How do managers communicate with their players during games?

Following on from the discussion of the coaches role during a game, in the previous lesson, I thought it would be interesting to explore how they communicate with their players throughout a game and the different ways of this being done.

In the photo above is Burnley manager Sean Dyche, motivating his players during a game – as seen by him applauding their efforts.

I have been a Burnley fan for as long as I can remember, and Dyche has been in charge for eight seasons, so I observed his pitch side antics over a number of years and how he delivers his messages. Unlike some other team sports, the sheer size of the pitch makes it almost impossible to communicate in a normal way, which means it requires managers to have the ability to use hand gestures or raise their voices to instruct the players on the far side of the pitch.

Obviously given the current climate of football, and there are no fans in the stadiums currently and it means their messages can be heard clearer. However, this could be a pitfall as most managers and players thrive off the supporters reactions. For example, the fans that sit behind the dugouts, can somewhat impact the instructions managers give out. This could be as simple as a supporter saying ‘get forward’ and the manager agreeing with the statement made.

Some managers have different styles; Dyche, Guardiola, Klopp, just to name a few are very vocal themselves and are constantly in their technical areas bellowing out information to their players. Despite this Roy Hodgson takes a different approach, and he sits down and observes whilst allowing his assistant manager to do this vocal role, which makes me assume Roy will do the talking at half time in a more conversation based discussion, and most probably get the point across more effectively and the relationship to be two ways. Does this mean there is a right and wrong way to communicate with players or is is based on individuals approaches (Aly, 2014). I believe that managers have different styles of coaching in order to get the best out of their players and this will have been achieved by them trying out different approaches to different individuals, in order to find out the optimum response and then also reflect on previous experiences with other players.

A study on vocal use in sports management, which focused on the Irish premier league, found that the way in which a manager uses certain tones, can generate different responses. There were four results that got drawn from the study, but the one which stands out in relation to communication to players, is that it is said to be essential that the managers voice is heard to fulfil high performance levels and to motivate the group. Whilst a participant stated “its vital for us as players to hear the manager if he can see something is not going correctly.” (O’Neil and McMenamin, 2014)

When considering how I would communicate as an analyst, I would take more of a Roy Hodgson approach. This is because I feel that in this role, you have the responsibility to provide reassuring feedback to a player in order to help them improve and I don’t feel, upon reflection of a game, that shouting or being animated is the correct approach for this, as the players may not be in the correct mindset to receive this information. As well as that, the analyst is not the manager of the team, so they would not have the authority to use certain tones with the players and this could lead to a depletion in respect from them

With regards to how this would look, it would depend on the managers requests as to what feedback they thought would be important, for example; if it was individual or in ‘units.’ The FAs Coach Decision Making Model, looks at ‘the who’s, the what’s and the how’s’ in the approach to take, in relation to their development and progression (Abraham et al., 2013). If I was to approach a player on an individual basis, I would make sure the environment was correct to do so. It is key that you learn the personality of the player and how they receive feedback best. Some players may like to sit in a formal office environment, whereas some players may prefer to be in a more relaxed environment such as; having a drink or whilst eating. It is vital to make sure the feedback is short and formative, so the player remains engaged and remembers the points that needed addressing (Wright et al., 2013). When looking at doing feedback to units, the information must be equally as short and formative, but it would be key to instigate discussion between them in order to make sure they are all on the same wavelength. Most importantly it is essential that the players trust your view and opinion as this relationship is integral to successful performances and will enable them to be more open and honest with you (Court et al, 2004).

This leads me onto my next blog which will consider the different ways of role framing and the consideration of impression management.

Reference List

Abraham, A., Morgan, G., North, J., Muir, B., Duffy, P., Allison, W. and Hodgson, R., 2013, May. Task analysis of coach developers: Applications to the FA youth coach educator role. In Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Naturalistic Decision Making (NDM 2013) (pp. 21-24).

Aly, E.R., 2014. Communication management among athlete and coaches. European Scientific Journal.

O’Neill, J. and McMenamin, R., 2014. Voice use in professional soccer management. Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology39(4), pp.169-178.

Wright, C., Atkins, S., Jones, B. and Todd, J., 2013. The role of performance analysts within the coaching process: Performance Analysts Survey ‘The role of performance analysts in elite football club settings.’. International journal of performance analysis in sport13(1), pp.240-261.

One thought on “How do managers communicate with their players during games?

  1. Max, a potentially interesting topic and certainly one to consider from your role as a developing analyst. I wonder if you might add more meat to the bones for us? You suggest you might take a particular approach to communicating with players, but how might that ‘look’ and ‘feel’? What might you literally say? A mock ‘script’ of an interaction would be really interesting to enable us to see how you are integrating theory into your practice. [You can set the staging, participants etc. and help take the reader there…]

    Perhaps more interesting would be the reasons WHY you are suggesting to take the ‘Roy’ approach. What are the assumptions underpinning this? Are there any socio-cultural pressures on you to act a certain way as an analyst in your environment [refer to the coach decision making model].

    Fundamentally Max I would really encourage you to dig deeper in your blogs. You have what I would call a nice ‘overview model’ of how to go about doing a blog, but there is little in the way of really deep and meaningful reflection.


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