Giving Your Words Forward Momentum
One aspect of the way we function is our tendency to be “going away from” or “going towards” thinkers. For example, if I don’t want to wash the dirty dishes because I find it unpleasant, I will find any possible way to avoid the task. I am avoiding, or going away from, what I don’t like. Going toward people will quickly complete the task because they want to go toward the feeling of having it done or toward the feeling of having clean dishes.
The problem with going away from language and thinking is that there is no actual target or goal other than to avoid the undesirable. Going away from thinking tends to go in circles, only to come back to the undesirable in worse condition then it was initially. In contrast, going toward thinking and behavior provides positive energy and clear focus in the direction of a desired result.
It is vital that your instruction and language be “going toward” a positive outcome. Consistently coaching in the form of “don’t do this” or “we can’t have that” will not give your players a clear, focused target. Frame your instruction in “going toward” language.
Also, our brains cannot directly compute a negative.
Don’t miss the target. The brain will first go to - miss the target-before going to the intended meaning which is – hit the target.
Now direct your attention to the language of coaches on the field.
Don’t dribble too much. Player’s brain thinks about dribbling, then how much is too much, then the correct amount of dribbling.
Don’t be afraid to head the ball. Brain thinks about fear, then what to fear about heading, then how to head and not be afraid.
We are not playing well because we are not talking. This is a going away from statement. Coach is saying we need to avoid “not talking”. There is no going toward foundation to this statement. Instead, give clear and precise examples. We need this kind of communication -“Goalkeeper, push the defenders up,” “midfielders call for the ball from the backs,” “front players shout when you are putting on first defender pressure.” All of these give player’s brains a targeted outcome and efficient places to direct their focus.
In training, keep your instructions going toward exactly what you do want. Repeat phrases often that are going toward and eliminate negations. You will clarify their focus. Efficiency and effectiveness will be amplified. You will create thinking pathways in your player’s brains that lead to the decision making you desire in game play.
Jennifer Griffin is a Sports Performance Analyst at Syracuse University for the women’s soccer program. She has also been part of the US Soccer Federation’s Per Diem Staff and was formerly a member of the Women’s Soccer Committee for the NSCAA. Jen’s soccer resume also includes having been a coach at the high school level for nearly 22 years