The art of effective communication

Communication is one of the most important skills for young players to develop. It can sometimes be difficult for players to see past their own role on the pitch, but effective communication can propel the entire team forward and lead to a better team spirit. 

Most young players understand that they should ask for the ball when they find themselves open, but don’t have a greater understanding about how they can effectively communicate to their teammates. With that, here are some of the key words and phrases for players to remember in their quest to better their communication. 


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Without proper communication in the defensive side of the game, the entire team can become disorganized. This means that players must constantly be scanning their surroundings whenever they find themselves without the ball, and should prepare to relay the information they see to their teammates. This is particularly important in the last line of defense, where the level of organization at the back can be the difference between keeping a player offside, and a goal being scored with ease. 

As a result, it can often be beneficial for defenders to work as a unit in moving up and down together, working to tighten the spaces all around the field. Some of the best short but sweet phrases to use include: 

 “UP!” / “MOVE UP” + “DROP!” / “MOVE BACK” 

These commands must be spoken once all defenders in the line are ready to move up or down with the play, and they must be coordinated together. 

But defensive commands can also extend to the front end of the pitch, where putting pressure on the ball can often become crucial to winning back possession. If there is no pressure on the ball, a player may take it upon themselves to relay the message, and to tell the specific player closest to the situation that they should push the gas pedal. 


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With clear messaging at the right moments to the right players, this kind of communication helps the entire team remain switched on and ready for what’s to come. Older players could even take this one step further and communicate about which way to force the opposition player with their pressure. This might be outside, toward the touchline where they are likely to run out of bounds, or inside, toward perhaps where another player is waiting to double up.


It’s also important to be in constant communication about the movement of opposition players off the ball. A high-level striker will often bounce between defenders at different moments, never letting one mark them out of the game.

“WATCH # __”

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This becomes imperative on set-pieces like corner kicks and throw-ins, ensuring that all opposition players are being properly attended to, even if not strictly marked in a man-to-man style. 


When on the hunt for goals in the attacking side of the game, communication remains critical to the team’s success. It can mean the difference between keeping possession and creating high quality chances, to needlessly giving the ball away to the other team. 

As mentioned, we all know the importance of communicating for the ball when in an open position. Even after the communication, players must continue to scan the field to ensure their position has not been compromised. It’s also important to keep this message clear and to the point. 


In relaying more of a secret message, player’ can also communicate via non-verbal cues such as pointing or hand gestures toward where they want the ball. France all-time top scorer Olivier Giroud is excellent at this art, often pointing exactly where he wants the ball before receiving the cross. 

“TIME / SPACE!” + “BACK!” 

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Since situations in football can change so fast, it’s important to continue that scanning of the field when receiving the ball, and even after giving the ball to someone else. This can show how much time and space their teammates have to bring the ball forward and make a decision. If they have no time at all, a simple “BACK” can be used to ensure a swift return. But if they have time, receiving that verbal cue from a teammate can allow the player to make better decisions and assess their options before leaping into action. 

“SHOW!” / “COME TO.” 

Similarly, when a player in possession lacks options, it can be beneficial for someone to relay that message to the right player. Players must remain switched on at all times, but the reality is – we all lose our focus from time to time. Again, that quick communication can allow everyone on the field to switch back on and stay focused on the task at hand. 


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This is just a quick-start guide to some of the most useful words and phrases to use when communicating in soccer. Players are encouraged to come up with their own key words and phrases that they enjoy using both on an individual level and as part of the team, and ensure that the communication stays clear, to the point, and based on what they have seen through careful scanning of the pitch. Players should also be encouraged to keep their communication positive, ensuring their teammates all feel a part of the bigger picture at hand.

For more Player Education pieces, make sure to check out – Player Education


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rhys desmond – founder of themastermindsite

Across the past decade, I have worked with thousands of players and coaches across multiple sports and disciplines. I recognize the value of diving deeper beyond the first glance, and uncovering the deeper-lying ways to enhance performance. I make a commitment toward positive reinforcement, research-backed insights, and making the experience fun for those that work with me.

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