Communication in Youth Soccer

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Communication is one of the most important skills for young players learning their trade in the beautiful game to develop. Communication is not just all about players shouting at each other and calling for the ball. It goes far beyond that to non-verbal communication, body language, and even knowing when not to communicate. Here are some of the key words and phrases that young players can communicate to their teammates during games.

COMMUNICATION IN DEFENSE

Defenders are probably the most important position for communication. They have to constantly been watching what is around them and communicating with each other about how to stop the opposing team’s attacks, regardless of who is in possession. Here are some of the top phrases and key words for defenders to communicate.

  •  “UP!” / “MOVE UP” – By moving up as a unit we can keep the opposition players off-side. We can also allow ourselves to have greater passing options and keep the pressure on the opposition. We need to move up and down as a unit. If one player shouts “Up!” and three players move up but one player stays back, we keep their team on-side. This is not the fault of the one player who stayed back, but the rest of the players for not communicating properly about moving up together and not waiting for the player. If there is pressure on the ball, we can also communicate to move up as a unit, because it becomes harder for the opposition to hit a longer pass in behind.
  • “DROP!” / “MOVE BACK” – When the other team regains possession or there is no pressure on the ball, we need to communicate to drop as a unit. We still need to ensure we have pressure, but in these instances the defenders should prepare to drop and ensure they are goal-side on their opposing players.
  •  “PRESSURE!” – Whenever we are not in possession, we need to pressure the player on the ball. There are very few instances in the game (e.g. 2v1 situations) where delaying becomes the better option than pressuring. Sometimes players become unsure if they are closest to the ball or should be the one to pressure, so having that quick reminder be communicated can be helpful to ensuring the player on the ball only has a limited amount of time to make a decision.
  •  “SHOW INSIDE VS. OUTSIDE!” – The player pressuring the ball can force their opponent either inside or to the outside depending on the situation. Generally when the ball is in our own half we are going to look to force outside (away from our goal) and when the ball is in the other team’s half we want to force them to the inside (toward their own goal). Depending on where we have cover, sometimes it can also be beneficial to show inside or outside in reverse.
  •  MARKING – Whenever we have to defend a corner kick, throw-in, free kick, etc., we need to communicate with each other about who is marking who. Defenders and even midfielders should also communicate about the positioning of the players they are supposed to watch (e.g. centre back marking a striker) depending on the movement of the opposing player.

COMMUNICATION IN ATTACK 

Communication is also important in attack to ensure we can retain possession and create chances to score.

  •  “GET WIDE!” – Creating width will give us more space to exploit on the field when we are in possession. This can be communicated on goal-kicks, after the first regain of possession (attacking transitions) or when looking to switch play.
  •  “HERE!” –  Should be communicated when the player is open and in a good position to receive. Can also be non-verbal by pointing where they want to receive or raising the hand to demonstrate that they are open. Note – calling the player’s name will usually be more effective than “Here!”. Players should also be careful not to call for the ball if they are not open. This is probably the number one communication mistake players make. All players want to be on the ball, but they have to make sure they are actually open before calling for it.
  • “TIME / SPACE!” vs. “BACK!” –  When players are first receiving the ball they may be more focused on receiving than on their next course of action. If the player has time and space to move into, it is very helpful for others around them to communicate that. It is also helpful if they have pressure on their back for that to be communicated as well such as saying “Back!” to ask for the ball to be returned, or saying “On your back.” to signal that pressure is behind them.
  • “SHOW!” / “COME TO.” – We always need to provide the player in possession of the ball with options. The player on the ball or other players nearby can communicate for players to “show” or “come toward the ball” in order to give greater options for the player on the ball.

This is just a quick-start guide to some of the most useful words and phrases to use when communicating in youth soccer. Often times coaches will ask their players for more communication, but don’t give them any indication of what they should communicate and when they should communicate. This is not an exhaustive list, but it should serve as a great start in getting your players to understand the specifics of what they should be communicating with each other out on the field.

P.S. – Also important to communication is constant praise / feedback and positivity!


So there it is! Communication for young players in the beautiful game. Not only are the key phrases above great for players to communicate, but they are also valuable for coaches in keeping your coaching short, succinct, to the point and consistent. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Be sure to check out the rest of this series below…

  1. Pressing From The Front (9v9)
  2. Playing out from the Back (9v9)
  3. Switching Play (9v9)
  4. Defensive Transitions (9v9)
  5. Attacking Transitions (9v9)

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