Of all the dumb things that get yelled to members of a sports team from the sideline the most excruciatingly brain free is “come on… talk it up!” When did “talk among yourselves” become a thing? This is particularly so in soccer. Oh, soccer coaches have an array of stupid things that they bellow throughout a match (such as “give her an option” or “come on… let’s win those fifty-fifties”) but “let’s hear some talk” is the one that makes the least sense. While passing more accurately, running faster, being more determined, being stronger on the ball, looking for teammates to pass to, shooting more powerfully or more accurately or defending with more enthusiasm, might all make a difference to the outcome of a match, I challenge anyone to prove that teammates having a good chat warrants encouragement.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that it makes sense for coaches to yell out instructions to encourage their charges to be faster, tougher, stronger, or more determined. Coaches yelling out anything from the sideline is a waste of time, in my book. In the heat of the battle, do team members give a rat’s arse about what the coach is screaming at them from his or her technical area? I once saw the last Matildas coach bellowing instructions to his team about who they should be passing to. No doubt Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord would have felt inclined to pass the ball away from the player who the coach wanted to receive the ball, just to piss him off! Nup. All sideline coaching is dumb. But telling the team to “talk it up” is even dumber than the other, more technical, suggestions a coach might make.
I can just see it now. Eleven players trooping off the field with broad smiles and patting each other on the back at the end of a game.
“What did I tell you guys at half time?”
“Man, we were great today. I’m so happy. We got smashed 6 – 0… but did we talk it up, or what? We talked all over them. They were crap!”
Or a conversation, on the sideline, between the coach and a player he had just subbed off.
Player: “How come you pulled me off, coach? I thought I was going alright. That was my assist that got Mary our first goal!”
Coach: “What did I tell you guys at half-time, Jen?”
Player: “Ummm… you said, ‘keep your shape’ and ‘give each other options’, oh… and you said, ‘bad luck’ quite a few times.”
Coach: “I also said that I wanna see a lot more talking. It’s not all about scoring goals and winning games you know. You gotta learn to talk more. I didn’t hear you say, ‘we’ve got this, girls’ even once!”
At the year-end league presentation night, the guest of honour is handing out the annual awards.
“And that was the award for the winner of the grand final. Well done, and congratulations again to the Warialda Wombats on your win and to the Bullamakanka Bandicoots for being brave runners-up! But now, for the major award of the night. Drum-roll please maestro. The winner of the loudest team of the year award, the ‘Talking Bullshit Shield’, is… the Tamworth Terrapins. What an incredible season Terrapins. Your stats are remarkable. Games 20, goals 6, goals against 32, wins 1, losses 19, 248 – ‘give her an options’, 642 – ‘we’ve got this’, and a competition record breaking 892 – ‘keep your shape.’”
Ironically, senseless yabbering is the most likely cause of poor on-field communication in a game of sport. Some messages are important. “Debbie is open,” or “cutter”, or “keeper off her line”, or “keeper’s ball” or “defender on” or any number of other verbal signals agreed to between the members of a team can be helpful on the pitch. But when these critical messages are being drowned out by a cluster of “we’ve got this” and “let’s score next” and “bad luck” it becomes difficult for team members to distinguish between important information and noise. For me, the rule of thumb should be, shut the fuck up unless you have something useful to say!