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How to Communication With Youth/College Soccer Players

Soccer News: Communication Between Soccer Coaches and Soccer Players


SoccerNation News’ is launching a new series on Player Coach Communication to share wisdon from today's top coaches. Jurgen Klinsmann says one negative comment to a soccer player from a coach can have tremendous impact, in fact take 13 positive comments to neutralize.

The exchange of ideas or in other words communication is critical to success in all forms of life.  In the soccer world, good communication is required for on and off field success.  Player to coach and coach to player communication is critical for player development as well as team success.

Creating a positive player environment enhances the ability to coach effectively. USA’s Head Coach for our Men’s National Team Jurgen Klinsmann once told me (in a small group of youth coaches) that one negative, critical comment from a coach to a player takes thirteen positive comments to neutralize. In comparison, in a marriage, a negative comment requires three or four positive compliments to balance. 

Coaches want to develop players, not derail this process with self-doubt and lack of confidence. I firmly believe many coaches do not realize the power and impact of their negative words.  To imagine that it would take over ten positive comments to neutralize a negative sentence is hard to believe.  

The slightly deteriorating god-like power today’s youth and college kids still bestow upon their coaches comes equipped with a dangerous edge. The steep gaze to the top of the coach’s pedestal can enable simple words to cut deep and give birth to cancerous-like disillusionment.  The coach / player relationship can be one of the greatest sources of inspiration in an athlete’s life. Let’s protect its tarnished reputation and help bring it back to proper glory. 

Sometimes all better coach to player communication needs is to remember to be concise, clear and a bit humble.Scott Juniper on SoccerNation News

SoccerNation News’ new series on Player Coach Communication hopes to be create a small ripple in the soccer world’s huge sea of information; a little beacon of light striving to share wisdom from some of today’s best coaches.


UCI Head Women’s coach Scott Juniper is a highly respected and successful college coach.  Here are his thoughts on successful player and coach communication.

 As a coach I have so many ideas and thoughts that I want to share with my players.

If they can absorb the information and apply it to their everyday lives then I know that they could leap through beyond the goals of our program and onto fulfilling experiences in every aspect of their lives.  

However, as coaches, we all know that players don’t always listen!  Or at least, that used to be my frame of reference. 

Every day, my own ability to communicate an idea or a concept is challenged and my own weaknesses are revealed.  The information is often quite simple and as I grow as a coach I am learning that it is rarely an issue with the player not listening properly but rather my own failure to present the information in a way that can compete with the infinite streams of input they are exposed to.

So here goes, a few thoughts in no particular order that might help you explore a different approach to communicating with the modern soccer player….

THOUGHT ONE: “Don’t blame your players inability to listen, challenge yourself to become a better communicator.”

THOUGHT TWO: “Realize what you are competing with.” 

I often tell a story of a conversation with my team about focus during an early morning practice.  They seem a little distracted and I was trying to bring a sharp intensity to the last twenty minutes of practice.  As the words are spilling out of my mouth about how much more effective the last twenty minutes of the practice would be if we raised our game a touch, I began to notice the players one by one looking beyond me and over my shoulder.  Committed to demonstrating my own focus I refused to break my train of thought and continued.  A few distant looks were followed by a few nudges and then a couple of smiles that couldn’t be contained.  I couldn’t stand it any longer and I spun around to check on the reason for the interruption.  Walking across the field behind me was a member of the Water-Polo team dressed solely in his favorite Speedo strolling across the grass, silhouetted against the sunrise to speak to our trainer.  In that moment I could only laugh, send the players for a water break and make a commitment to make sure I knew what I was competing with for my players’ attention.  

The modern player loves any information that will make their lives better.  You simply have to capture their full attention with meaningful stuff that is well thought out and presented with clarity in an environment that you have created which allows them to be single minded.  Simple!  

THOUGHT THREE: “Accept that communication has changed forever, but human nature will never change.” 

As a freshman in college I would stand in line with a pocket full of change waiting for the public telephone so that I could call home.  If no one picked up at the other end that would be the end of it!  

By the time I graduated, I had a cell phone with voicemail capabilities and something called ‘hotmail’ that a friend had introduced to me.

“When will I ever use that?” I remember thinking.  

Of course, in the last 15 years cell phones, email, MySpace, Facebook, Instagram, Skype, SnapChat, Twitter, Vine, smart phones, tablets and Google Glass have changed the styles of communication forever.  

I am certainly not suggesting that you communicate with your players in all these formats.  I am suggesting that you can use technology to your advantage, make your team or organization more efficient. 

Most importantly you should never overlook that the human nature component of communication between two people will never change.  Our ability to look someone in the eye, talk to and listen to another human being, will always have the most significant impact.  Spend some time watching folks walk into the arrivals lounge of an international airport to remind yourself of that.  Maybe those emotional outpourings are because they don’t have cell-phones or Skype.  Or maybe not.

THOUGHT FOUR, “Attention spans are eroding, so be aware of 140 characters or less.”

Twitter has demonstrated that rants, ideas, elections and revolutions can be inspired and orchestrated in 140 characters or less so we are kidding ourselves if we thing that our pre-game and half-time team talks should require more than that!  140 characters is just not practical, but the principle of packaging your thoughts into smaller bundles of information with a vastly higher degree of clarity is something worth exploring. (THOUGHT FOUR was a little shorter after reminding myself of its principle.)         

THOUGHT FIVE, “Speak sincerely from a well-crafted philosophy.”

Whatever your philosophy looks like (and if it is anything like mine it takes constant refinement), be connected with it and speak sincerely from that foundation.  Your thoughts and ideas will have a purpose and that all important word that I have used a lot here – CLARITY.

Related Articles: Scott Junpier on SoccerNation News

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