A coach’s body language is a deciding factor in whether players aptly receive his or her message. Body language is subconsciously registered and (unfortunately) also subconsciously used. As a coach, if you can coordinate your body language with the message you want to convey, you will surely find success.
There are a few points to keep in mind that will make things a lot easier for you.
Body Language in Team Coaching
Generally speaking, your body language discloses your emotions. In principle, this is nothing bad; however, you should know that it is sometimes beneficial to hide one’s feelings at a given time.
Let us assume that you are about to play the last league game that will decide whether you and your team will be crowned champions. You have a bad feeling; maybe you are even scared of what will happen in the game. You did not sleep well the night before, and you are extremely nervous. Would it make sense to use body language linked to these emotions during the pregame team meeting? Probably not. Rather, you should exude confidence and certainty of success, so your players can follow suit.
Many similar situations often arise: especially during games. The kicker about it is that not only can your emotions influence your body language, but also vice versa. Let's consider the aforementioned scenario. If you want to project the emotions of “confidence” and “certainty of success,” you must assume the appropriate body language. This means shoulders back, chest out, and standing with your head held high.
Simply assume this posture for five minutes (maybe even before the game), and you will see corresponding emotions start to gradually flood in: just in time for the team meeting. This might feel strange at the beginning, but you will become more comfortable in time. Always be mindful of positive body language when addressing your team.
Body Language During Games
Of course, your body language is important during games as well. Most coaches follow their emotions here, too. That is not necessarily a bad thing; however, it is better to act in a way that is most beneficial for the team at the moment.
The majority of coaches make wild gestures and shout commands while the game is going moderately well. However, if their team faces a large deficit (say a score of 5-0), they will retreat and hide on the coach’s bench. It is during these less-than-ideal situations that players need a coach who gives commands and exudes confidence.
A different situation: It is the 87th minute of play and the opponents— down by one goal—are pushing to close in, getting stronger by the minute. It seems like it's just a matter of time before they tie the game. What do most coaches do on the sideline in this scenario? They nervously jump up and down, maybe even yelling out, transferring their nervousness over to their players. What does the team need in this situation? Somebody who keeps their calm and radiates confidence.
You can see what we are trying to get at. While coaching games, you should always ask yourself these questions:
How can I best help my players? Which emotions should I exude? How can my body language affect my team?
If I want my players to show composure during the game, how can I do the same? When I'm looking for more emotion out of my team, how can I mirror this on the sideline? Should I seek more aggression, how can I assume corresponding body language? This is not easy, considering coaches must process so much information— in addition to their own emotions. Still, the more often you recall this advice, the more your coaching will improve as time goes on.
Body Language with Children
With children, it is especially important to maintain equal footing. It makes you appear less threatening and arrogant than when you coach them from above.
You should never assume intimidating body language when working with kids, which is rarely effective. Your own inherent authority as an adult will command discipline from your players.
The New Way of Soccer: Skill + Instinct + Mentality = Success by Dominik Voglsinger & Thomas Mangold, 2021 ($9.99 Kindle Edition) German edition: Der Weg zum richtigen Start!: Ball + Instink + Verstand = Fußballtraining, 2020.
Dominik Voglsinger, a UEFA A license holder, has been a coaching instructor for the German soccer federation (DFB), currently serves the Vienna soccer association (WFV), and is also a high school teacher. Thomas Mangold has been head of youth development and coach of the SV Aspern and FC Hellas Kagran, and specializes in individual training. Both started their soccer careers in their native Vienna, Austria.