In this blog we explore how to deliver positive ‘in game’ feedback from football coaches to football players.

“We all need people who give us feedback, that’s how we improve” – Bill Gates

Providing well timed and effective feedback is an integral component of a youth footballer’s development. The way in which we as coaches deliver this feedback is just as crucial, taking into consideration:

  • The words we use
  • The timing of our feedback
  • What we’re actually praising

This blog explores the various methods coaches can utilise to enhance player’s motivation, make them aware of efficiency within their performance and also the benefits of praising effort over talent. So let’s have a look how to deliver positive ‘in game’ feedback

Get To Know Your Players

Connecting with and building a rapport with the individuals in your teams will allow you to identify what type of feedback is best employed with particular players. Some may benefit from verbal feedback as part of a group, others may prefer a discussion in a 1-2-1 setting or with their teammates. By starting to understand how our players learn and their preference in terms of how receptive they are to the various methods of feedback, only then will we will be able to support their needs individually.

Feedback In The Moment

Feedback offered during game play can be particularly motivating for young players but it is important that coaches understand the timing and clarity of their messages to ensure the support offered ‘lands’ with their player. I have developed a 3 step model using the acronym U.S.P which provides a simple, succinct and clear method when offering positive reinforcement:

Use the player’s name – this may same an obvious point, but often, coaches start their feedback without actually making clear reference as to who their words are intended for. Upon hearing their name, player’s self-confidence and sense of intrinsic motivation can be heightened along with an increased chance of them repeating their success again.

Specific feedback – coaches should try to avoid bland, generic statements such as “Well done” and “Good play” which don’t provide any clarity as to what the player is being praised for. Try to be clear with your detail and be specific to the football action (technical) or intention (decision) executed by the player in question. An example may be – “I love the way you tried to stay on the ball, that showed great confidence”.

Praise with non-verbal feedback – positive body language and gestures provide a strong support to the words used by the coach. Eye contact and a smile give the individual a sense of empowerment and individual attention as does clapping and a thumbs up.

Timing of Feedback

During games and training, it is of great benefit for coaches when praising a player, to try and do so immediately after they’ve performed a particular action or decision. Sometimes when not doing so, the player may execute several other football actions and the coach’s feedback can lose its meaning and relevance. Alternatively, some coaches choose to ‘park’ a particular feedback moment and instead refer to it during an interval between periods or within a drinks break during training. This may be in a 1-2-1 interaction with the player or perhaps in front of the whole group which can be hugely beneficial for the individual’s self-confidence and sense of achievement.

Praising Effort Over Talent

American Psychologist Carol Dweck is globally renowned for her work around Growth Mindset and the value of believing in the positive benefits of challenging one’s self in order to improve and develop. Dweck states that “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

Her research is based around the importance of praising effort over talent and the processes employed in any given task, rather than the outcome achieved. Commending students for these processes, namely engagement, perseverance & effort fosters motivation, increased effort, willingness to take on new challenges, greater self-confidence, and a higher level of success. “Process praise keeps students focused, not on something called ability that they may or may not have and that magically creates success or failure, but on processes they can all engage in to learn,” says Dweck. This approach can be particularly valuable with younger players who may make very well intended decisions but lack either the technical ability or physical prowess to execute the relevant and specific football actions required.

Summary

Bill Gates once said “We all need people who give us feedback, that’s how we improve”. Whether in business or indeed sport, receiving encouragement and praise can fill us with motivation and a boost in our self-confidence. Utilising the U.S.P model will help coaches to structure their feedback accordingly and ensure a succinct and concise message is offered to the players. Through the consideration of appropriate timing as well as praising a player’s decision rather than the outcome, coaches will help to support their player’s belief in a Growth Mindset and the higher likelihood of successful decision making and in turn football actions over the long term in their learning and development. For more support on providing feedback on match days check out this blog: https://footballdna.co.uk/a-grassroots-game-day-guide/