Don’t communicate…CONNECT!

A few weeks back during our weekly New York Red Bull staff meeting we had a guest coach from The FA who put on a fantastic session that was slick, detailed and filled with some excellent coaching tips and session ideas. However there was a small part of his delivery and coaching manner he shared with the group that really struck a cord with me:

During training I never communicate with the players, and in turn I ask the players not to communicate with each other…instead I, like them make sure we all CONNECT

This really got me thinking about my coaching manner and questioned my own philosophies on how I connect with my players, both at training and during games.

C-O-N-N-E-C-T is best

During your standard 60-90min session with your team there are endless moments you can connect with your players. Right from the second they arrive at training you can begin to connect; do you take the time to say hi? ask them how their day was? give them a hi-five or shake their hand? share a joke?

If you are still setting out cones or distracted with talking to a parent or fellow coach your wasting a great time to set a positive tone to the session before the first ball has even been kicked!

The bulk of your connection time with players is done during the technical/tactical activities you guide them through – this can be in many forms and once again if your not careful you could be ‘breaking’ connections without even knowing. I found it useful to think about the following;

– Do you commentate while they are playing?

– Do you wait until a break in play to get your information across? or do you address the issues and outcome post activities?

– How do you get your information across? Visually; demonstration, whiteboard, iPad | Verbally; questions? commands?

– Body Language; Where do you stand? How do you stand? are you talking with another coach looking the other way?

The beauty with coaching is that there is no wrong way to teach. Everyone learns in different ways and at the end of the day the person that knows your players best is you. I believe that there is a time a place for every type of teaching style; sometimes players need to be told and other times they need to be left frustrated and led towards the answers through guided-discovery.

What we must be as coaches is adaptable in our approach to teaching but also adaptable in how we connect with our players.

C = clear detailed outcomes

O = observe the ‘whole picture’

N = never interrupt the flow

N = note the negative, never advertise it

E = engage the group where possible

C = connect with EVERY player

T = Timing of your coaching points are crucial

Like players in-a-pod

It is not only useful for coaches to think about how they connect with their team, but the players themselves can also try to focus on how they may strengthen their relationships, and bonds with each other on the field.


How many times have you seen one player’s voice dominate, constantly talking as the game is being played? How many coaches berate their players for not ‘communicating’ when the play, or pass or even move!? Being vocal on the field certainly holds more positives then negative and can really help to bond the team together…however what if the information they are giving is wrong? what if it is doing more harm then good? what is if it creating confusion?

Encouraging players to create connections on the field is in fact so simple that at times we take it for granted. Sometimes the smallest details can have the biggest impacts. A few examples of positive connections between players;

– Making eye contact before receiving/passing the ball

– Playing the pass to the correct side; ‘safe side’ away from pressure / strongest foot / space to run onto

– Body language; pressing as a unit on transition / double teaming / combination play

Simple right? and I am sure you can think of many more examples how players connect during games.


In the recent weeks post that guest session at our staff training I have tried to think about how I can strengthen the connection not only between the players and myself, but also between the players on the field. What kind of language do I use when Im coaching? What tone of voice do I use? and likewise with the players themselves; don’t just talk or communicate or say something for the sake of it – just make sure you connect in some way!

I have noticed a subtle change in the way my groups since I focused on creating and developing connections. One thing for sure is that their approach to training and playing is much more positive and their is much more appreciation for what they try to execute on the field.

This is not ground breaking by any stretch of the imagination, but what it has helped me to do is improve the quality of my work, the players work and the outcomes I am trying to achieve.

Like every single coach out there around the world I am no different…i’m just trying to find clearer, better and inventive ways of connecting the dots!

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