Listen to the Pass

Many coaches who contact me seek help in getting their teams to talk on the pitch. What they actually want is better communication between teammates playing the game.  This might be for organizational purposes - establishing and maintaining proper defending shape, for example.  It might be for coordinating movement of the ball and players - calling for the ball to be played to a corresponding run, for instance.  The emphasis is on getting players to talk to one another on the pitch.

What about listening?

Effective communication is a shared responsibility. What good does it do if everyone is talking, but no one is listening?  We have written about the shared responsibility of passing and receiving in past articles. The most basic fundamental technique to be practiced in passing and receiving is often the least understood by coaches and players alike.

"He won't listen!"  This is the complaint I fielded recently from a captain of one of our camp teams.  The "he" in question is a talented athlete but a mediocre soccer player. He gives great effort, but doesn't think the game very well and he refuses to "take instruction" as he repeats the same mistakes over and over.  The transgression his teammates and coaches are currently most frustrated with is the player's tendency to turn and go towards goal every time he touches the ball regardless of situation or defensive pressure. "That's his total thought process," the captain complained. "He's destroying our rhythm and making it impossible to maintain possession."

I understand the frustration, but the real issue is to understand why the player was not listening. Sometimes I wonder if I am speaking in tongues as what I say is seemingly ignored or completely misunderstood. I have to re-evaluate not what I am attempting to communicate, but how I am communicating what I want understood.

Education can be a critical element of this process.

The player in question, we shall call him John, had an established bad habit of going straight to goal every time he gained possession of the ball. He often turns into pressure only to be dispossessed by a defender lying in wait for him or he will blindly turn only to encounter multiple defenders ready to dispossess him of the ball. John's bad habit is needlessly self-inflicting pressure upon himself and by extension, his team.  Teammates imploring John to "drop the ball" back are generally ignored. Encouragement to "play the way you face" when under pressure is ignored. The captain actually  proclaimed, "It's like playing with someone who is deaf! And if you try to help him he gets mad and refuses to pass you the ball at all."

I posed the following question to the captain and his coaches, "If John will not listen to you, will he listen to the ball?"

Yeah, from the looks I received I figured I was speaking in tongues again!

I was not, but I did have to explain what I meant by listening to the ball. The explanation wasn't warranted because of a lack of knowledge on the captain and coaches part so much as a different perspective being required on the knowledge they already possessed.  Sometimes we take for granted a basic level of knowledge or understanding only to discover such is not the case in fact. My suspicion was that is what was happening here.

Did John understand if a teammate directed a pass to his front (close or near) foot it was being communicated to him there was a defender on his back and he should "play the way he is facing" or not turn into pressure? Has anyone taught John this cue for receiving and combination passing?  Does John know, understand and appreciate that if the ball is played to his back (far or across his body)  foot that there is an implied understanding that he can open to the field of play and even turn towards goal?

In short, had anyone ever taught John to listen to the pass?

And does John understand and appreciate what the pass is saying to him?

There are, of course, many other forms of non-verbal communication that can be utilized if and only if all teammates are speaking the same language.  In today's case, John was resistant to verbal communication. So, why not teach John the language of the pass and allow the ball to be the translator of the information being shared? John can then take that information (knowledge) the pass is providing him and use it to improve his own decisions on when to play the way he faces or when he can turn and go.

No comments:

Post a Comment