Soccer Game Strategies – Can Players Really Hear You?

As a coach, I made this mistake and I still see thousands of other coaches make this mistake too… 

You see soccer coaches continually shouting instructions and yelling at their players on the side lines.  We’ve all done it. 

But before you shout instructions from the side line again, stop for a moment and ask yourself a few sobering questions: 

1 – Can your players really hear you during the action of a game? 

If you’ve ever played soccer or any sport, you know it’s hard to hear your coach during the action of a game.  There are just too many other distractions, noises, and things going on.   Whether you like it or not, a player’s hearing can be selective during a game. 

2 – Can your players really process what you’re saying? 

During a game, players are making approximately two decisions every second.  That’s right… TWO decisions every second!   This can be challenging even for an adult — so for youth players this can be paralyzing.  You want to make your coach happy, your parents happy, and you want to do well.  You need to decide which way to run, how to kick the ball, whether you should pass it, where your teammates are at, and so on. 

Now you add a coach yelling at you on the sidelines.  Youth players simply can’t process everything.  And it is even sometimes tough for adults.  But youth players are different because they have not developed mentally, physically, cognitively, or spatially.  This makes it nearly impossible for young kids to truly process what a coach is saying on the sideline. 

3 – Are you setting a good example for your players? 

Some coaches that yell on the sidelines tend to get emotional during the action of the game.  They sometimes scold their players and sometimes scream at refs in a very insulting manner. 

Even though this is common practice, this behavior displays a very immature and poor example for your players.  That’s not how adults act in the real world.  So why is it ok for us to yell and scream in sports?  I think that is a great injustice to sports (in particular youth sports!) 

Young kids are very impressionable and look up to their coaches.  In fact, over 20 years later I can still vividly remember countless statements and comments that my coach made to me and other players.   I guarantee the players you are coaching will remember things you say for the rest of their lives. 

The truth is that kids learn a lot from sports.  So as coaches we need to be careful about the example we set for kids.  Like it or not, you’re in a powerful position that requires careful thought and responsibility. 

So how should you give instruction to players during games? 

I think that if you look in the mirror and answer the three questions above, you’ll come to the conclusion that yelling on the sideline doesn’t do much good (especially while the game is in action). 

So the next time you are on the sideline, think twice about yelling at kids during the game and consider these general guidelines instead: 

  1. Provide instruction when the players come out of the game or when the action stops.  Your efforts will be much more effective.  When you sub players or have dead ball situations, use that time to talk with the player one on one.  Teach them, make the game fun, and set a good example!
  2. If you say anything during the action of a game, keep it positive.  Words of encouragement are good for those players than can hear– and it’s also good for the players on the bench and parents who are usually right on top of you in a soccer match.
  3. If you feel that you must provide instructions during the action of the game, it can be effective to have a few key concepts that you can instruct the players during a game situation.  For example, the coach can shout “out wide” and the players will remember they are supposed to get the ball to the sidelines not up the middle.  You can also use short phrases like “don’t bunch” or “down the sideline” on throw ins, and “not in the middle” when they are clearing the ball.

 Above all else, keep things positive during the game!  It’s a proven fact that too much criticism will hurt a players confidence and slow their development.  And nothing looks worse than an out of control coach yelling and screaming on the sidelines.  It does no good and actually has a negative effect.

12 Responses to Soccer Game Strategies – Can Players Really Hear You?

  1. Chris Knutsen March 29, 2010 at 9:10 am #

    Great info, I have been coaching for over thirty years, mostly football. I have followed your thoughts most of my career. I find myself coaching from side lines when I am new at a sport (coach) or I have not taught the techniques or strategies as well as I could have.

  2. David March 30, 2010 at 12:47 am #

    This is great to have u guys on my first coaching experience

  3. suleiman March 30, 2010 at 11:19 pm #

    Hello,I want to thank the administrators of the website(surefire)for the great work they are doing.I used to pay to get the info I’m getting for free at surefire!
    I’d also love to say that as a result of the enormous invaluable info in the website,I’ve decided to go full time into coaching.I’m a taxi driver doing volunteer soccer coaching for various street kids(both boys and girls) rehab centres in and around Nairobi,Kenya.
    Can one do an on-line certification course?do you have exchange programmes,as in,can you send an instructor over to see the positive effect “SUREFIRE” has?any free instructor is welcome.I thank God and pray for you guys for your kindness.

  4. jackson March 31, 2010 at 4:22 am #

    i feel blessed to have so much info at a click of a button. i am putting all the info i am getting from u into practice here in zimbabwe. well done guys.

  5. lawal sulaimon April 1, 2010 at 7:48 am #

    you guys are doing a great job by giving me free what other coaches in nigeria pray to see more power to your elbow.

  6. david miller April 1, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    would like to have some bvds on drills,midfield, defence , attacking,crosses and goalkeeping and good warm ups before gane

  7. chitra April 2, 2010 at 9:03 pm #

    I would like to get a filled in log book of training sessions for the age group 19+

  8. jawara April 3, 2010 at 4:05 am #

    fantastic pieces of advice,we”ve all make mistakes,thank you for the advice.God bless you.

  9. shanding g April 6, 2010 at 7:20 am #

    thanks a million,your advice and 42 soccer drills has change my mode and pattern of taining.this has made me know that i was doing things the wrong way.thanks for your strategies and fun game.i also need more of this.THANKS

  10. volunteer coach November 29, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    I agree fully, as a long time coach I can say that the unfortunate reality is that a lot of parents themselves and a lot of other coaches, youth club/program leaders do not agree with this at all. They see a quiet coach on the sideline of a game and think he is not doing anything for their kids although they are alos quick to impune an overbearing coach. However in the end will often lean towards the overbearing coach. Its fustrating reality not going to change anytime soon. Sadly.

  11. SUSAN ARMSTRONG January 25, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    There are 2 things coaches can do during a game – one is to provide the direction of play it needs to go before the game; second point – during half time is to reiterate what needs to be accomplished during the 2nd half. Yelling and screaming to players and bringing their spirit down does not help in a game. It only adds more frustrations for players at play. Coaches need to give positive reinforcements and at the same time let the players know what they need to improve upon. This can be accomplished during practices. At a game…coach should watch as to where loopholes are during the game and advise the players what needs to be done from their end. Don’t yell because that is very childish indeed. Lead by example is my motto.

  12. Ali August 19, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    Thank you, Thank you, this helped me so much on my first year. I was so nervous coaching my sons U9 team it was my sons and my first year playing and coaching. this made me feel at ease and we came in 3rd place and most importantly they had a blast. Thanks to you.

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