Effective coaching feedback helps athletes learn how to correct errors quickly. After an athlete performs a skill or trial, they may ask, "how did I do?" or "how close to my mark was I?". Providing essential information to athletes at just the right time can accelerate their progress.
Three primary reasons for providing meaningful information to athletes and teams after a performance are to: (a) motivate, (b) reinforce good performances or discourage poor ones, and (c) speed up improvement.
Intrinsic. Athletes have built-in mechanisms that tell them how well they did. They can see the results, sense movements that caused the results, and form perceptions about how they think they performed. For example, an athlete has a good idea about the result of a shot in basketball by feeling the release and watching the flight of the ball toward the basket.
Augmented. Coaches can provide additional information to give athletes more detail about their performances. This helps them narrow the gap between what they perceived about what they did, what actually happened, and how they can improve.
This type involves information about a performance provided from an external source, such as the coach, who may provide additional information in terms of knowledge of results and knowledge of performance.
Knowledge of results means that the coach provides information that is specific to the outcome: "You were about 3 inches off your mark". Knowledge of performance is information about what the athlete actually did that led to the outcome: "You leaned back just a bit too far, so shift your weight forward".
1. Motivate athletes with supportive, informative statements soon after performances. A common technique is positive-negative-positive, where the coach points out what went well, specific areas where the athlete can improve, then ends with another positive comment.
2. Provide meaningful verbal information about what happened to supplement an athlete's perception of performance. For example, make points about actions the athlete can take to correct an error, rather than simply provide analysis.
3. When using videos, point out specific features that you want athletes to notice. This prevents overwhelming them with too much information to process and keeps them focused on the most relevant points.
4. Rely most on positive reinforcement about performances. Negative reinforcement and punishment are less effective.
5. Offer reinforcement intermittently, rather than after each attempt. Allow athletes time to learn and process independently at times to avoid dependence on coaching.
Some very useful applications on the market that provide both video and audio analysis for use on mobile devices. One popular application that I use is Coaches Eye. It allows me to record the athlete, then watch in slow motion, mark up specific features, compare with other videos, and even send athletes my analysis. At $4.99, it's a great tool at a reasonable price.
Coker, C.A. (2009). Motor learning and control for practitioners (2nd ed.). Scottsdale, AZ: Holcomb Hathaway.
Magill, R.A. (2009). Motor learning: Concepts and applications (8th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Wrisberg, C.A. (2007). Sport skill instruction for coaches. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.