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Can They Hear You?

No matter how hard they try to keep calm during a game, most coaches have probably found themselves yelling to their team from the sideline. It’s easy to get engrossed in the action and it may seem at times that shouting is the only way to get the attention of your athletes.

But how many times has a player looked back at you and nodded or yelled, “Got it coach?” Even if this happens, there is no way to know whether the athlete has understood what you said or if they are zoned into the game and gave a generalized response. As a coach, it can be hard to tell whether your sideline advice is getting through to your players. In an article from Surefire Soccer, coaches can find some advice on the best way to handle on-the-fly feedback.

According to the authors at Surefire, coaches should ask themselves three questions before shouting into a field of play:

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

There are many distractions for athletes, including the fans, the other team, and their own teammates. It can be very difficult to identify the voice of the coach through all of this commotion.

2. Can your players process what you are saying?

“During a game, players are making approximately two decisions every second,” write the authors at Surefire. “That’s right…Two decisions every second! This can be challenging for an adult—so for youth players this can be paralyzing.” With so many decisions to make, even if the player does identify your voice, there is a good chance that they will not be able to understand and apply your instructions. And if they are listening only for your voice, there is also the possibility that they will be missing something important on the field of play.

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

As a coach, you are also a role model for your players. They learn from you how to act and react to situations, especially during tense periods of game play. Unfortunately, it is common to see a coach become emotional and shout at their players or the officials in a negative manner. So it is important to remember who is watching when it feels like yelling is the only option.

While shouting to your athletes might be hard to completely curb, the authors at Surefire give a few pieces of advice on the best ways to provide instruction while your players are on the field. First, they suggest giving instruction during a time out, half time, or when the action on the field pauses. These are all times when there will be less distraction, and the players will be better able to focus on you.

Second, the authors suggest having preset sayings for concepts that you can yell to players during game time. An example given in the article is shouting “out wide” for soccer players to remember that they need to take the ball to the sidelines. If these short instructions are taught and reinforced during practice, players will need to do less processing, and they will better make those split second decisions.

One last guideline given by the authors at Surefire is to be positive in what you say to your players. If you find yourself yelling, check what you are saying and see if you can make it constructive instead of destructive. That way, if players do hear you, they will be more likely to continue working hard.

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