by Kris Soutar
“Be specific with your feedback”
This is a comment I write on many a feedback form during coach education. Can you see the irony?
I don’t like repeating myself so when I found myself saying the same thing over and over I had to ask myself what I could do better to help people feedback more effectively.
It started with the obvious…..
“Feedback on what you’ve been working on. For example if you have been teaching the player to get behind the ball earlier and they do it well then feedback on that at least”
However this seemed like a pretty basic way of looking at it so I played about with a few different things and I tried to categorise how I would feedback so I came up with a simple pyramid. It is not rocket science but ‘the feedback’ I’ve had from people using it is that it gives them some structure to how they interact with their players.
When I feedback to a player I will do so under one of these three headings, praise, encourage or reprimand. I praise the most, encourage the second most and reprimand the least.
When do I praise?
That’s simple, I praise when someone does something well but most importantly I praise their performance at the hard work they are putting in to develop a skill or I praise the performance of the skill itself. This is especially important when the player is in the early stages of developing the skill.
In coach education terms this is referred to as ‘a teachable moment’. Look out for the moments where someone is working hard to develop and especially those moments where they get it. Praise the specific, refer back to when they couldn’t do it, praise their learning skills, their hard work and/or their performance. Be genuine with your praise, you’re a teacher, be happy when your student ‘gets it’.
When do I encourage?
Again that’s simple, I encourage when someone is working hard to get something but isn’t quite there yet. This is when someone needs genuine encouragement. Encourage the specific, refocus their attention on to the one thing you want to fill their mind. Now you have an opportunity to praise their hard work and desire to learn and encourage them to focus on the process of what you are working on. Be authentic with your encouragement, you’re a teacher, empathise with the struggle your student goes through when trying hard to learn a new skill.
When do I reprimand?
Again simple, I only ever reprimand when someone is
- Not working hard enough
- Not focused enough on the task
- I know they can perform the task we are training and due to no.1 & 2 are failing
Some would suggest that this is when someone would need some encouragement. I understand that way of thinking but disagree with it. The holy grail of the learning process is for your players to become unconsciously competent at what they do. Sometimes when players get near this stage they can become complacent. I believe it is important to provide a micro reprimand to remind them that hard work & focus are non-negotiable.
I say micro reprimand as that is exactly what it is. A tiny reminder that they can already do this task and that they are better than what they are currently displaying. This can be done in a very positive way and should always be directed at the pride of the player. Talk to their heart and you will most often get a positive reaction. Never put down their character, only ever address their performance (behaviour).
So to summarise, think of your player as a learner versus a tennis player. Understand what they are going through. Ensure you have really sold the task and process of what you are working on. When they perform with hard work, focus and get the task make a big genuine deal of it. Praise their hard work, their desire to learn and performance. Recall when they couldn’t do the skill, recall moments where they maybe doubted they would ever get it. Remind them of where they have come from and where they are now. Praise praise praise them but make sure it is genuine and not unfounded praise as most people see through that.
When someone is working hard on a task and struggling, remind them of the specific focus they need, praise their hard work and encourage them to keep working hard. They will get there with your encouragement.
When you know someone can do something but lack of effort or focus is preventing them from performing then you can give them a micro reprimand. This can be done in a positive way and you may even dip into praise and encouragement but be sure they are reminded that they are better than their current performance levels.
Experiment with this feedback pyramid. Look out for moments in your lessons and watch the different responses you get when you use specific feedback.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article and if you have any feedback please……… be specific…..