Provide feedback to athletes on technical and tactical skills
WHY: Effective feedback helps focus athletes’ attention on specific qualities of their movements and actions; it highlights areas needing improvement, and delineates ways to improve. Effective, engaged feedback is also a central component of the coach-athlete relationship and the core practice to which coaches devote the most time in training sessions. Effective feedback over time helps athletes develop and enhance their own proprioception and awareness and allows them to self-monitor and self-coach.
HOW: Good feedback is specific, narrow in scope, focused on the particular skill at hand, and bolstered by positive messaging. The coach makes strategic choices about the frequency, method, and content of feedback and aims to communicate in relationship-enhancing ways: for example, being in close physical proximity to athlete (to the degree possible) and using specific and efficient language. Feedback on kinesthetic movement requires that a coach has knowledge of the sport and provides feedback based on sound diagnostic skills (core practice 2) and a clear vision for improvement. Coaches also use a variety of modes of feedback including tactile, visual, verbal, and technological. Finally, effective feedback uses attentional cueing, questioning feedback and other strategies to increase athletes’ self-awareness and ability to collect and respond to their own intrinsic feedback.
Here is an example of a soccer coach using the following feedback moves with middle school athletes: questioning feedback and descriptive language, including a humorous analogy.
Here is an example of a high school rowing coach using attentional cueing with her athletes. Interestingly, she is cueing them to pay attention to both external (exteroceptive) feedback, as well as internal (proprioceptive) feedback and link the two together, an effective strategy for helping athletes discover and learn on their own.
The work of social psychologist Brene Brown offers some useful guidance on providing effective feedback (she uses the term “engaged feedback” which we have adopted for coaches. One of her foundational principles is that Clear is Kind.
Here is her Engaged Feedback Cheat Sheet, which is helpful in coaching and other professional settings.