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Effective Feedback

Providing effective feedback is an essential part of coaching. Successful coaches are able to motivate, challenge, direct, and support their athletes and colleagues. Jeff Janssen, contributor to Championship Coaches Network, outlines the keys to providing meaningful feedback to help your athletes and staff grow, develop, and have success.

Janssen recommends using the following guidelines when providing feedback, as they will help foster a positive and productive team environment.

Positive

People often respond much better to positive, instruction-based feedback rather than negative criticism. It can be helpful to consider your ratio between positive and negative feedback. Janssen suggests having a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative. He also suggests using video or having a colleague observe your behavior during practice, which will help you assess your coaching and ability to communicate with your athletes. Consider both the words you are using as well as the non-verbal messages you send with your actions or body language.

Specific

Try to make the feedback you give as specific as possible. Instead of simply telling someone they did a good job or they need to be better, tell them exactly what they did right or where they need to improve and how they can go about doing so. When you are specific with your praise, an athlete is more likely to repeat what they did well. And when you’re specific and instructive with your criticism, an athlete is more likely to take corrective action.

Soon after

Provide feedback as soon as you can. Ideally, you will talk to an athlete immediately after the behavior or situation occurs. Giving feedback when something is fresh in an athlete’s mind with help ensure that you get your point across. When you wait until after practice, or even days and weeks later, you are likely to let a lot of coachable moments pass by.

Frequently while learning, less often when mastered

When an athlete is first learning a new skill or strategy, it’s important that you provide them with lots of feedback, as this will help them understand exactly what they need to do to be successful. As they start to master the skill or strategy, less feedback is needed.

Sincere

Always be sincere with your feedback. Being insincere is likely to backfire, and sincerity is key to developing trust and effective communication with your athletes and staff. Even though you might want to create a more positive environment, simply saying things like “Good job” all the time, though well intentioned, can actually hurt your relationship with your athletes. It’s important to remain as positive as possible, but make sure your feedback is genuine.

Acknowledge the effort, not just the results

Athletes should always be recognized for their effort, even if they’re not successful. There will be times when your athletes will do all the right things and try their very best but still fall short of the desired result. Praising your athletes for their effort, even when unsuccessful, is key to instilling confidence and motivation throughout the ups and down of a season. 

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