One of the things I do to encourage better communication among players is to have them say “Man On” or “Turn” when they pass to a teammate. Depending on if they have a defender coming or time to turn will dictate what the passer should say.
Here is a simple exercise to have your players feeling more comfortable communicating while playing. Set up a big grid. This is not a fitness exercise so not so big they are running around to much, but big enough so they don’t run in to each other every time. Put 5 players in the middle without a ball and 5 players on the outside with a ball (however many players you have divide that by 2; if it is unequal numbers that is okay).
First round have the outside players only say “Man on” as the inside players check to the ball. Once the inside player receives it they pass it back (in 1 or 2 touches) and then go to someone else to receive another pass. This will continue for about a minute then switch the groups.
2nd round have the outside players only say “Turn” as the inside players check to the ball. Once inside player receives it they turn and dribble around a bit before passing to a new player (the ball does not go back to the player they got it from). After inside player passes to a new outside player they go to someone else and repeat the exercise. This will continue for about a minute then switch the groups.
3rd round give the outside player the option to say “Man On” or “Turn”. Before you start ask your players who makes the decisions on game day. Do the coaches? Do the fans? Do the parents? Do the media? No, the players do so now it is your turn to make the decision. Now they will be forced to communicate loud, clear, and early to make sure the inside person knows what to do when they receive the ball. Inside player working does what outside player says so if they say man on, they pass it back. If they say turn, the player turns and dribbles a bit before passing to an open player. To save you a headache also let them know that if the outside player doesn’t say anything because they forget the inside player should then make their own decision on what to do. This will continue for about a minute then switch the groups.
3 Key Points
1.) Player receiving passes change pace when checking to the ball.
2.) Passing player communicate loud, clear, and early.
3.) Make the game easier for your teammates and you will be a better player.
Extra Coaching Tips
*If they are not loud enough do like a 1, 2, 3 scream “Man on” as loud as you can deal. Then say, “all right now I know how loud you can be, I want to hear that every time!”
*This exercise is designed mostly for players 9 and older. I have done it for 8 year olds before but it just depends on their maturity level.
*Do not explain the whole exercise at once. Do “Man On” round one and then when it is done move on to round two “Turn” and explain how that works. The less you can talk before each exercise the better because players have short attention spans. As I am sure you know!!
*Be patient with this exercise. Don’t expect everyone to understand it or get it right away. But if in the final scrimmage of your practice if 1-2 players say “Man On” or “Turn” then you did a good job. It will come more natural the more they practice.
The best players make the game easier for their teammates. Saying “Man ON” and “Turn” is a simple way to help your teammate out by communicating. Once you can get them to start doing this I think the communication for other things will start to come more naturally like; Switch it, Wall Pass, Pass it, show the defender to the right, etc.
When I was a player I made sure I communicated loud and early every time I made a pass. Sometimes I communicated even if I wasn’t the one who made the pass. For example, I was playing a game for the Chicago Fire a few years ago. I was a central defender that game and standing around the half field mark when Will Johnson, who now plays for Real Salt Lake, received a pass inside the 18-yard box. He was lining up to crack an awkward first time shot. Not knowing he had time to turn I shouted from the back, “Turn!!!!” Due to good communication he took a touch and his second touch was a perfect curler to the back post for a goal. I didn’t get an assist, but on his way back from celebrating the goal he did say, “thanks to whoever shouted at me to turn!”
Thanks for reading my coaching tip on communication.
I hope you enjoyed it and felt like it could be something you might want to work into you coaching plan one week.