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Players, coaches agree constructive criticism at the heart of winning soccer


Ozark midfielder/forward Caleb Lepant, and everyone else on or near the pitch in District action at Ozark last week, couldn’t help but hear the profanity coming from Kickapoo’s goalkeeper.

With the ‘keeper shouting out expletives at a rapid rate, mostly in his frustration with the officials, Lepant couldn’t help but poke at him.

“I was instigating him a little bit and he had some choice words for me,” Lepant said. “But if you put a goal on him he can't really say much.” 

There is much said by players over the course of a match, sometimes aimed at opponents, but mostly toward teammates. Soccer, perhaps more so than any other sport, will teach players all about delivering and taking constructive criticism.

Expect plenty of chatter on both sides this afternoon, as Ozark and Nixa face each other at 5 p.m. for the Class 4 Distruct 5 championship.

Lepant and every other player at the high school, college or pro levels have learned to be outspoken, open-minded and thick-skinned.

The delivery of CC must be thoughtful.

“It's important to stay constructive with each other,” Lepant said. “You can tell someone they did something wrong, but there's no point yelling at them. Also, if you're constantly tearing your teammates down, no one likes that atmosphere. You have to put it in a way that your teammates can understand and hopefully they fix it the next time.”

When receiving CC, egos need to be put to rest.

“You can't take it personally,” Nixa forward Lucas Green said. “We’re not trying to be rude to each other. You've got to help your teammates. We're just trying to help each other.”

“We've learned throughout the season that what we say to not take it to heart,” Ozark forward Alex Williams said. “Take it as constructive criticism so we can move forward and get better.”

Williams thinks it’s the nature of the sport that there is so much talking. There are no timeouts to huddle, so communication is constant, even while the ball is in play.

“You hear a lot more talking because of all of the different positions on the field,” Williams said. “You have to be talking to make sure you're running the correct formation and getting in the correct positions. Communication is one of the biggest components you need to be a good soccer player.”

Lepant says the many moving pieces over every minute of a match triggers communication.

“The ball is always moving and the play is always developing,” Lepant said. “It’s pretty important for everyone to be on the same page. If a ball gets played through and no one is running on to it, there's no point in that ball being played. If someone makes a run and no one knows where that run is being made, there's no point in making that run.”

Williams has learned to pay particular attention to anything coming from Ozark ‘keeper Carson Sandgren.

“You can't see everything on the field. That's why the goalkeeper sometimes yells because he can see the whole field,” Williams said. “When you communicate, you can have a lot less mistakes and win games."

Ozark coach Zack Owens points out the pros know the importance of chatter.

"You go to a pro match and they don't shut up. It's constant talking and communication," he said.

Ultimately, Owens says, the goal for any exchange of words of wisdom is to bring out the best in each other.

“We tell our boys it's okay to yell and be hard on each other and hold each other accountable,” Owens said. “These are young men. We do have to coach them sometimes on what is a more intelligent way to do it. Everyone has different personality types. What might motivate one person might not motivate the next person. Our captains understand that and I think they do a good job communicating effectively.”