The success of any soccer team on the pitch will depend on how effectively the players can communicate among themselves and with the technical crew. It is important to note that the word “soccer” as used in this article incorporates all other forms of soccer including association football.
What is effective communication and how does it play a role in the life of an average soccer player? Can you play soccer effectively without communicating with your teammates?
From online surveys, the above questions are some of the most popular questions that flash through the minds of soccer players and fans alike when the subject of communication is raised in soccer.
Effective communication can simply be described as the ability of an individual to successfully transmit or convey a thought or an idea to another individual or a group of individuals without missing details from the originally intended idea.
Since humans are social beings, there is an amplified need for communication amongst one another because our survival and development solely depend on how well we can communicate our thoughts, needs, and ideas to each other.
Communication is the essence of all team sports, from basketball to American football and soccer. They all can’t play out smoothly without the help of effective communication.
What makes any sports team a team is how well its major components understand each other. The most interesting part of it is that all team players mustn’t speak the same language or come from the same country to communicate effectively.
We know you may have been wondering for a while how different soccer players from different countries and ethnic groups manage to become part of a soccer team and even play so well together that they win championship trophies.
When it comes to communication among soccer players, it is also important that they are able to communicate and share plans without making them obvious to their opponents.
In this article, we will be revealing to you the various methods of communication among soccer players apart from just spoken languages. Keep reading to understand how soccer players are able to transmit ideas and thoughts even when they are far apart on the pitch.
How do soccer players communicate?
Communication being something that humans do every day can take many forms and styles depending on the setting and environment in which we are operating.
It mustn’t always be verbal. It can also be non-verbal depending on which works best in conveying an intended message.
When it comes to the world of sports—particularly soccer—verbal communication is one of the least favorite because it is usually not convenient due to the loud chants from fans.
While on the soccer pitch, it is unwise and careless to be communicating with your teammates in languages and forms which your opponents can conveniently and easily decode.
Keeping your tactics secret is an easy way of securing an easy victory. Likewise, understanding an opponent’s tactics can help you to decode their style of play and overwhelm them.
To help you understand this article better, let’s take a closer look at the meaning of verbal and non-verbal means of communication.
Most people without speech impediments of any sort always prefer using verbal means of communication when conversing with other individuals. Verbal communication is carried out using the word of mouth in languages that are mutual to both parties.
It was originally done by face-to-face interactions until the invention of telephones, radio sets, and televisions. Verbal communication requires a level of interpersonal skills for it to be done successfully.
Soccer players will mostly resort to verbal means of communication—especially the face-to-face kind—when they are in very close proximity to the player they want to talk to.
On the soccer pitch, most times players communicate verbally by shouting at their teammates especially when they look lost, confused, or absent-minded. Goalkeepers are fond of shouting, especially when freekicks and corner kicks are being taken.
When you master interpersonal skills, you will hardly get misunderstood when communicating verbally because verbal communication requires certain factors to be effective including the tone of voice, length of a speech, appropriate use of words, etc.
Verbal communication is highly effective in the game of soccer although non-verbal means of communication often work better. Soccer players usually train to a pattern of play such that communications on the pitch can be limited to just a few words, a wink, or a wave.
Use of Coded Words
In most instances in modern soccer, clubs hire a lot of non-indigenous soccer players from many countries across the world. This is usually because every team wants the best brains and legs in the game so they scout all over the world for available bests.
This might be an effective way of boosting a team’s ratings but communication can become a problem among the team members. To use coded words in communicating during a soccer match, each player must be able to understand the meaning of each word and when to apply them.
Translators are usually employed to help execute this method of communication which can be very effective on the pitch.
To be able to use coded words in soccer, a team must first of all check if the rules of the game permit them. Words intended for use must not be provocative or insulting.
A single word can be used to tell a teammate to pass the ball at a particular angle or direction. A word can also be used to tell a teammate to pass a ball in such a way that you can use your head to nod it.
Using coded words in communicating can increase the level of bonding and understanding between team members. With coded words, you may not need all the words to be audible to the teammate which will spare you the pain of straining your voice like in verbal communication.
Coded words can be used to mask defensive strategies, change game formations, and even alter attacking approaches.
Some of the common coded words used in soccer include ‘through’, ‘wall pass’, ‘overlap’, ‘drop’, ‘man-one’, ‘wide’, ‘line’, ‘to feet’, ‘switch’, etc. These words can be very helpful especially when soccer players are playing under intense pressure.
Below are some of the pros and cons of using coded words in soccer.
Pros of Using Coded Words
- Coded words are usually brief but convey long messages
- They are easy to memorize
- They can be easily modified to avoid decryption by opponents
- Coded words can be combined with other non-verbal communication
Cons of Using Coded Words
- They can be easily forgotten when playing under intense pressure
- Since they are usually familiar words, opponents can decipher their meanings
- Players must get word pronunciations right for the words to be effective
- Often requires a player to scream before they can be heard due to noise from fans
As the name implies, this form of communication doesn’t involve the use of words either written or spoken. It mostly involves body language, sign language, icons, and gestures.
For this form of communication to be effective, other senses in the human body aside from the ears must be fully active and functional—most especially the eyes.
Soccer players usually use signs like raising their hands, nodding their heads, waving their hands, and other similar gestures to either get the attention of their team members or secretly tell them the next available moves to make.
Outside the world of soccer, non-verbal means of communication have breached the barrier between socially handicapped individuals and able-bodied ones. This form of communication also makes it possible for a deaf and dumb player to effectively play soccer.
Trivial acts like facial expressions, lip movements, tapping of the foot, blinking of the eyes, nodding of the head, and body posture can also be forms of non-verbal means of communication.
The good thing about non-verbal means of communication is that sometimes, opponent players wouldn’t even be aware that teammates are communicating until a goal is scored. In other words, it leaves the opponent in the dark of the next move a team is about to make.
Using soccer sign languages can be very effective when combined with originally invented sounds and signs. Teams with originally invented signs and sounds can be hardly countered during a soccer match.
Body language and gestures are often more powerful than spoken words of mouth. Most coaches also train players on ways to improve their communication skills while improving other basic soccer skills.
Below, we will be taking a close look at some popular verbal and non-verbal methods of communication used by soccer players in passing encrypted messages to teammates during a soccer match.
Knowing how to properly use hand signals can grossly improve a team’s style of play and create more goal-scoring opportunities. It can even be the only barrier between defeat and victory in a soccer match.
Hand signals are silent means of communication developed by soccer players to aid them in exchanging ideas while playing soccer without giving opponents a hint of what is being communicated.
Hand signals are very easy to learn and master. A soccer team can develop, learn, and master their personalized hand signals in less than a month.
Calling for the ball from a teammate using spoken words can often be very difficult due to distance and noise, unlike hand signals which only require visibility without sound.
You can even call for the ball using hand signals when closely marked by opponents but you must do it smartly to avoid losing the ball. A lot can be said on the soccer pitch using just hand signals which is perhaps the reason why it is very common in modern soccer.
Combining hand signals with spoken words is another way of doubling up its effect. When you are open for the ball but far from a teammate wielding the ball, shouting while holding up your hands can help you get noticed more easily.
You can easily fool your opponents by making a hand gesture that is easy to understand while your teammates already know what your true motives are.
Little wonder, the ease of learning hand signs is why it is usually the preferred choice of soccer coaches for dishing out instructions to players during a match. Obviously, their voice may not be able to get to the intended player if they are far away but the player can easily read the hand signs.
Although this method has its advantages, it also has its drawbacks which we would be looking at.
Pros of Hand Signals
- Easy to learn and master
- Doesn’t require much skill and effort
- Don’t have many limitations
- Easily customizable
Cons of Hand Signals
- Opponents can monitor and decode these signals in no time
- Can be less effective when team players have a poor eyesight
- Can lead to a handball foul when done wrongly
Body Posture or Body Language
Soccer being a quick-paced game usually needs both verbal and non-verbal means of communication among soccer teams for the game to flow fluently. Something as trivial as a player’s body posture is enough to help a teammate in making a crucial decision.
Body posture or body language when applied on the pitch as practiced during training can cause a major shift in the game and can even earn a team a winning goal.
Actions must be done as planned to avoid corrupting the intended message although maintaining composure while under pressure can be very difficult.
Communication methods like this one are more effective when soccer matches aren’t intense. Studies show that for communication to be more effective in soccer, it must be short and easy to understand.
A Player’s body language reveals a lot about them, for instance, a player doesn’t always have to ask the coach to substitute him or her when their body language already says that they are exhausted.
Teammates can also tell when a player is fully available or when to play a through ball from observing their body posture. It is not all body postures that are voluntary, sometimes the body takes up postures involuntarily depending on what might be going on in the mind of the soccer player.
A player with charming body language would always get noticed on the soccer pitch and wouldn’t find it hard securing passes from teammates.
Below are the advantages and disadvantages of body language in soccer.
Pros of Body Language
- It doesn’t require the use of words making it suitable for a team with players from different countries
- Precise and very easy to understand—even by intuition
- Easy to memorize
Cons of Body Language
- Ill health can adversely affect a player’s body language
- Can be easily decrypted by opponents
- Bad posture can affect body language
Soccer players started covering their mouths when talking on the pitch some years ago because media houses hired professionals in lip-syncing to decrypt their communications on the pitch. Today, some soccer players are using this tool targeted against them in their favor.
However, some players have also found this method efficient in passing messages to their team members, especially during a free-kick.
By learning lip-syncing, a player that is about to take a free-kick can tell another player in the box to either push aside the wall or to create a decoy wall and bend when the shot is taken.
It takes some skills to learn lip-syncing which can make it difficult for the opponent to understand what they are saying. Interestingly, coded languages can become more potent when they are passed across through lip-syncing.
Pros of lip-syncing
- Not limited by the noise of the fans on the pitch
- Only the target player can understand what the speaker is saying
- The receiver will get the message as long as they can clearly read the speaker’s lips
- The message is hardly lost like verbal communication or the use of signs
Cons of lip-syncing
- Takes a considerably long time to master
- A player in the opposing team may have the ability to read lips and thwart your plans
Head and facial motion
Communication among soccer players can be as subtle as head or facial motion. Something like tilting the head to one side can tell a player the angle to lay a pass.
Likewise, a nod, which is popular as a sign of approval, can be used to tell another player that they can pass the ball or take the shot.
Players often use facial expressions to pass messages. Facial expressions like a wink or contouring of the mouth in a certain way can have a lot of secret meanings attached to them.
Facial expression is arguably the most difficult form of non-verbal communication and the hardest to master because one expression can have more than one interpretation. This also makes it a useful tool for a team that is trying to keep their communication discrete.
Pros of facial expression
- Extremely hard for the opponent to decode
- A long string of commands can be shortened into a few facial expressions
- Makes communication faster
Cons of facial expression
- It is difficult to learn and properly implement in a team
- There is a higher chance of misinterpretation
- Limited by distance because when players are far apart on the pitch it may be difficult for them to clearly see their faces
Use of written notes
Obviously, soccer players don’t carry pieces of paper and pen into the field to communicate. Thus, this form of communication is mostly used by team coaches to talk to players.
During training, the coaches can easily shout out orders to the players but it becomes more difficult to do that on the pitch for two main reasons. Firstly, they don’t want their opponent to understand their tactics and secondly, the noise from the spectators will make it difficult for the players to hear their coaches.
Therefore, most soccer team coaches will normally shout to get the attention of a player and then use hand signs to pass a message to them.
On very rare occasions, the team coach will hand an incoming substitute a piece of paper with written instructions to give to one of the team members on the pitch. Once the player is substituted, they deliver the message.
Pros of using written notes
- Only the target player will get the message
- Doesn’t require any form of skill to use
- The coach can write the message in the player’s native language if the players are still struggling with the dominant language in their team
Cons of using written notes
- There is a lag in communication as the message can only be passed after substitution
- This leads to littering of the pitch with paper
- Not suitable for player-to-player communication
What language do soccer players speak to each other?
Soccer is a global sport that makes it possible for players from all over the globe to be actively signed into big clubs abroad. We know you may be thinking or asking how players cope with communication challenges in their newly signed clubs.
We found out from our studies that in most foreign clubs, qualified language teachers are often hired to tutor newly signed soccer players on the major language(s) used by players in such teams.
Sometimes, foreign players learn languages on their own by socializing and some even take extra classes online outside what the team is offering.
Languages, although often being the least desirable element in a soccer player’s career, can either make their journey to the top smooth or rough. Non-verbal means of communication have their limits which is why learning a mutual language is often highly advised.
Poor communication can cause misunderstandings between players and would further affect the team’s overall performance. Due to the global nature of soccer, some soccer teams are starting to adopt English as their official language to help foreign players cope better.
The usefulness of communication in soccer cannot be overemphasized. It can be the secret to a team’s success or failure.
Communication improves a team’s style of play and increases friendship and understanding among players.
Young soccer players can easily experience burnout and fatigue when playing for a team with very poor communication. Being able to communicate effectively nudges soccer players to give their best because they begin to see the team as a family and not just a high-paying career.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
The Pitch is Ours is a new beginning for me and a stepping stone to prepare before retiring from the professional soccer team. Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!