Soccer Training Is Great, But This Often Overlooked Skill Will Make You The Most Popular Player On The Field And Build Stronger Teams

Your Team Will Love You While You Lead Them To Victory With Soccer Drills For Your Brain From 2-time World Cup Champion Brandi Chastain and National Champion Soccer Coach Jerry Smith

By: Brandi Chastain and Jerry Smith
2-time World Cup Champion & National Champion Soccer Coach
Soccer / Football
February 18, 2020

Jerry: Whether you call it soccer training like we do in the States or football training drills like they do in the rest of the world, as a soccer coach, I can tell you one of the best skills you can work at and master is good body language .

Brandi: Let's get real. We know that body language can make a big difference. I'm going to tell you one story about being in the World Cup where body language was really helpful.

It's the World Cup quarter-final in 1999, six minutes into the game versus Germany. And as a defender, my job is to keep the ball out of the net. And as I was trying to make a play to do that, I passed the ball back as the goalkeeper was coming forward, and the ball went into the goal. That is absolutely not the thing you want to have happen in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, or any other game for that matter. Now, immediately, lots of things could be running through your head at that point, and the body

Football Drills Or Soccer Drills Same Training Different Name

language of you and your teammates could absolutely have an impact in that moment. What happened to me is probably the most life-changing thing that's ever happened on the field, which was that my captain, Carla Overbeck, clapped her hands, came over and told me "No problem." Her body language was awesome and supportive. She had a smile on her face. She clapped in a positive manner. And she said, "We got this," like, "Let's go; you can do it." And not for a second longer did I ever think that we would lose the game. She gave me the courage and the confidence to go forward.

According to Psychology Today...

"Even when they don’t express their thoughts verbally, most people constantly throw off clues to what they’re thinking and feeling. Non-verbal messages communicated through the sender's body movements, facial expressions, vocal tone and volume, and other clues are collectively known as body language.

"Body language isn’t always as clear as spoken language, but how it's interpreted can play a big role in how someone relates to and interacts with others. It's a silent orchestra: Micro-expressions (brief displays of emotion that an individual tries to conceal), hand gestures, and posture that register in the human brain almost immediately, even when someone is not consciously aware of them.

"These moments of recognition, however brief, can have long-lasting repercussions for how an individual interprets others’ motivation, mood, and openness, as well as how their own inner self is perceived."

Communication Can't Be Overstated

From a coaching standpoint, we talked about communication quite a bit. I was recently at our National Soccer Coaches convention in Baltimore, doing a coaches clinic on communication, and I asked, "What's the most important thing about communication?" And of course, they said volume, tone and specificity. And of course, I said, "No, the most important thing is listening. And then the second most important thing is body language."

Good Body Language Says "I've Got Your Back"

Body Language Can Speak Loudly and Clearly

We have to be careful about the messages that we send with our body language. For example, perhaps late in the game, we've tried to score a goal and it didn't quite come off. And I realize my coaching wasn't great, or I asked for the wrong specific play, but either way I'm mad at myself about it. Darn it, darn it, darn it! But the player 60-70 yards away looks over and sees this and thinks I'm disappointed in them, or that I am wondering how they could have made that mistake, when that was never my intention. I was really just mad at myself. So we have to be very careful and work hard at sending the right message.

Think How Your Reaction Might be Misread

Jerry: Oftentimes, you'll see good coaching, when a mistake is made, or you'll see a captain, like in Brandi's example, clap their hands as if to say "Next play - we got this-we've got your back!" I can't emphasize enough the importance of training good body language skills. This is not only important for the coaching staff, but also teammates.

Brandi: Sometimes, I'll make a run into some space and a ball gets played and I don't quite get on the end of it. And I realize, I missed my run and I'm like, darn it It didn't work. But the passer could have thought I was upset with the pass, when that was never my intention. In soccer, in all sports for that matter, you oftentimes see players give a thumbs-up. Thumbs-up in that situation means great pass, great idea, it's on me that I missed it, and I'll get it next time. This kind of message in that situation can help. And it's important that I pay very close attention to ensuring that it is received the same way.

Every Game and Training Session Offers A Chance To Improve

Body Language can Impact the Team, and the Match

Brandi: There's no doubt about it, I have experienced as a soccer player for years and now as a coach the impact that specific body language can have on the rest of your team, and on the outcome of the match, too. For sure. I'm trying to help my players realize that they have a lot more impact than they think with positive vibes, positive self-talk, clapping to themselves, clapping to their teammates, thumbs-up, a smile. But Jerry's correct in terms of how big it is - with training, we can really influence the game, our teammates and ourselves when we have positive body language.

Fans Have a Role in the Body Language Game, Too

Brandi: I think as much as we talk about coaching captains and players, one of the things that we have to also be cognizant of is parents and fans. More often than not, our parents know where we are on the soccer field, and they look specifically to us constantly during the game. And our reaction as players to our parents can send the wrong message if we're not careful about that. And, as parents, we have to recognize that even if we're there watching our son or daughter, we're also fans of the rest of the team. And so when another player on the team, not our son or daughter, makes a good play, it's really important that we as parents have the proper body language so that in case our son or daughter should look over, they're going to see a certain message from you. Parents need to show confidence, encouragement for the next play, and show appreciation for the effort. Parents also have to make sure not to over-react to body language in that specific moment.

Training For Football in England-Europe Offers Some Of The Best Fans In The World

Practice Makes Perfect - Training Your Body Language

As a soccer coach having good body language is really easy to preach, but it's hard to practice. It is not something that that might come naturally to us. So even as parents - I'm a parent, we're parents - we have to practice being positive, just like the players on the soccer field and the coaches on the sideline.

Remember, body language is a big part of the messages that we send to our teammates, our players, our kids, and can, if done right, can make a really positive impact on the outcome. And just like you would watch film to watch tactics or technique, sometimes we watch film of ourselves as coaches, of the players that are on the sidelines, or we'll watch film of our reaction after big plays. Did we settle down quickly enough with our body language after scoring a big goal, so that we can get back to thinking about what the next play is? And did we settle down quickly enough so that we don't take a goal right after that? At the same time, if we do take a late goal and things don't look great, what was our body language in that moment?

So, there are so many pieces to body language, and it's such an important part of youth sports - parents, fans, coaches, players, captains - that we all have to pay attention to it. I hope that you've learned a little bit greater appreciation of the impact that body language can have, and you'll think about that the next time you're out on the soccer field.