Using Game-Calls to Develop Game-Understanding & Skill

How often do coaches consider the words they use and why? I would argue not often. We all plan sessions in terms of the activities, progressions and durations of each practice within a session, but do we plan the choice of words we use and pay particular focus to how these words relate to the messages we want the players to learn?

My solution to this is….all coaches MUST create a coaching vocabulary that mirrors their playing philosophy and as such, includes key trigger words I call “Game-calls” that represent the decisions and solutions players can make in specific game-situations.

What is a game-call? Game-calls is a term used to describe a type of game-specific communication or words players can shout to one another on the pitch during a game, to inform the player on what to do next.

The best sporting teams in the world are excellent communicators, which enabled them to each be organised in their role within the team and work together to solve problems. You will often hear coaches and managers across all levels of the game using game-calls such as “SQUEEZE” or “AWAY” and perhaps “NO-TURN” and so on.

These are similar terms you will hear players shout themselves.

Let’s Talk Soccer is a book written for the coach and players, to help coaches become more aware of the words they use and why! And also help solve two problems:

1) Allow coaches to create a coaching vocabulary that mirrors how they want their teams to play, and helps coaches themselves become better communicators by empowering them to be more concise and clear in their feedback and instructions

2) Often players lack the game-understanding and communication skills to demand the ball, to “Start-again” or even when defending, to communicate to each other on when to “PRESS”, when to “HOLD” and so on.

Communication is one of the most important factors of performance across all teams sports, and by using Game-calls in your practice not only will your players understand what you mean when you say “BALANCE” or “NO TURN” and so on, but the player’s themselves will become better decision makers as they will be the ones who constantly communicate on the pitch to each other, especially when out of possession.

Words create a picture in the mind of the player

By using game-calls, you help create a mental model in the mind of the player which influences their subconscious processing, and subsequent decision making. With soccer and all other team sports involving cognition (in the sense that players have to identify and respond to visual cues whilst playing the game), any use of what can be described as ‘trigger-words’ meaning words that bring ‘substance’ to the context, are a useful form of self-revision and long-term learning.

(Taken from Chapter 7, pg 72)

How can I help my team and myself communicate better?

Introduce game-calls such as “PLAYROUND” if working on transferring the ball from one area of the pitch to another, around the opposition defence, or “NO TURN” if working on defending 1v1 all in game-like practices such as SSG’s, Skill Practices and Phases of Play (Random & Variable type practices).

You can introduce a host of decisions (learning outcomes) for your players to master, by following this simple learning cycle:

First Stage of Introducing a Game-call

“Connect” – you introduce the game-call by showing what the game-call means through a visual demonstration that uses players as participants.

Second Stage of Introducing a Game-call

“Activate” – this is where the players start to develop their understanding of the game-call through discussion with peers and the coach. This might be through Question and Answer techniques. For example, the coach may say, “Why would you start-again here?” or “If I were to play backwards here, what’s the problem?” or “In this situation, is this the right time to Start-again?” Here the coach discusses when to use a call and why with his or her players.

Third Stage of Introducing a Game-call

“Demonstrate” – this is where the players have a go! It is vital that the coach observes and allows the players time to make up their own decisions and experiment with the game-call (when to do it and why). In doing so, they can understand the call and its importance and relevance to the game.

Fourth Stage of Introducing a Game-call

“Consolidate” – this is one of the most important areas of learning, where players make sense of what they have learnt, apply it in games, and experiment with it more.

Notice how each component within the Learning Model has two arrows going forwards and backwards. This is to signify that at some stage of coaching game-calls with your players, you may need to go back to “Activate” in order for them to have another go, or return to the “Demonstrate” stage because they may still not quite get it. This is the case for all skills and detail in coaching, not just communication.


Gérard Jones


Let’s Talk Soccer offers coaches a framework from which to create their own coaching vocabulary, in line with their playing philosophy alongside session practices that can be used to develop communication.

You can buy online in the USA or UK via publishers Bennion Kearny on Paperback or Kindle:

All words and images were supplied by Gérard Jones

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