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How to explain tactics

Coaches like talking tactics. Players don’t enjoy listening. While the man in the tracksuit wants to impress his troops with a formula that solves the mystery of football, they just want to get out on the pitch and play.

Tactics may not be the defining variable that decides the outcome of a game, but they are important.

You only have to look at the success of Otto Rehhagel’s Greece at the 2004 European Championships and Jose Mourinho’s Champions League winning Inter side in 2010. What both sides lacked in individual brilliance they made up for in tactical execution.

But it’s not all about what you know. The success of a plan can hinge on the clarity of the coach’s strategy. You have to be a master communicator to explain the tactical complexities of a simple game, says Raymond Verheijen.

“The most important thing with language is that you say what you mean. The problem in football is people often use general, vague language - they talk without saying anything,” he explained to FFT.

“Coaches use words you can interpret in a different way because you have a different definition or experience.”

Verheijen also advises against a one-dimensional presentation.

“The biggest mistake is to talk about tactics only on the board with your magnets,” said the Dutch coach, who has worked with the national teams of Holland, Russia and South Korea. 

“You should try and film your tactical sessions and analyse them with your players so they can learn tactically.”

Help your players to understand their role and responsibilities with more from Verheijen in this video.

Raymond Verheijen is the co-founder of the World Football Academy. For more information visit

Also see:
Gareth Southgate: Simplifying tactics