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Coach points while talking to player

The importance of getting communication right 

Whether you’re working with adults or young children, there’s nothing more important than communication in coaching.  

Doing this effectively helps your players know exactly what’s expected. And, importantly, it enables you to build a connection with them. 

But communication isn’t just about what you say. It’s also about how you say it, your body language, and your ability to listen, too. 

Sound like a lot to handle? Don’t worry. Keep reading for practical strategies to get it right. 

Interactive video

Want to dive deeper into this topic? Then, work your way through this video.  

The three key methods of communication in coaching are: 

  • Command. 
  • Question and answer.
  • Observation and feedback. 

In the past, coaches have tended to stick to commands. And this method still has its place. A command is great when you need to quickly tell a player what to do.  

Nowadays, in some contexts, it can be really powerful to use questions and observations whenever you can. It makes players feel like they're in charge of their learning. It can help you support them better too. 

For example, observing one player for a few minutes can tell you a lot. Then, you can give feedback that’s tailored to them.  

Questions are a flexible tool, too.  

You can ask what players want from you. Or see what they already know with open questions. You can ask them to come up with solutions to a game problem. And you can even throw a question to a knowledgeable player and let them explain the point to the rest of the team.  

Don’t forget to watch for what’s not being said. Who isn’t answering questions, and what does that tell you? 

What’s your tone of voice like? Is it high-energy and expressive? Or is it calmer and lower while giving one instruction at a time?  

Whatever you choose, your tone of voice has a huge impact. It can lift or bring down the group’s energy, changing the whole dynamic of the session.  

The key is to work out what your players need. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. What’s their day been like? How are they feeling?  

Once you’ve settled on the right tone, check that your body language matches up.   

This is especially important on matchday. Be aware of how your body reacts to what’s happening on the pitch. 

Be brave and ask for feedback from players, parents, and other staff. Or watch video footage if you can. You might be surprised to see what your body’s doing in the moment.   

Now, whatever context you’re in, it always pays to be confident, clear, and considerate when communicating.   

Here’s what that looks like:  

  • Be completely authentic. Can’t answer a question? Be honest about it. Get comfortable with not always knowing everything.   
  • Keep messages short. This is especially important pre-match and at half-time. Try providing them with no more than three key points here.   
  • Experiment with different types of communication. Can you use a mix of visual aids and demonstrations to meet your players’ needs?  
  • Think about who needs to hear what you’re saying. Work on your intervention skills
  • Be consistent. If you work with other coaches, plan to keep your messaging and language on the same page.   

To be an effective communicator, you need to be a great listener. 

Listening isn’t just about what your players are saying. It’s about observing their body language and what’s happening on the pitch, too. 

Then, you can adapt your session to make it more successful. As a bonus, you’ll also be able to give better feedback.   

Asking questions? Careful listening is crucial. It helps you understand where your players are coming from and what they don’t know. 

Listening helps you build better relationships, too. Try repeating back what someone’s said so they feel heard. And look out for emotional words that hint at deeper feelings.  


Matchday can feel worlds apart from training. With more eyes on you, nerves can kick in, and some may feel under pressure. So, it can be tempting to put on a bit of a performance.  

But authenticity matters. Don’t be a different coach on matchday.  

Set the same standards for yourself in both environments. Stay supportive and helpful. Ask yourself: who is my communication for?   

And keep an eye on your body language. Remember, your players are always watching.

Talking with a five-year-old is nothing like speaking to a 24-year-old. However, effective communication with any age group is based on the same thing. It’s about understanding your players and why they’re there.

Be curious. Ask questions. Figure out how they learn.

Then, you can pitch your messages just right. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • For younger players, get down on their level to talk and avoid technical terms. Use age and stage appropriate terminology.
  • When players start secondary school, they’ll be deciding what football means for them. They might develop new interests, too. Be curious about your players to keep communication clear.
  • More senior players might care about the latest techniques, strategies, and tactics. Work out what they’re interested in and adapt your communication to match.


What to consider when working in disability football

As a coach, you need to be ready to support players with disabilities. These can range from physical impairments to colour blindness and ADHD.

It comes down to understanding your players as individuals. Ask questions. What can you do to make things easier?

Here are some examples of ways to help:

  • Coaching a player with a visual impairment? Consider using bigger markers and brighter colours. Yellow, blue and white cones are great – as are yellow and blue bibs.
  • For a deaf player who lip reads, ensure they can see your mouth whenever you’re talking.
  • For a player with a neurological (brain) condition, be clear about the schedule. Consider creating a timeout space.

As always, curiosity is crucial. Regardless of disability, every player is different.

Things to remember when trying to communicate effectively

Things to remember: Keep your messages clear and concise, and be considerate in the way you give feedback. Listen carefully, including to what's not being said, it will help you understand your players and build relationships. Keep learning – reflect on your own communication, using feedback from others and video footage if you can. Every player is different, never stop being curious, adapt how you communicate to meet individual needs.

Further learning 

If you’re interested in this topic, check out these resources to learn more:  

You can also take the key information from this article away with you by downloading this PDF