As coaches, it’s crucial we do our best to develop players in our respective environments. But are we harming their development by being too vocal? How much noise is too much? When is saying nothing more powerful? PDP Editor & UEFA A licensed coach, Dave Wright discusses coach communication and interventions.

There is research to suggest that the more information a player receives under pressure, the more their game has the potential to ‘fall to bits’. By being a vocal coach, you could in fact be hindering the way your players develop and how your team plays.

Having coached for 15 years, I have to say that on my own personal coaching journey, the ability to stay silent is something that has come with time. In the early days of my coaching career, I would make up for my own shortcomings by covering over my lack of understanding by being a ‘motivator’ – or at least what I thought was a motivator; pushing my players, using my voice constantly, almost commentating my way through matches or sessions.

But coaching, like any trade or skill, is an art form that we learn and improve at as we go. With time, application, education and experience under our belts, we hone our skills, find our way and develop our own style or philosophy.

Likewise, developing a footballer takes time. It won’t happen overnight, and over the course of their playing lifetime they will have many coaches who will affect them in different ways. Therefore, the drip-feeding of information and the timing of its delivery are crucial. Information overload is something that even the most experienced coaches can be guilty of and so we should all constantly reflect on how much we squeeze into a session.

If you reflect on your most recent coaching session, do you believe you got the volume of content, and your voice right? Did you notice your players turning to the sideline for answers? Or are they independent decision-makers who know they have your trust during matches or training sessions to make decisions and, even more importantly, mistakes?

Many of us will have stumbled across the condition of ‘silent football’ whereby we ask the players to play in silence. This is a great developmental technique, a way to improve awareness, communication and movement. It means players must use their bodies (or other means) to send messages, to be more aware of what’s around them, and learn to deal with pressure on or off the ball whilst not being given information by teammates. If we think about modern professional football, this concept is more common than you might think. David Beckham was once asked when he moved to Real Madrid, “How are you going to cope with all of the other players on the team speaking so many different languages?” His response was swift and simple, “When you’re playing with players of this quality, we don’t need to talk” – referring to the likes of Zidane (France), Figo (Portugal), Roberto Carlos (Brazil) and so on. In the current climate of professional teams looking more like representations of the United Nations, this sentiment could not be more accurate.

So if silence benefits the players, can it benefit your coaching, and how often do you coach in silence?

It has been stated that 90% of a player’s development is about what learning is going on at their end, and only 10% is about what the coach is doing at the time. When players are focused, there is enough going on around them within the dynamic, constantly moving and always changing picture of a game for them to learn, without having to break focus to listen to instruction.

If we are to produce confident, brave decision-makers in football who are willing to take risks and engage in their learning, it’s crucial we don’t give them all the answers. They have to find their way and look to us for guidance, not instruction. Consider your approach when you next take to the grass and perhaps you can surprise them by turning the volume down, or even switching to mute.

Key Points for Substituting Sound with Silence

  1. Drip-feed information, consider your players’ age and the rate at which you deliver content.
  2. Encourage silent football from your players.
  3. Practice silent coaching at appropriate moments in training games or weekend matches.
  4. Be organised, get your preparation and planning done at training so you don’t have to be commentating on the sideline come game day.

Cover Image:

David Beckham in his final season at Real Madrid. Photo: David Cornejo


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