TSG Wieseck Youth Development Academy

Smartphone, not so!

Less cell phone, more freedom

Less cell phone, more team (feeling)

For the group: Cell phone away!

By Deniz Solmaz (Director Youth Support Center)

You know that moment when you're sitting with your friends, one of them pulls out his cell phone, and two or three others follow suit? Suddenly you look at your friends, who have dived into another world on their smartphones - the magic of the moment is gone. What happens in that moment? Mutual respect dwindles, the sense of togetherness suffers, a conversation in which everyone is immersed is virtually impossible.

Exactly the same thing happens in youth soccer every day: before practice, after the game, on the away trip in the bus. There is a common denominator in soccer teams, but unfortunately it is often the case that everyone agrees to look at their smartphone. This means there is no communication, no friction, and conflicts are no longer discussed. There can be nothing worse for a group. From my perspective as a long-time youth leader and coach at TSG Wieseck, this is a horror scenario for youth soccer.

The group must deal with each other

Because the constant use of cell phones prevents the formation of a hierarchy. Cell phones are distracting in a group because they are distracting. When a group sits together and leaders chill on their cell phones, they have no impact on the group. No matter in which group, if you want to achieve something, you have to communicate with each other. And it takes roles, everyone has to have their role. That also applies to a team. When things get tight on the court, you need a community. Then you need leaders who give instructions. But you have to practice communication, in your daily interactions with each other.

The players should also have a good gripe with each other in the dressing room after the game, talk things out and not dive straight into the world of cell phones. Players have to put up with criticism from time to time. But if the opinion leader is on his cell phone, everyone takes a shower and leaves, the conflict is not resolved.

No inhuman interaction on the cell phone, but real face-to-face conversations.

In my opinion, many young people have forgotten or never really got to know this communication in direct human contact, face to face. "How are you?" "Fine" - that's often the end of "conversations".

Young people dare less and less to seek direct contact. They try to have conversations via cell phone. They ask me after the game via WhatsApp message, "Coach, why didn't I play?" I don't reply to them because I wish they would address me directly in training on Monday. In training, however, no one then comes up to me and asks - I actually have the feeling that a large part of the youth has forgotten how to have real conversation.

The inhibition threshold to say things is much lower via cell phone - that also applies to cancellations. Players are supposed to call me if they don't show up; a cancellation as a text message is not enough for me. Communication via cell phone not only tends to be superficial, it's often so inhuman. You can cancel quickly, you don't get the other person's direct reaction. What would it be like to face each other and see the sadness of the other person?

When coaches and players know each other, it can be an advantage

So I would like to see more humanity in our dealings with each other, more genuine, candid conversations. Because the best conversations often come out of boredom. But in our society, boredom is now taboo, and people immediately pull out their cell phones. Then you can't get into discussions. But I want to get to know the young soccer player, I want to know how my player is doing, how he's doing at school and what's on his mind. I'm not interested in superficial things via cell phone, but in honest conversations face to face. It's the person who's interested, not the hypocrisy. If you know each other, that can be an advantage for players and coaches.

It's like in school: If you had a teacher you liked, you were more likely to learn. That you also know in soccer: There's someone I can trust. Or if a player doesn't feel like training, but then says: "My boys are great, I have a responsibility to them, I'll go. I want my players to talk to each other more, to argue sometimes, but the main thing is that they talk to each other instead of looking at their cell phones every free minute. I'm convinced that only then can a real hierarchy and a sense of togetherness develop.

The players should feel free and be able to get up to nonsense.

This feeling of togetherness also includes sticking together, escalating a party together on a weekend, but not making any videos and the coach simply not noticing anything. I want the players to feel free. Like at a training camp, where they can just be themselves without cell phones and sometimes get into mischief. You feel free when you don't have to live up to any ideals and you're not being controlled by others with potential photos and videos - both things that come with cell phones.

Cell phone rules: Not against, but for the team

In order to drive this development forward, we at TSG Wieseck have established certain rules. With us, you can still survive on the course without a cell phone. At the training camp we collect the cell phones before we leave, from then on we give them away twice a day for about 15 minutes, then we collect them again. The first day is hard for the players. But the interesting thing is that after the second day in Austria, for example, many cell phones were left even during the 15 minutes. You just have to push the young people, then they deal with the group that's there by themselves. Then they also do the biggest nonsense - just like we used to do when we were young. This freedom that they then feel is very important, in my opinion.

So at first you annoy the young people by taking away their cell phones or restricting their use - but in the long run, I think you're doing them some good. Because they start to engage with each other.

In conclusion: Even if it may seem so through these lines, I do not demonize the cell phone. If you're alone, feel free to use it for discussions, give feedback. But no use when in direct contact with other people. On the site during the day, the cell phone is the new cigarette for me. I want to set an example that you can do without the cell phone - for myself, but above all for the young people, for the group, for the team.