Language is an extremely powerful tool in bringing out the best in Top Flight Academy footballers. Used intelligently, language can accelerate the learning process and help a young athlete reach their potential.
Young players need to slow down and focus on the outcome when developing skills. They need to be aware of what they are doing and why. Language can make all the difference.
Goal-scoring practice is a great example of the subtleties of language.
At Top Flight, instead of “shooting” practice the players focus on “finishing”. At the very top levels of the game, players are finishing with the inside of the foot from within the penalty area. While there is no doubt that spectacular goals are scored from range with powerful shots, most goals are effectively passed into the back of the opponent’s net by the attacking player.
Instructing a player to “shoot”, “strike it” or “hit it” are all violent, aggressive terms, that serve no purpose other than to raise blood pressure and adrenaline levels. Such terms illicit an undesirable response in the player who then becomes focused on power, not accuracy. The focus becomes the aggression of kicking the ball as hard as they can, not on the desired outcome, which is to direct the ball into the goal, beyond the reach of the goalkeeper.
Softer language then, plays an important role, particularly for young athletes, in developing desirable learning outcomes. Learning when to make softer or harder contact is essential to take advantage of split second match situations.
Similarly, when instructing a player to pass the football, being told to “guide” or “stroke” the ball to a teammate is descriptive speech that reflects the desired outcome of making a nicely weighted pass to a teammate. These words take away from the physical action and instead hone the mind on the process and desired outcome.
By doing so, a young player cultivates the ability to make cultured passes that are delivered with accuracy, the correct weight and line, thereby making it easy for his or her teammate to receive. Xavi, newly retired from FC Barcelona, is a wonderful proponent of such passes.
Conversely, being told through junior grades to “hit him” [or her] with a pass develops a one dimensional, single geared player. Such a player will find it difficult to adjust ball speed when appropriate. This in turn will lead to unnecessary errors and loss of possession.
Simply put, language used to describe a technique has a profound influence on a player’s ability to cultivate and nurture that technique.
Beyond vocabulary, the value of tone and pitch should be considered when using language to create a positive learning environment.
The best teachers are assured and measured when expressing themselves to students.
The football field is no different from the classroom in this respect. A calm tone and pitch helps the student focus on the task at hand. It makes little sense for coaches to operate differently to the proven methods of a professional teacher.
While there are times that clear, deliberate direction has to be given with volume to ensure a well run training session, calmness is essential.
At Top Flight Football Academy, language is a cornerstone to the coaching process.
Vocabulary, and how speech is delivered is core to bringing the best development results from the promising young athletes that we work with. Touch, control and thought are both cultivated and stimulated via the power, and intelligent use of language.
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