any questions if you are unsure or have any points you would like to discuss.

Tom and Jono