The Soccer "Discourse" Community

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Posted on 13 Apr 2013 03:00

Soccer as a Discourse Community?
Christian Salvatierra
April 12, 2013


Throughout sport’s history, we have witnessed the new forms of interaction and built of boundaries that sports have emerged. Soccer is a major sport played in today’s society; therefore, it has approach communication and cooperation very differently as oppose to literacy. For instance, the South Bronx United (SBU) community of Soccer does not only bring kids and teenagers together with the idea of playing soccer but also to guide to become better individuals. Their main shared goal within the SBU community is “building leaders and scholars through soccer.” Indeed, this is one of John Swales’, a professor of linguistics, proposals of a discourse community. As described by Swales, “A discourse community has a broadly agreed set of common public goals.” (Swales 1990). This assignment explores the functions of the South Bronx United community, specially the SBU 93- Sonics soccer team, and proves its points to satisfy the Swales’ definition of a discourse community. The content provided in this assignment is information shared by Coach George, Coach of the SBU 93-Sonics, and South Bronx United website. Besides being a soccer community, the SBU community encourages its members in education for them to flourish as individuals and “promote educational achievement.”


In today’s society, there are many communities that surround us. Some of which we are not aware of and some in which we are very familiar with or are involved in. However, discourse communities classify communities separately based on their function and purposes and the way they are achieved. For example, the South Bronx United community (SBU), nowadays composed of 666,000 residents and counting, emerged with the U13 boys team in 2009 by Andrew So. Sooner after other teams were created as the community started expanding. By the summer of 2009 coach George Nantwi, also the travel Youth Coordinator, coached the SBU 93 Sonics (back then the U16 boys team). As the players matured the U16 team became the U18 boys team. I have chosen for this midterm project to study specifically the SBU 93-Sonics, part of the South Bronx United Soccer community. Although definitions for a discourse community sometimes vary from author to author I have decided to use the John Swales’ definition of a discourse community. Based on the Swales’ definition of a discourse community, a community whether academically or not must meet all six categories proposed by him: “common goals, participatory mechanism, information exchange, community specific genres, a highly specialized terminology and a high general level of expertise.” (Swales p. 475) In the process of my research it will be interesting to find out what has made this community progress over time.


I carried this midterm project by collecting information about the SBU- Sonics 93 from the SBU website. I also read their newsletter posted online and some personal opinion’s to be more familiar with the community of SBU as a whole. In addition, I organized a set of questions to ask Coach George to deepen in details my research on the Sonics, information that can only be shared by the Coach. Moreover, I have also included my personal opinions, experience, and observations to discuss this assignment further.


The first characteristic proposed by Swales is the common goal shared within the community which is satisfied by its members and groups (teams). The SBU community “uses soccer as a vehicle for social change.” It proposes a general goal which “aims to help youth build a character, teamwork, and leadership so they can succeed in high school, college, careers, their communities and beyond.” Although diversity may be view as a challenge that the SBU 93-Sonics faces since it has players from places such as South America, Africa, and Latin America which possess different techniques in soccer. Coach George views diversity to be a good element in soccer. According to him, diversity creates a goal for the coach to reach which is to generate a mix style in soccer having different techniques; therefore, it allows him to approach efficient strategies. Evidently, this became a goal established by Coach George and later adapted by the SBU Community. In addition, the main shared goal between coaches, Coach George aims as mentor to his players is to “motivate them, not only in soccer, but in school too so they could be the best they can be.”

Moreover, one main goal distributed among all members of this community is to win games. There also are individual goals for each member. For example, the goal of the captain of the team would be control the possession of the ball while managing his players during the game. The captain’s goal also involves the coach. The goal of the coach is to build strategies that will be applied during the game in order to obtain the possession of the ball. As a current defender, the goal and the duty of the defenders in every game is to block and read the play of the forward players from the opposite team. Sometimes it is difficult to read the opponent’s plays at the moment but as a defender one must be aware of all possible plays three times ahead of the opponent player. Another goal of the defender is to have great confidence in one-self in order to gain control of your position and prevent the opponent player to take over. Moreover, one main goal of the mid-fielders is to have possession of the ball. Besides ball possession their goal is to pass the ball and build plays to score goals. According to my coach the goal of the offense is “to score, to shoot if there is no one to pass the ball.” The goal of the goal keeper, as described by its title, is to block any coming shots to the goal post. The coaches demand the goal keeper’s focus throughout the game. In every sport there are substitutes, and the goal they posses are the same depending in their field of specialty. But while they wait, their goal is to remain positive under any circumstances.

As described by Swales, communication is a characteristic that is required in a discourse community. As part of the SBU 93- Sonics, I have witnessed that communication is essential during the game as well as in practice. Communication used by the coach: During practice the coach has to communicate with each player and discuss on the player’s strengths and/or weaknesses. This does not only help the player improve his/her abilities but also the team as a whole. While in the game the coach has to communicate at the best he can with his players, but mainly with his captain, the person indicated to organize the play during the game. This builds the relationship between the coach and the team through the strategy book.

Another form of communication in this discourse community is e-mail if any information needs to be shared between each player. There is also a Facebook in which the members communicate with one another. Establishing communication among members leads to trust and builds relationships. This is important to any team because we can learn the abilities of each member. This improves the improvements of the team.

Another characteristic of Swales definition of discourse communities is the specific genre. As mentioned previously, the strategy book, commonly known as the play book, or as my coach would call it back in the days, the key, is a type of genre used in this community as a form of communication. Once the players go out in the field, there will be some players that are far away from the coach, depending on the size of the field. However, a player needs to keep in mind the strategy book in mind discussed before the game, and be aware the strategies that the coach has constructed in order to score a goal. Also, a player needs to be aware of the changes made while the game is being played.

The coach from the community of the Sonics discusses the strategies with his players during practice. The coach will be aware of the strengths and weakness of the opponent team we will face in the upcoming game. This will aid to build a well calculated strategy used against the opponent team. If by half time, the strategy is not efficient most of the time. Substitutions would be made to improve the play or change the strategy.

As proposed by Swales, a discourse community has shared lexis in which its members only are very familiar in the group work. The soccer community of SBU- Sonics has several terminologies. There are terminologies used by the coach and for the players among themselves. The main terminology used by Coach George is “Bring it in” which is often used before a game and/or after the first half of the game. Coach George uses the terminology “Bring it in” to allow his players know that “It is game time” or “Let’s go, it is time.” Moreover, the terminologies used between players are created as nicknames but they reflect on their performance regarding their specific roles in this community. For instance, a past Sonics winger mid-fielder obtained the nickname, “nasty,” which described his duty on the field. This terminology associated with this player was not in a gross way. This terminology developed due to his obsession with the TV Show Dirty Jobs. Since it takes courage to do a kind of job as seen in the program, this player wanted to be considered like one of them. Indeed, he was one of our most skilled players in the team, therefore, he would sacrifice himself whether being kicked or fouled he will stand on his feet to finish the job, score a goal. In addition, some lexis in this community is associated with the strategy plays which are said in “code.”

As established by Swales, discourse communities often have changing members, “individuals enter as apprentices and leave by death or other involuntary ways” (Swales p. 473). Some of the former members of the Sonics whom have acquired their expertise through effort and work as a team are no longer part of this community. However, new members are accepted in the Sonics community anytime during the season. There are two different kinds of newcomers. Those players who do not have soccer background but are willing to learn and those who have a strong background in soccer and can adapt to any new environment (in some cases there are players who are new to the experience as a team but have a strong base in soccer). With this in mind, the kinds of players who are new need a lot of work to do during practice in order to catch up with the language and rhythm of the team while discovering their skills. Adaptation to any new environment varies from player to player. There are players who can easily adapt to the environment they expose themselves to and others who take longer to reach that goal. The reason some players take longer to adapt would be because of they never had experience playing in a team. As established by Coach George, “many of the new boys develop individualist techniques where they often pick up from playing at the park or with their friends. But when it comes to play as a team is a different level of organization…” By playing as a team we learn that the work is distributed by positions. This allows each player to focus on their required task to be completed. Indeed, communication is required by these players in order to successfully adapt to their new community.


As you can see, the South Bronx United 93- Sonics community satisfies all six characteristics of a discourse community proposed by John Swales. As suggested by Sean Branick, “there are many characteristics and responsibilities that are unexplored to those outside these communities.” (Branick 571) demonstrates that there are a lot of functions that generate in the field of sports. Some of the aspects of shared goal are also described Sean Branick’s research on coaches through the Swales’ model of discourse communities. Indeed, I would recommend the SBU 93- Sonics to anyone who like to join the family, and understand the functions and characteristics of a discourse community. Based on my research on the Sonics, I hope I have made clearly to anyone understand the knowledge required in each field of expertise (positions) and in soccer in general.



Works Cited

Swales, John. “The Concepts of a Discourse Community”. Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings. Boston: Cambridge UP, 1990. 21-32. Print.

Branick, Sean. (2007). “Coaches Can Read, Too: An Ethnography Study of a Football Coaching Discourse Community”. Looking for Literacy: Reporting the Research. Retrieved from

South Bronx United. (2009). U19: SBU-93 Sonics. Retrieved from

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