SOCCER ON-FIELD ORAL COMMUNICATION
Oral communication among players during a game is critical to successful soccer. This is true in all phases of the game and can take many forms. Short words or phrases are used because the fast pace of the game demands that information be imparted quickly and accurately. The short words or phrases that are used must be immediately recognizable and their meanings completely understood, along with the actions to be taken, by every player on the team.
The words and phrases below or “calls,” and their associated definitions, are all used within specific game contexts. Sometimes it is the player with the ball who will speak. Most often, however, it is a player without the ball who will be speaking. This is because it is the players without the ball who have the better view of all of the action taking place on the field. This is especially true for the players who are behind the ball (closer to their own defensive goal than the ball), because they have the best view of all. As a result, they are the players who are in the best position to direct the flow of play using oral communication.
The following list represents oral communication that covers a wide range of abilities and understanding, from introductory to advanced. Coaches must present the communications at age-appropriate intervals, in parallel with the skills and tactics involved, so that players will comprehend the corresponding meanings. For example, introductory terms may include “Settle,” “Time,” “Turn,” “Carry,” and “Man-on,” all associated with receiving, controlling, and dribbling the ball. Mid-level terms may include “Mark up,” “Goal-side,” “Control,” “Jockey,” and “Challenge,” all associated with one-on-one (1 v 1) defense. More advanced terms may include “Overlap,” and “Dummy,” both associated with advanced offensive tactics.
The general categories used below are applicable to all field players and then there are those that are specific to the “Defensive Organizer” (usually a center back, trail center-back, or sweeper) and goalkeepers. As with all aspects of instruction, coaches should teach all of the calls to everyone, presenting blocks of them as early to an age group as possible, based on what the players can understand. A number of the calls have the same meaning. Coaches may determine which ones they want to use, specific to their team. In the end, however, all players should know all terms as part of their soccer education.
Regarding gender equity, calls may refer to “he;” both “he” and “she” are implied.
Carry – Take the ball (dribble) upfield; i.e., individually attack open space.
Clear – Get the ball out of danger, away from the goal, immediately. (Tells the defender to kick the ball as far upfield, toward the sideline, and out of bounds if necessary.)
Control (1) – Tells the player receiving the ball that he has sufficient time and space to receive and work with it.
Control him (2) – Tells the player defending an opponent with the ball to slow him down, move him to the outside, if possible, but not to challenge or attempt a tackle because time is needed for help to arrive.
Get up (1) – Tells a teammate to immediately get back on their feet after having been knocked down or slipping to the ground in order to continue to immediately fight for the ball.
Jockey – As a supporting defender, this tells a teammate to defend a dribbling opponent by slowly giving ground. By not tackling and attempting to take the ball, thereby avoiding the possibility of being beaten, this buys time so the defense can return, reorganize, balance and cover.
Man-on – An opponent who is probably outside your field of vision is about to challenge you for the ball.
Settle – There is time to control the ball on the ground, look up, and figure out what to do with it. (Similar to “time.”)
Shoot – Tells a teammate with the ball to take the shot.
Shot – Shoot the ball on goal immediately. Don’t hesitate; take one set-up touch at most.
Time, or, You’ve got time – There is no immediate pressure from nearby, especially from behind, and you have the time you need to trap or collect the ball and then look up to see your options.
Turn – As you receive the ball facing away from the attacking goal, it is safe to turn the ball upfield without an immediate challenge from an opponent.
Ball (Calling for the ball) – A player, who is not directly covered by a defender, yells for his teammate to pass the ball to him.
Ball (Coming to you) – Player is announcing to his teammate that the ball is nearby or coming immediately and the teammate does not appear to be aware of it.
Center – Send the ball in the air or on the ground to the middle of the field.
Challenge – As a supporting defender, this tells a teammate that support in defense has arrived and that a solid attempt to take the ball away may be made. This generally comes shortly after a “Jockey” or “Contain” call.
Contain – As a supporting defender, this tells a teammate to defend a dribbling opponent by standing ground and confining the opponent to a small space. By not tackling and attempting to take the ball, thereby avoiding the possibility of being beaten, this buys time so the defense can return, reorganize, balance and cover.
Deep – Pass the ball far upfield to a teammate who is making a run; long.
Early – Tells a teammate to send a through-ball or cross quickly, to make an early service, rather than waiting.
Easy pass – Tells a player to make the simple, obvious pass to a nearby, open teammate rather than to force something.
Easy – Reminds a teammate to stay composed on the ball, to not over-react, panic, or do something inappropriate.
Far and wide – Informs the whole team that they are too compact or bunched up and need to spread out to properly use the whole field.
Follow (Follow up) – A reminder that attackers must continue to follow-up shots on goal in order to play rebounds or loose balls. This includes the original shooter.
Free, or, You’re Free – Tells teammate that there is no defender nearby and that they can work with the ball.
Get there – Encouragement to get to the open spot on the field where the ball is arriving; encouragement to win a 50/50 ball.
Give-and-go, Wall pass, 1-2 – An open teammate is asking the ball carrier to perform a give-and-go passing combination with him.
Got me – I’m open for a pass.
Head up – Teammate is telling the ball carrier that his vision is down and he needs to look up and see the field.
Heads up – Call made, typically during a practice session, to warn a player who is unaware that a ball may strike them. (Better to say, (Name) Duck.)
Help back, or, You have help back – There is a teammate open for a back pass.
Here – You are open and calling for the ball. (Generally, a short-pass option to a specific spot. The teammate with the ball likely has an imminent challenge and needs to get rid of the ball quickly.)
Here’s your help – You are open and available for a pass. (Generally, a short-pass option to a specific spot. Lets the teammate with the ball know that you are a passing option.)
I’m back (1) – You have help behind you for a back pass.
I’m open – Tells a teammate that you are not covered and therefore are available for a pass (usually used at lower levels when dribblers have their heads down). At higher levels, a decoy call intended to draw a defender in order to open up space.
I’ve got (#) – Tells teammates who you are marking. This is used to assist in organizing the defense.
I’ve got ball – Tells teammates that you are taking the ball carrier on in the role of first defender.
I’ve got him – Tells a teammate that you will cover the opponent that just went past them.
Long, or, Look long – Pass the ball far upfield to a teammate who is making a run.
Man (short for Man On) – A defender is arriving.
No time – Tells a teammate that they are going to be immediately challenged for the ball, usually by an opponent who is just out of sight.
On your back – An opponent is coming up fast from behind to challenge you for the ball. (More urgent version of “Man-on.”)
One coming – An opponent is coming up from behind, but is not closing quickly, to challenge you for the ball. Does not carry the same degree of urgency as “Man On.”
One-Two – Teammate is asking to perform a give-and-go passing combination.
Open; or, I’m Open; or, (Name) is Open – You are open or a teammate is open and available for a pass. (Generally, a mid-range or long-pass option into space.)
Relax – Tells a teammate about to receive a ball that there is no pressure on him.
Upfield – Send the ball forward, long and deep, to a running striker.
What you see – There is no pressure from your back or sides and what you see in front of you as a dribbler is all you have to be concerned about for the time being.
You’ve got time – There is no immediate pressure from nearby and you have the time you need to settle or collect the ball and then look up to see your options.
(Name) – Used to get a teammate’s attention for any purpose, but usually to indicate a.) that you are open or are making a run on attack, or b.) that an opponent is open or making a run on defense.
(Name) look at (Fake name) – Tells a teammate by using his real name that he is in an offside position by calling out a fake name. The fake name has to have been agreed upon by the team and must not match any teammates’ real names or nicknames.
(Name) take (#) – Goalkeeper or Defensive Organizer tells a teammate to mark a specific opponent, by jersey number.
(Name) take ball – Defensive Organizer is telling a teammate to go the opponent with the ball and become the first defender.
(Name) You got it – On offense, when two teammates could equally go for a ball, tells the teammate that the ball is theirs.
(Name), mark # – The person organizing the defense tells a teammate, by name, which opponent to cover, by jersey number.
(Name)’s ball, or, (Name)’s got ball – Used in a situation where two teammates are both likely going for an un- possessed ball, you are calling the other teammate off. (There must be no hesitation on the part of the caller and the other teammate is obligated to back off.)
Behind you, or, (Name)’s behind you – Tells the dribbler that a trailing teammate is open for a backpass.
(Name)’s gone – Tells a teammate with the ball that the named teammate is running long upfield and is open for a pass.
(Name)’s on – Tells a teammate with the ball that the named teammate is open for a pass.
Again – Repeat a shot, run, or pass.
And again – Player calls for their teammate to repeat a pass, shot or run.
And back – Requests a return pass, as in the second pass of a give-and-go.
Back and left – Player who is open and available for a backpass is telling his teammate where he is located.
Back and right – Player who is open and available for a backpass is telling his teammate where he is located.
Back – There is a teammate open for a back pass.
Be there – Encouragement for a teammate to get to a ball or to a spot on the field.
Behind you – Usually that a trailing teammate is open; sometimes that a defender is arriving.
Bring it – Tells a teammate with the ball to dribble forward or carry.
Chip – Pass the ball over a defender or shoot the ball over the goalkeeper with a chip instep kick.
Close, Close him, Close down – Defender is to apply pressure by moving in to the ball carrier to try to force him to stop or make a move.
Come back – When a defender sees a situation where there are too many teammates who have moved forward to cover potential attackers should the ball change teams, this tells defensive teammates that they must return to mark opponents or cover space.
Come – Tells a teammate who is free with the ball to dribble toward him (with the expectation that the caller is going to then break a run).
Corner – Pass the ball in the direction of the offensive near corner of the field, usually directed toward the corner flag.
Cover; you’ve got cover – Informs the first defender taking the ball carrier that the second defender is in position for the first defender to close down on the ball carrier or attempt a tackle.
Cross – Send the ball in the air to the center, to the opposite field, or to the opposite outer corner of the penalty area.
Cut it off – Tells a teammate to intercept an opponent’s pass (because he has coverage).
Delay/Delay Him – As a supporting defender, this tells a teammate to defend a dribbling opponent by slowly giving ground. By not tackling and attempting to take the ball, thereby avoiding the possibility of being beaten, this buys time so the defense can return, reorganize, balance and cover.
Direct – Reminds teammates that the award just made by the referee resulted in a direct free kick and to respond accordingly. This can apply to either an offensive or a defensive situation.
Don’t quit (1) – Insists that a teammate continue to fight hard for a ball.
Don’t quit (2) – Insists that the entire team not suffer a let-down after a goal has been scored against them.
Down the line – Kick the ball upfield parallel to the sideline.
Drop off – Defensive Organizer is telling a teammate(s) to retreat toward the goal.
Drop, or, Drop It – There is a teammate open for a back pass.
Eighteen – Send the ball to the outer line (top) of the penalty area. Generally, this is a specific target location for a cross.
Far post – Pass or shoot the ball to the part of the goal farthest from you.
Feed me – Player making a run, usually into space behind defenders, is asking his teammate with the ball for a through pass.
Feet (1), or My feet – Pass the ball directly to my feet; do not lead me.
First, First to, Be first – Encouragement to beat an opponent to the ball, often when it is in the air.
Force left, Force right – Asks defender on the ball to press an opponent to a specific side or direction, in order to reduce their options or to direct them away from the goal.
Get up (2) – Tells a teammate or the entire team to move upfield.
Get up (3) – Requests that the team a.) psychologically prepares themselves for the game, or b.) does not suffer a let-down after having been scored upon.
Give it – Player is telling a teammate with the ball to go ahead and pass it to the open teammate that he sees.
Give – Tells a teammate to perform a give-and-go with you.
Go – Tells a player ahead that it is okay to take off on a run because they are supported for their defensive responsibility.
Got your back – Defender is telling his teammate who is ahead of him that he is supported if he wants to take on the opponent with the ball.
Have it – Tells a teammate with the ball to take a shot. “Shot” is a better term.
Heel – Trailing teammate is telling the ball carrier that he is available for a back pass.
Help (name) – Tells a player that they are free to provide defensive support to the named teammate.
Help straight back, or, Help back and right, or, Help back and left – There is a teammate open for a back pass in a specific direction.
Help! – Defender is making an urgent plea for assistance because there are too many attackers to cover.
Here we go – Enthusiastic request to get the entire team to transition into attack.
Hold him – A supporting defender is telling his teammate to slow up and control the opponent with the ball.
Hold – Tells an offensive player to slow or stop a run before going into an offside position.
Hold, or, Hold it – Tells the ball carrier to continue to dribble or “carry” the ball until the teammate is comfortable that he can receive a pass (dribbler must be clear to do so.)
I’ve got two, or, Two here – When a defender finds they are marking two players, this tells teammates that someone needs to come back and cover the opponent farthest from the goal of the two.
In front – Reminds players to keep themselves between the ball and all opponents; goalside.
Indirect – Reminds teammates that the award just made by the referee resulted in an indirect free kick and to respond accordingly. This can apply to either an offensive or a defensive situation.
Keep playing – The Referee did not blow the whistle, play on.
Leave (Leave it) – Calls a teammate off the ball, letting him know that you will take it and avoid a collision.
Left – Look left, pass left, or run left. (You’ve got help left; you have help left.)
Line – Kick the ball upfield on a diagonal toward the sideline. (Also, in context, this is a short version of “Down the Line” — Kick the ball upfield parallel to the sideline.)
Look at (name) – Informs the ball carrier that a teammate is open for a pass.
Look left – A teammate from behind is telling the ball handler that there is an open teammate available for a pass on the left.
Look right – A teammate from behind is telling the ball handler that there is an open teammate available for a pass on the right.
Make a run – Tells a teammate that he needs to join the attack (and appears to be standing around).
Mark (#) – When the defense is organizing, the defensive leader may assign who is responsible for each attacker, especially if the defense has broken down. This tells a defender to stay with a particular attacker, by jersey number, until directed otherwise.
Mark up – Asks or reminds a defender or defenders to pick up and close down space to more tightly cover the opponent’s attacking players.
Mine – Informs a teammate or teammates that you are going to take the ball; calls off a teammate from the ball. Not usually a very good call; better to use “(Name’s) ball.” (Leave; Leave it.)
Mixer – Send a cross into the group of attackers and defenders massed in front of the goal.
Move! or, Move people! – Tells a teammate or teammates that they are “ball watching.”
Move, Move Up, or, Move Out – Goalkeeper or Defensive Organizer is telling the defenders to move upfield; Up.
Move the ball – Play the ball quickly among multiple players.
My ball – Call’s off a teammate when both are going for the ball. Not usually a very good call. See: Leave, Leave it, or (Name)’s Ball.
Near post – Pass or shoot the ball to the part of the goal nearest you.
No let down – Reminds teammates that the intensity level must be maintained after a goal is scored, either for or against.
No one – Tells a teammate that they have time to work with the ball because an opponent is not near. Same as “What you see.”
No time left! – Don’t dawdle because the clock is about to expire.
No whistle – The Referee did not blow the whistle, play on, keep playing.
Nobody – Tells teammate that there is no defender nearby and that they can work with the ball.
Numbers – A player is telling his teammates to move forward into the attack, or to “build numbers.”
One more – In context, take another shot, pass or run, just as immediately before. (“Again” is better.)
Over – Called by the goalkeeper when the ball is going to go over the top of the goal. Do not attempt to play the ball.
Pass! – Tells teammate to stop dribbling so much (being a ball hog).
Play simple – Tells a teammate to make the easy pass that is available.
Play the way you face – Asks the player with the ball to pass the ball in front of them.
Pressure (1) – Defensive end: stop giving ground, back-pedaling, or jockeying because you either have support or you are too close to the goal and must force the opponent to stop or make a move.
Pressure (2) – Offensive end: go at a back defender who has the ball in order to try to force an error.
Pressure (3) – Man on; you are under pressure.
Pull up – An offensive player is requesting that his midfield or defensive teammates move upfield to close a gap in support.
Recover – Get back on defense.
Right away – Tells a teammate that they are about to be challenged by one or more defenders immediately and to pass or shoot the ball quickly.
Right – Look right, pass right, or run right. (You’ve got help right; you have help right.)
Run the line – Tells a teammate to make a run forward near, and parallel to, the sideline in order to set up a possible pass.
Run, or, Make a run – Generally this means you are standing and need to move promptly into open space in order to receive a pass or to open up space for the attack.
Settle down – Players are to stop getting overly excited and making mistakes.
Shield – Keep possession of the ball by positioning your body between the opponent and the ball.
Sides, or, (Name) ‘sides – Offensive player is telling a teammate that he is unknowingly in, or going into, an offside position.
Simple – Tells a teammate to make the easy pass that is available.
Spread, Spread out – Informs the whole team that they are too compact or bunched up and need to properly move away from opponents to use the whole field.
Square – You are open directly to the left or directly to the right of the ball-handler.
Stay wide – Tells teammates that they are getting too bunched up in the middle of the field and to maintain their positions toward the sidelines in order to create space.
Stay with him – As a supporting defender, this tells a teammate who, during the flow of play, has taken on an opponent that may be making a crossing run or offensive switch to continue to defend that opponent.
Straight back – Player who is open and available for a backpass is telling his teammate where his is located.
Support, or, You have support – Tells defensive teammate that you are in a proper defensive position that if an unsuccessful challenge for ball is made, you have it covered.
Switch fields – Kick the ball from one side of the field to the other or get it there via a mid-field player.
Switch, or, Switch it – In context, the same as “Switch fields” — Kick the ball from one side of the field to the other or get it there via a mid-field player.
Tackle – Tells a defender on the ball that they have support and that can now move in to take it away.
Take him – When the defense is organizing, the defensive leader may assign who is responsible for an attacker. In comparison to “Mark #,” this is generally associated with the closest attacker, often coming with the ball.
Take it – Shoot. “Shot” is a better alternative.
Take your time – Do not be in a hurry with any given action in order to help run out the clock.
Through – Pass the ball from the midfield between defenders into the open space behind the defenders so an attacker can run onto the ball.
Touch, One touch – Teammate is requesting a one-touch pass.
Touch-tight – Directs a defender to close-mark their opponent within arms-length.
Track him – Defensive Organizer is telling a defender to continue to mark a particular opponent wherever they may run.
Trailing – Tells a teammate that he has a backpass option.
Use him – Pass the ball to the open teammate you see.
Watch your ‘sides – Offensive player is telling a teammate that he is unknowingly in, or going into, an offside position.
Watching; (Name,) you’re watching – Tells the team or a teammate that they are looking at the play instead of moving into a more productive location.
Win it – Encouragement to get a 50/50 ball.
Wing – Tells a teammate with the ball that they have a passing option to an open or running player near the sideline.
Winners – Reminds teammates to put forth a well-timed jump to be first to a ball in the air.
Yes – Go ahead and pass the ball to the open teammate.
You got it – On offense, when two teammates could equally go for a ball, tells the teammate that the ball is theirs.
Your help is back and left – A player is telling his teammate the location of a backpass option.
Your help is back and right – A player is telling his teammate the location of a backpass option.
Your help is straight back – A player is telling his teammate the location of a backpass option.
(Name)’s up – Warns teammates to hesitate or back off from going for a header because the named player is the best one to go for the ball.
Advantage – Tells a teammate that the Referee has applied the “Advantage” clause and to continue playing accordingly.
Backside – There is an unmarked player in position, or moving into position, on the opposite side of the field from the ball.
Behind the ball – Asks players who are on the attacking side of the ball to get onto the defensive side of the ball quickly; everyone get goalside.
Check – You will likely be a passing option if you move away from your current location (usually toward your teammate with the ball), draw your defender, and then return to the spot you left.
Connect – Find an open player and pass to them.
Don’t appeal (1) – Requests that a teammate who has just been called for a foul get away from the referee and keep quiet in order to not get carded for dissent.
Don’t appeal (2) – Tells a teammate to keep playing the ball and not challenge the referee for a call that isn’t going to come.
Double, or, Double up – Asks two players to high-pressure an opponent in an attempt to win the ball; double-team.
Dummy – Do not touch the ball. Run over it or near it to create a distraction and let it continue on its path to a following teammate nearby, ready to receive/shoot the ball.
Everybody goes – Usually late in a game, with a team down by one, this tells the entire team to move forward and press the attack to try to get the tying goal.
Feet (2) – Reminds the goalkeeper not to use his hands because the ball was last touched by a teammate and the referee may have perceived it to have been an intentional pass; Same as “No Hands.”
Flick – Player is telling his teammate who is about to receive the ball in the air to perform a flick header. (May also apply, less so, to a flick with the foot.)
Front foot – Asks defender on the ball to use their leading foot to make the tackle or to poke the ball away.
Goalie go – Directs the goalkeeper to proceed upfield into the attack as a last-ditch effort to score.
Goalie’s out – Informs a teammate with the ball that the opposing goalkeeper has moved so far away from his goal that a chipped shot could be sent over the goalkeeper’s head and under the crossbar.
Got you – Tells a teammate that you have their position covered if a natural switch has occurred or if they want to go forward.
I’m back (2) – I have returned to my position after a switch or an overlapping run.
I’ve got your spot – Tells a player that their position is covered if a natural switch has occurred (one during the normal course of play which was not announced with a call of “switch”). Generally, this call is made after a player goes forward and the teammate is telling them that they have the position covered until the player gets back.
Keeper’s out – Informs a teammate with the ball that the opposing goalkeeper has moved so far away from his goal that a chipped shot could be sent over the goalkeeper’s head and under the crossbar.
Leave (Dummy) – Do not touch the ball. Run over it or near it to create a distraction and let it continue on its path to a following teammate nearby, ready to receive/shoot the ball.
Left-footed – Take a shot or make a quick pass immediately with the stated foot because an opponent is on you and you don’t have time to make a move or set up the other foot.
Lock in – Tells second defender that he is covered and free to double-team the ball carrier.
Lock on – Tells a teammate on defense to pick up and tight mark an opponent.
No hands – Tells the goalkeeper not to use his hands because the ball was last touched by a teammate and the referee may have perceived it to have been an intentional pass.
No – Tells a player not to make the pass it looks like they are going to make because it is likely to be intercepted by someone they may not see.
Off his line – Offensive player is telling his teammate with the ball that the opposing goalkeeper is too far away from his goal, presenting a chip shot opportunity.
One more (Don’t play the ball) – A request to a teammate to not play the ball, but to let a pass proceed to the next player. See: Dummy.
Open net – Tells attackers, particularly the teammate with the ball, that the goalie’s out or off of his line; shoot.
Open up – Move wide, create space, run to open space.
Overhit it, Over-cook it – Kick the ball much harder than you think you need to; over-weight the pass.
Overlap – Make an overlapping run. Tells a defender or midfielder that the situation is acceptable for them to go beyond the midfielder or attacker, respectively, in front of them without a switch.
Play, Play On – Do not hesitate, keep playing because the referee is not going to blow his whistle or call a foul.
Pop it – Suggests to the ball carrier that he has an opportunity for a personal pass.
Post, or, Post up – Attacker to run toward teammate coming upfield with the ball, stopping before the passing distance between the two becomes too short. Ball may be received and then passed back or flicked and turned.
Press – Quickly play high-pressure defense in order to win the ball back from the opponent.
Put him in – Try to play the ball behind the defense in order to create a fast break or to give a player in a high position the chance to get in behind the defense.
Ref, 10 yards, please – Player respectfully asks the Referee to move back a defender or all of the defenders in a wall so that they are at least 10yards away from the ball prior to a free kick.
Right-footed – Take a shot or make a quick pass immediately with the stated foot because an opponent is on you and you don’t have time to make a move or set up the other foot.
Rip it – Tells a teammate with the ball to take a hard shot.
Seal him – Position your body between a trailing defender and the ball in order to maintain possession or to try to draw a foul while heading to goal (offense); press the opponent to the perimeter line (defense).
Send it in – Tells the ball handler to cross or otherwise pass the ball into the Penalty Area.
Set me up – Tells a leading teammate who has the ball to backpass to your preferred foot so that you can one-touch a long ball forward.
Show – You will likely be a passing option if you move left or right from being on a direct line with a defender between you and your teammate with the ball.
Split – Perform a through pass between two defenders.
Stand him up – Asks defender to just contain an attacking player with the ball in order to allow help to arrive; jockey; control.
Stay up (2) – Tells a teammate to stay on their feet and continue to fight for the ball (and/or not be tempted to go to the ground to try to get a call).
Stick – Tells the first defender to go in for the tackle because he has support.
Stretch out – Informs an individual striker or other attackers to move as far upfield as possible.
Swing, Swing it, or, Swing the ball – Defenders are open in the back to use two or more passes to get the ball from one side of the field to the other.
Switch back – This is the formal acknowledgement that a switch which has occurred is being undone and the players are resuming their normal positions.
Switch, or, Switch off – Tells a player to assume their position. There are generally two types of switches, offensive and defensive. The offensive type usually starts with a player dribbling at a teammate and the teammate moves into that player’s position. The defensive type is usually made by a player that moves to cover an opponent expected to be covered by another teammate and the teammate now needs help to cover the space vacated.
Take it down – Tells a teammate wo is about to receive the ball in the air that they have time to control it to the ground.
Take it to the corner – Dribble the ball into an offensive corner of the field and maintain possession to help run out the clock.
Talk! – Players have stopped using proper oral communications and must do so.
Touch me – Perform a give-and-go or on-two passing combination.
Trap – Perform an offside trap. (Or use a code word instead of “Trap.”)
Tuck in – Asks a defender who is too wide to move toward the middle of the field in order to provide support.
Turn your hips – Reminds player to re-direct their body in the direction they will want to play.
Twelve – Send or cross the ball to the vicinity of the Penalty Mark.
Up top – Send the ball to a runner upfield; through, chip, deep, long.
Wake Up! (People) – Player is attempting to get the whole team to increase its level of play or stop being lethargic.
Weight – Reminds player to properly weight their pass.
Wide, Stay wide, Go wide – Reminds attackers, particularly wings and wing midfielders not to unconsciously drift into the middle of the field but to maintain their position closer to the sideline.
Win corner – Asks player to bounce the ball off the opponent and over the endline in order to get a corner kick.
You’ve got a drop – There’s a teammate behind you who is available and open for a backpass.
Yours – You are telling your teammate that THEY must play the ball. (This is NOT a very good call and should only be used in case of injury or odd circumstance.) Alternatively, two teammates are both going for the same ball and one player recognizes that the other player has better position.
GOALKEEPER / DEFENSIVE ORGANIZER
(Fake name) – Goalkeeper or other defender is telling a teammate that he is unknowingly keeping an attacker in an on-side position and must move upfield. The fake name has to have been agreed upon by the team and must not match any teammates’ real names or nicknames.
(Name), behind you – Goalkeeper, Defensive Organizer, or another defender is telling a back defender that an opponent is in the space between them and the goal.
(Name) off your (right/left) shoulder – Goalkeeper or Defensive Organizer is informing a back defender of the presence of an opponent of whom the defender may not be aware.
(Name) pick up (#) – Goalkeeper or Defensive Organizer tells a teammate to mark a specific opponent, by jersey number.
Back and face – Goalkeeper or Defensive Organizer is telling teammates to return by sprinting, get goal-side, and orient themselves to properly confront oncoming opponents.
Balance – Goalkeeper or Defensive Organizer is telling back defenders and defensive midfielders that too many defenders are inappropriately in one part of the field, and to return to their shape.
Cover – Goalkeeper or defensive player identifies that the goalkeeper is out and for field defenders to move to block the goal.
Get back – When the defense is in desperate need of help, this tells teammates to return and play defense immediately.
Get out – Goalkeeper or Defensive Organizer is telling the defenders to move upfield. See “Step, Step Out.”
Goal-side – This is a defensive reminder to position your body between the ball and the goal or between an opponent and the goal. (Recognize that there may be occasions where you may think you are properly aligned but are not and this lets you know.)
High line – Goalkeeper or Defensive Organizer tells his backs to switch to a defensive posture that has them stay as far upfield as possible.
Hold them there – Keeper or Defensive Organizer asks defender(s) to stop backpedaling and stand their ground.
Hold; Hold at the 18 – Keeper or Defensive Organizer asks defender(s) to stop backpedaling and stand their ground at the top of the penalty area.
If you need me – Tells a teammate that you are open for a pass.
Keep your shape – The Defensive Organizer is reminding players to stay in, or return to, their positions.
Let it ride – Let the ball roll over the end-line or side-line. This is used to let you know that your team will have possession of the ball after it goes out of play.
Let it roll (same as Let it Ride) – Allow the ball to go over the line.
No bounce – Tells a player, including the goalkeeper, that an aerial ball needs to be intercepted by the defender before, or instantly after, the ball bounces so that the rebound will not go over the heads of the defenders.
No foul – Goalkeeper or Defensive Organizer is instructing a teammate covering the ball carrier, usually in the defensive third of the field, not to commit an infraction that may result in the award of a free kick close to the goal.
No turn – Asks the defending teammate to challenge the opponent with the ball, who is facing away from the goal, in such a way as to not let the opponent turn and face the goal.
Nothing over – Don’t allow the opponent to make a chip or create a bounce of the ball that would go over a defender’s head.
Out – Kick the ball out of bounds on purpose over the sideline.
Outside – Goalkeeper is telling a wide defender who just received the ball that they have the option to turn and dribble toward the sideline and up-field without meeting an immediate opponent.
Play it out – Supporting defender or Defensive Organizer is telling his teammate to kick the ball out of bounds intentionally in order for players to recover from a dangerous or emergency situation, rather than trying to control the ball.
Push up – Goalkeeper or back defender is telling the team to move upfield; same as “Move up.”
Return – Defensive Organizer or other back defender is telling a defensive player who has gone on an overlap, or performed a vertical switch, to come back to their position.
Run at him – Goalkeeper, Defensive Organizer, or defensive support player is telling a defender to go directly at the opponent with the ball in order to force the action, hopefully creating an error, dispossession, or a successful tackle.
Runner, or, (Name) take runner – Goalkeeper or Defensive Organizer is telling a teammate to take an attacker who has started a run.
Send it – Send the ball upfield. Kick the ball out of the defense into the attack. (Generally, this is used to tell a defender that there is immediate danger OR that there is a fast-break opportunity.)
Shape – Goalkeeper or Defensive Organizer is telling his defenders that they are out of their zones and must return.
Shift (Shift right, Shift left) – Goalkeeper or Defensive Organizer is telling weak-side defenders to move toward the center.
Slide (direction) – Goalkeeper or Defensive Organizer is telling his back defenders in a zone defense to shift left or right.
Squeeze in – Asks an outside defender to move toward the middle of the field in order to provide support.
Stay up (1) – Goalkeeper or Defensive Organizer tells his backs to maintain a high line.
Step, Step Up, or, Step Out – Goalkeeper or Defensive Organizer is telling the defenders to move upfield.
Take him on – Goalkeeper, Defensive Organizer, or defensive support player is telling a defender to stop backpedaling/jockeying/controlling and to go ahead and tackle the opponent with the ball.
Up – Goalkeeper of Defensive Organizer is telling the defenders to move upfield; direction for all players to press the attack; short for “Move Up.”
Use me – Teammate or goalkeeper is open for a pass, usually a back pass.
Watch the quick kick – Reminds defenders to be aware of, to cover and to block, a fast (non-ceremonial) re-start.
Watch wide – Keeper or Defensive Organizer tells a defender that there is an opponent between him and the nearest sideline.
Wide – Play the ball out toward the sideline.
You’ve got me back – I’m available and open for a backpass.
(Name) shield – Goalkeeper is instructing a teammate to cover one’s own throw-in in the defensive third in case something goes wrong.
(Name) take the far post – Goalkeeper is directing one of his defenders to get to the far post before the attacking team takes a free kick.
(Name) take the near post – Goalkeeper is directing one of his defenders to get to the near post before the attacking team takes a free kick.
(Name)’s in charge – Goalkeeper announces that he has relinquished control of the overall defense to the upfield Defensive Organizer.
(Number)-man wall – The goalkeeper calls for the defense to build a wall in response to an upcoming free kick and announces how many players he wants to be in the wall. Example: “3-man wall.”
Away – Goalkeeper is telling the defensive teammate to kick or head the ball out from goal.
Back – Goalkeeper or Defensive Organizer is telling defenders to quickly return to their deep defensive positions.
Be safe – Player, often the goalkeeper, is telling their teammate, usually a defender, to put the ball out of bounds.
Centerback’s in charge – Goalkeeper announces that he has relinquished control of the overall defense to the upfield Defensive Organizer (if a specific centerback is used).
Compress / Compress the field – Goalkeeper or Defensive Organizer is directing defenders or the defense to force play toward the sideline.
Cover the net – Goalkeeper or defensive player identifies that the goalkeeper is out and for field defenders to move to block the goal.
Goalie – Used by the goalkeeper only, the goalkeeper is calling off all defenders in order to get the ball (or otherwise wants the ball).
Hold – Goalkeeper or wall-setter is telling the “Anchor” or “Post-man” player setting up a wall that they are in the proper position.
Home – Goalkeeper is asking for the ball to be passed back to him.
Hug the post – Goalkeeper is directing his defender at the near goalpost to close the gap between the defender and the post.
Keep (short for Keeper) – Goalkeeper is going to get the ball, leave the ball alone.
Keeper – Used by the goalkeeper only, the goalkeeper is calling all defenders off in order to get the ball (or otherwise wants the ball).
Keeper’s in charge – Goalkeeper announces that he has now taken control of the overall defense from the upfield Defensive Organizer.
Left (number of steps) – Goalkeeper or wall-setter is telling the “Anchor” or “Post-man” player building a wall which way to move to be set properly.
Long – Goalkeeper is telling defenders not to touch a ball because it is going to go out the endline.
My feet – Goalkeeper is telling a back defender to pass the ball to him on the ground to his feet.
No shot – Keeper asks defender to tackle the opponent with the ball in order to keep him from shooting.
Nobody’s home – Goalkeeper is informing his back defenders that the central defender is out of position and someone must cover for him.
Right (number of steps) – Goalkeeper or wall-setter is telling the “Anchor” or “Post-man” player building a wall which way to move to be set properly.
Set – Goalkeeper or wall-setter is telling the “Anchor” or “Post-man” player setting up a wall that they are in the proper position.
Sweeper’s in charge – Goalkeeper is telling his defenders that he is ceding defensive oral communications to the central defender as the team moves upfield on attack; tells defenders that the sweeper or central defender is responsible for calling the offside trap.
Wall, (number) – Goalkeeper identifies that he wants a wall built and how many defenders he wants in it.
Soccer Coaching Tips:
- There are a lot of calls listed above. Some are duplicative. You do not need to use them all. Develop your own, age-appropriate, team vocabulary, especially for specific situations requiring consensus, such as the “fake name” items associated with onside/offside.
- At higher levels, players may need to have non-verbal communicationoptions, especially associated with serious crowd noise if the players can not properly hear one another.
- Not included above is the designation of a term, made up and agreed-upon by the Coach and the Team, to be used by the Defensive Organizer if an “Offside Trap” is called. (“Trap” is included above.)
- “Decoy calling” is an advanced technique that uses oral communications to try to influence the actions of an opponent, such as calling for the ball in order to draw a defender instead of actually expecting to receive a pass.
- Listen to opponent’s calls to see how they can be exploited.
- If there are two or more players with the same name, it is highly recommended that last names or nicknames be used.
(Please use “Contact Us” to make suggestions for other words or phrases which may be included.)
© John C. Harves