Manager: ‘Players need to learn how to talk’

Looking down: Studies suggest narcissists are more likely to be addicted to their phones. © PA

Southampton FC boss Ronald Koeman says smartphones are hampering his players’ communication skills. Is modern technology depriving us of the ability to communicate well?

A minute of the 2011 Carling Cup final remained. The score was 1-1. A hopeful punt entered the Arsenal penalty area. As the defender and goalkeeper stood hesitantly, the ball rebounded to Birmingham City striker Obafemi Martins, who rolled it into the empty goal.

Lapses in communication can cost football teams greatly. Now, one manager thinks players are getting worse at talking to each other -- and blames modern technology. Southampton boss Ronald Koeman says players’ attachment to their smartphones is harming their performance.

‘There is not enough communication on the pitch,’ says Koeman. ‘That’s all about social media. When I was playing, we played cards on the coach to matches. Now, everyone puts on his headphones and is in his own world.’

Koeman says the problem particularly affects young players. He has introduced training exercises ‘which are all about focus, communication and concentration’.

His point appears relevant to wider society. One British study in 2011 found 51% of adults and 65% of teenagers had used their phones while socialising. Some evidence suggests this is ruining our ability to talk to each other.

In one experiment, people said conversations where someone had pulled out a phone were less fulfilling. Psychology professor Shalini Misra says reduced eye contact and the difficulty of spotting subtle clues in body language make people feel less connected to each other.

She adds phones make us feel compelled to multitask and cultivate many shallow friendships with people we rarely see. This causes resentment among family and close friends.

The first smartphone, the Simon Personal Communicator, was launched in 1992. Now, more than three-quarters of British adults own a smartphone.

A falling number of people are using them to make calls, but users spend an average of 3.6 hours per day on them; 35% use them in areas where they are banned; and 13% are addicted to them. There is now even an app which limits the time users spend on their devices.

Turned off

Some say technology is destroying our ability to communicate. Phones allow us to hide from reality — we can chat to people online, even though doing so is less meaningful than meeting them; avoid making small talk, which cultivates relationships and helps us engage with strangers; and pretend everyone is listening to us, instead of listening to others.

Embrace the change, respond others — we can now talk to who we want, how we want, when we want. Technology is making face-to-face communication redundant, small talk is becoming less relevant and we no longer need to spend time with people to form relationships with them. Phones are preparing young people for the world that awaits them.

You Decide

  1. Has modern technology improved or worsened your ability to communicate?
  2. Will face-to-face communication ever be redundant?


  1. Try giving up portable electronic devices for a week. Write a short diary entry each day explaining how it has changed your behaviour. Then reflect on your collective experience as a class.
  2. Fast forward a generation, so you are a parent of someone your current age. Write a list of rules you could use to regulate their phone use. Which rules would you enforce, or not enforce, and why?

Some People Say...

“One day, nobody will ever meet each other face-to-face.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What was that? I wasn’t paying attention.
You are not the only one. One survey suggests 24% of 13-17-year-olds in the USA are ‘almost constantly’ online, even at school. So a lot of teenagers are trying to do more than one thing at a time. This may help people learn to multi-task, but it could also mean you or your peers becoming addicted, developing short attention spans and ignoring those around them.
I don’t have a phone. Does this change my life?
You are probably in a minority, particularly if you live in a well-off country. Around three-quarters of the teenagers in the US survey now have smartphones; only 12% have no phone at all. Even if you do not have a phone, the behaviour of those who do will change the way you interact with them, and normal behaviour in the society around them.

Word Watch

Koeman played professional football from 1980 to 1997. He won 78 caps for the Netherlands and played for clubs including Ajax and Barcelona.
According to a study by UK communications regulator Ofcom.
This experiment was conducted by psychology professors at Virginia Tech university in the USA. The impact of phones was more negative between close friends than casual friends.
For example, these may include changes in facial expression or tone.
Many shallow friendships
Misra uses the term ‘horizontal relationships’.
This came with a touchscreen and stylus and allowed users to send faxes, emails and pages.
According to research by Ipsos-Mori, on behalf of Deloitte, in September 2015.
In Deloitte’s research, the share of device owners saying they make at least one voice call a week fell from 96% to 75% between 2012 and 2015.
3.6 hours
According to a University of Derby study in 2015.
Moodiness, loneliness and jealousy are all key indicators of addiction.
This is called Offtime and was developed by a psychologist in Berlin.

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