Developing Talk in Young Players

Friday, March 07, 2014

By Darren Ogier
Murray Bushrangers - Head Coach

When you want young players to be quiet and listen, they are normally rowdy, but when you want them to be loud and talk on the field the silence can be deafening.

Using your voice is like learning to kick or bounce the ball on your non-dominant side – it is a skill that needs continual emphasis and development along the way for all players.

What younger players don’t yet understand is the absolute importance of using their voice other than when they are in a position to receive a handball. That is just being reactive. When used proactively, the impact of communicating with your team mates can be critical to your overall success. It can certainly help your team to win the ball, keep it and score; and, on the other hand, dispossess the opposition and to stop them from scoring. 

Loud, Early and Direct

I liken using your voice, to a LED light; it can really help illuminate dark areas or uncertainties for your team mates. In my view, there are some essential elements that must be present with this type of proactive talk.

  1. The voice needs to be LOUD so that the intended recipient of the message is not in any way unsure about what is required.
  2. The talk needs to be as EARLY as possible; to let the other player(s) know what is expected even before the ball arrives at times - the earlier the better.
  3. The player should give some simple DIRECTION in their message. This can be critically important and help your side to prosper from such instruction

Players can have a big impact at, near, or off the ball with their voice. Communication and direction at stoppages is critical and can have a big bearing on one of the most important components of modern footy – clearances.

If you can get your young players to incorporate these proactive elements of Loud (L), Early (E) and Direct (D) into their vocal regime, it can really assist team mates by providing greater clarity of what is going on around them. 

Activities to develop LED Talk

With the ball:

Set up activities to make them communicate as much as possible. Some of the activities I have used to increase confidence and desire to use their voice more are:

  • If, for example, they are doing “A 1000 Touches”, then they need to make 2000 calls.
  • Two way talk – from where you get it, and who you give it to. This is critical and designed to ensure that it carries over to the game.
  • Count out loud if doing repetitive, count down type ball handling drills.
  • Competitions to see who can be the loudest, with penalties for the quietest, when working in small groups or pairs activities. This also helps with enthusiasm which generates more voice.
  • Run activities in an environment where there is lots of noise going on from other players or groups. Even putting music on or other recorded noise, will require them to be louder to be heard and get their message across.
  • Talk one person ahead to develop earlier calling. For example, if A gets the ball and is kicking to B, then C who is getting the ball from B needs to start talking to B as soon as A gets the ball.
  • Give a direction every time they call - when they want to receive the ball, or to assist the ball carrier.

Without the ball:

  • Put them in scenarios where if they don’t talk, they will lose the ball!
    • For example - an easy shepherding the ball carrier from behind activity; if there is no voice and the defender makes the tackle – they lose the ball.
    • The penny drops! The light is switched on! They then start to talk proactively.
  • Talk from those waiting in line to participate in drills is critical, and must be emphasized from the beginning.
  • Players take responsibility for a partner during simple skill drills or in game sense type activities. They are not essentially in the drill, but they are to verbally instruct their partner every step of the way. Talk loud, early and direct them on where to run, and what to do when they receive it.
  • In competitive drills, require players to coach a team, or maybe a line (backs/mids/fwds) in that team, or focus on the offensive or defensive components of the activity being undertaken.
    • This coaching can be done from within the activity or from the sidelines. 

The sooner that the players realize what a significant impact they can have at, near or off the ball, whether your team has it or not, by using their voice the better!

Coaches also must use their voice, to make sure that they commend players who are using proactive talk to assist their team mates in drills or game style activities. 

Voice is sometimes forgotten with younger players, but it is extremely important and must be a focus of training and player development. It has to become a given and younger players must realise early that it is not just there to be used when they are in a position to receive the footy.

Darren Ogier is an AFL Accredited High Performance Coach and Murray Bushrangers’ TAC Cup Coach. This article was written by as part of the requirements for the AFL High Performance (Level 3) Coaching Course.

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