Designing a Club-wide Vocabulary List

Designing a Club-wide Vocabulary List

After last week’s discussion with Doug Lemov (@Doug_Lemov) about the importance of common terminology for coaches to use within their club, he asked me to devise an example vocabulary list.

*Find here:

The list is a draft and should not be taken for the exemplary model.

Why it’s important

Efficiency in communication is imperative, and the collective understanding of a verbal term and its significance is of particular importance. As Doug states in the article, ”to have a word for something allows you to conceive of it, to perceive it, and to grow your knowledge of it in discussion with others.” The repeated use of a term and its explanation leads to a better understanding of it. 

In the football world, unless a club has a shared vocabulary that is frequently used among coaches throughout the club, it hinders the rate of development. Although players being exposed to different terms for one specific action may be seen as a positive (expanding their understanding of terms for the same action helps the player if they leave that particular club), it is too much information for the player to process (Cognitive Load Theory). “Bounce pass ”, “wall pass”, and “one-two” have the same meaning (player A passes and receives it back first time from player B), and this variety of terms may be used by other coaches at various clubs. However, with the amount of contact time coaches are having with players in general throughout the season, simplicity and consistency for one term is key throughout the club.

Process of Making the List

After Doug suggested I attempt to create a list, I spent the week actively listening to myself and the terms used frequently in my own sessions, observing other coaches in-person or videos online, and watching games on the television to obtain other common terms that coaches and commentators would use. On reflection, the majority of the terms on the list were ones that I frequently used and was comfortable using. I felt it would be disingenuous if I was to include a phrase that I was uncomfortable using in my own teaching.

With a decent amount of terms on the notepad, I decided to categorize two main sections - universal and advanced. I wanted to the universal terms to be understood from the under 8’s level to the professional. I questioned at what age the advanced terms were able to be introduced into the teaching methods for the players to fully understand. I used fourteen as a marker as the players have to deal with the process of transitioning a larger field, and playing 11v11 at thirteen. I didn’t want to overwhelm the players by added new vocabulary during the this transition. However, when a coach decides to introduce advanced terms is entirely dependant on whether they feel as though their players can adapt and understand new terms.

I separated technical and tactical terms for added simplicity and because the teaching method for both is slightly different. Technical teaching can be a method focused more so on the individual, whereas the tactical teaching methods generally incorporate a team dynamic.  Finally, adding “cues” to certain terms prompts a quick understanding for the player. Instead of the player cognitively attempting to decode a long instruction from a coach, a simple “cue” allows the player to process immediately and take action. As Doug states, it is to “remind players of concepts they’ve studied in the fastest way.”


I had some feedback from a coach I have tremendous respect for at a Development Academy here in the US, and he made a very good point - when devising a vocabulary list for the coaches throughout your club to use, various factors need to be considered to make sure the coach is comfortable with using the specified terms. The differing nationalities of coaches within the club will affect the list. I believe each individual term should be put through a test of three following considerations in a club-wide meeting:

  1. Does the term align with the clubs principles of play?
  2. Is each coach comfortable teaching this?
  3. Is the term easily understood by the player. (Most important)

*Only once the term has passed the test of the three should it be put on the list.

Both myself and Doug would love to hear more feedback on the list - the length of it, the specific sections, and your thoughts in general (good or bad). 

James Beeston

Stay on the Ball ⚽

Be the first to know when brand-new Training Plans have been uploaded on our 'Train at Home' App

We hate SPAM. One email per month when new plan have been uploaded to the app.