Does that make sense?

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I have often said that to one of my soccer players when I have been trying to get a point across (usually i have fired a lot of information off and I can see I may be losing the player, so it’s a mechanism to get us back on track). When we say this, though, what are we really doing? I imagine this scenario comes up in the business world, too, where the person in charge attempts to communicate something to a colleague/subordinate and they ask if what they have just said makes sense. I wonder how effective this is, though.

In soccer, very rarely do my players say “no, coach, that doesn’t make sense” (although, I have had a couple!). They nod their head and then go out and make the same mistake or they don’t completely “get it”…at least how they were supposed to in my head.

When we ask that phrase, we tend to look for an affirmative answer so we can pat ourselves on the back and know that we did our job. I read somewhere recently that what we are teaching is not of importance; rather, it’s what our players learn that matters. Consequently, I try to ask more questions and listen to what they have heard, or better yet, get them to show me/explain it to someone else and then work from there. This is a tough one, especially for those among us who want to correct every little mistake or direct the minutiae of an activity to ensure it’s “done right.” We are giving up our “control” of the discourse and opening it up to an unknown set of variables (our players!). This is very difficult to do, but we may get a better, more productive outcome this way.

Perhaps instead of saying “does that make sense,” a coach might find it more valuable to employ one of the following techniques:

  • Tell me what you think I want you to do?
  • Can you explain to your teammates what you think I have asked you to do?
  • Even though you may have a lot of questions, can you go out and give me your best effort in trying to do what I have asked and then we can review in a couple of minutes?

Although I have a long way to go on my own journey, when I have tried one of the techniques above, I have found it opens up a dialogue that is a lot more productive than simply asking “does that make sense” and then getting a “yes” response.

Perhaps we are really asking ourselves whether something makes sense when we pose that question!

I would love to hear your feedback on this issue. Does that make sense?

My new book, It Pays to Win on Offense: A game-based approach to developing soccer players that score and create lots of goals, contains over a hundred of these guided discovery questions that help to facilitate deeper understanding of attacking principles in soccer.

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