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April 11, 2024

Trigger Words - Developing and using them


I’m sure we have all heard the shouts – press, drop off and recover – from the coaches on the sideline. Well these examples of trigger words have been around for years. They are a really useful part of any coaches toolbox. However coming away from these common phrases, trigger words can open so many learning possibilities for coaches.  These can be words or bite size phrases that have many important jobs. They can refocus or energise players, they can remind players of learning topics, they can calm or relax players and much more all without the coach using long, wordy sentences.

This is such a skill for coaches and can be so beneficial when trying to remind players within sessions or games.

Some Examples

I have been extremely fortunate in my time coaching to work with some fantastic exponents of trigger words. I have learnt that these trigger words are best when they are age specific or even group specific. Here’s some examples, aside from the ones at the start of this blog, that are common in football:

  • Stay Connected – players in possession being available for passes from the player in possession or the next receiver.
  • Stay Engaged – refocus players away from the ball to make sure they are concentrating on their roles.
  • Recycle – moving the ball backwards and round to the other side of the pitch using defenders or GK once the initial attack fails.
  • Passing Lines/Lanes – players off the ball creating a clear path for the ball travel.
  • Pockets – areas of space between opposition defenders and midfielders for attacking players to find.

Coming Up With Your Own

However, as previously mentioned, the best are often new phrases that are specific to that team or that age band (I.e. foundation phase, youth development phase etc.). Here are some tips when designing your own trigger words:

  • Keep them short and sweet – as few words as possible to make it quick and easy to communicate.
  • Learn them – don’t forget to work on them in training so everyone understands. Don’t assume your players know them – test their knowledge by asking what it means and then observe them doing them.
  • Don’t take away decision making – players still need to learn the game so taking away their decision making won’t help long term. Refocusing attention is the primary aim of trigger words.
  • Get creative – rhyming, alliteration, questions or any metaphor can be used as long as the players understand.
  • Don’t use too many – this will just confuse players.


Coaches should definitely come up with, educate and use triggers with their players. They can unlock so much with your players and save so much time with long interventions. Establishing your own with your group is easier than you think. As you talk to your players you will naturally use the same words for things. Make sure the players know what you mean using a condensed phrase or word and you can simply continue to use it. Give it a go and let us know what trigger words or phrases you come up with.