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Feedback to very young players | Coaching Children (Ages 5-12)

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Coaching Children (Ages 5-12)

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Posted in: All other coaching children topics

Feedback to very young players

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  • Tlambe

    There is a debate in many circles concerning how feedback on performance is directed towards children. Some say everything should be stated in a positive manner while others view criticism as also being positive and enable the child to better understand the amount of effort and persistence that is required to achieve an improvement. I note that Carol Dweck felt oblige to clarify her "mindset' ideas partly because of a particular interpretation to praise any effort taken by some 

    Are there any strong views or references to scientific studies on this topic that people are willing to share please ?

  • andrewb62

    No science to support this, but a strong(ish) view.

    Working with very young players (as young as 3 year-olds) I always try to temper negative with positive (acknowledge failure, but don't dwell on it) - oh, no, we didn't want the ball to go over there, did we?  What can we do next time to throw/hit/kick it over here, instead?

    And I'll use "ooh" a lot (as in "ooh, that was close...but wouldn't if have been even better if...)

  • CoachWilly

    From reading the insightful books of Dan Ariely, we learn that humans are loss averse. We are wired to avoid pain, and seek out the path of less resistance. How this affects us with feedback is that for many people, it doesn't matter how many positive things you say, they will always focus on that one negative. It varies from person to person, as some are a lot better at taking criticism than others, but imagine it as two wins is as impactful as one loss. Due to our irrational minds, two positives would be worth about 50 points each, whereas one negative is worth about -100, so it needs to be a ratio of 2:1. Like I said, it will vary from person to person, so this should just be used as a rule of thumb.

    Obviously there are many that can tell when we're just blowing smoke, and would rather we cut to the chase. I'm one of those. When hearing such compliments as "I really like your coaching manner" my internal monologue says "Great, shut up, critique my session" because I consider that stuff to be fluff. I know what I'm good at, and I don't wish to be constantly reminded of it. I want to know where I went wrong, and what I can do to be better. That's important to me because that's what drives me.

    Each person has a different motivation, and as such, this affects what they consider to be useful, and what they consider to be damaging feedback. I like the mantra of "Catch them being good" as a means to give feedback and create good habits through positive reinforcement. Even little things that they don't know they are doing well, which can often be neglected, need some form of reinforcement. "Good job, I liked the inside of the foot technique you used there" will make the point to not use your toes to strike the ball to any player within earshot. You've not criticised anybody, but lifted one higher for praise for doing something anyone can choose to do. As all players (young and old) want praise and recognition, those that seek it from the coach will attempt to emulate the means which were successful for the other child.

    When having to correct an element of execution, keeping in line with catching them being good, start the correction with a positive; "I like your decision making there, and perhaps next time try doing it like this" while then detailing a specific example that is appropriate to them. Too often we just flat out say that was wrong, or your pass was bad without actually demonstrating how they can improve. More often than not, we get the obvious feedback of the task going wrong. If I look to make a pass and kick it past my teammate, or too short of my teammate, the feedback is obviously negative from my own actions. The player can see the result, and thus does not need reminding of the result. They want help, be it encouragement or instruction. Give them the sufficient and required technical detail, thumbs up, big smile, pat on the back, good job buddy, whatever it is you do. We can correct without demeaning.

  • Clenchiecoach

    Most of my views well covered in the previous replies.

    All I can add is that the manner and choice of words for the feedback can be used to your advantage if chosen correctly. I've found massive benefits in letting young players analyse and feed back to each other. 

    By allowing (and encouraging) this to happen, young participants learn from their peers rather than 'authority' and may lead them to self correcting and discussing with each other away from the arena. This can also help form important team social groups which are very useful as feeding back to each other brings new challenges as they get older. In the really early years, there is a feeling of honesty and little fear of failure if the environment is well set.

    It's also very interesting listening to the feedback that is being given player to player. I'm a (very young) 45 so listening to the language, context and buzzwords when children speak to one another helps us learn what is current and relevant. 

    'Sick' once meant unwell

    'Cool' used to be a temperature and a 'sweaty' was a sock!

    If you want to feedback to a kid, learn their language?

  • Nollzer

    A. Create environment and culture that regards mistakes as part of development. Opportunities to learn.

    B. Use questions, rather than talking at them.

    C. Honesty

    D. Do not over do it. False praise.

    E. Smile

    F. Build relationship

  • cyclingcoach

    I work with kids from 5 or 6 and upwards. With such youngsters, for me it's about creating good citizens, good competitors and getting them to be accountable and to buy into safety as a fundamental requirement (of cycling.) It has to be 100% about fun and I sneak in skills development wherever possible though games and exercises. There is in my opinion no need for negative feedback, just praise and encouragement.

    Of course poor behaviour or technique needs to be corrected but this is always done through reinforcing positives and desired outcomes. I'm also a fan of getting the youngsters to work out their own solutions whenever possible. Progression is essential of course but every child will progress at different levels. Kids need to be challenged but at this early age not pressured to achieve especially by parents! I sometimes feel I'm coaching the parents as much as the kids!!

    Failure is important too. How to win and to lose with good grace and how to accept failure as a positive and to push oneself to improve as we all tend to learn more through failure than through success - I'm a big fan of deep practice even with young kids but in my opinion this should come from a desire for self improvement not as a direction from the coach. 

  • robertepetersen

    Hey Ian,

    From what I've seen, "how to lose with good grace and to accept failure as a positive" is a glaring gap in the mindset of many youngsters today.  I try to stay away from the word "failure" in favor of "learning opportunity".  When I first heard that phrase, it struck me as no more than a euphemism.  But I have come to realize that if we don't see a loss as simply failure, but rather as a guide to the next steps in our practice routines, if a plan and process comes from it, then rather than stopping our progress, it actually leads us forward.  

    Particularly in the very young, I sometimes see them being crushed by an inability to master a skill, to see it as a reflection of them personally (Dweck's Fixed Mindset) that shows they world they will fail in many areas of their future life.  Arguably, this is the most important life lesson that can come from learning to perform their personal best at a sport.

    A colleague recently pointed me to the Frith and Sykes The Growth Mindset Coaching Kit.  I've started using parts of it with my gymnast granddaughter.  She picked it up very quickly.  When she recently had to write a poem for school, she wrote one named "Mindset".  Last line was 

    "... if you believe it, and perceive it, you will achieve it."  She understands something in Jr. HS that it took me decades more to fully understand.

    Great forum, many interesting points of view.  

  • AndyS

    Some good advice here already Tadhg, and I'd wholeheartedly reinforce the use of questioning so the players can identify and self correct the 'issues' themselves. Providing their own feedback...

    During my rugby coach license course, we explored the '5 C's';

    Competence, Confidence, Connection, Creativity and Character and Caring (ok, it's actually 6 C's but they lump Character and Caring together).

    Using a mix of simple, open, direct and rhetorical questions, you can quite easily let the kids grow as a team, identify what didn't quite work and offer suggestions to improve. I find it a great kid-centred way of providing performance based feedback that they appreciate and understand. I probably focus on the 5 C's most out of all the other elements of the coaching course, and it's reaped huge benefits for our group, They now self-reflect and offer suggestions to progress; all I need to do is create the session plan to push them just that little bit further each time.

    And each session finishes with me leading a group 'what went well?' 'how did your idea go Johnny?' chat. The kids love it and praise each other - and we've not had a 'you messed up' kind of comment from any of them all season.

    Not bad for U8's!!

  • robertkmaaye
    On 12/05/17 7:50 PM, Andy Stevens said:

    Competence, Confidence, Connection, Creativity and Character and Caring (ok, it's actually 6 C's but they lump Character and Caring together).

    If anyone wants to read more about the C system we’ve explored it in a couple of earlier blogs. There are also some links at the end of the blogs to some courses where you can learn more about the system and how to apply it to your coaching.

    1. A coaching system that will help you C the light! - In the first of this two-part feature, Blake Richardson took a look at three elements of the ‘C’ system: connection, confidence and competence, with the help Jon Woodward

    2. Let the creative sparks fly: The ‘C’ system, chapter two - In the follow-up with  Richard Cheetham, Blake explored the importance of creativity and curiosity, and allowing children freedom of expression.

    Both blogs are also available as podcasts.

    Richard has also posted an excellent blog ‘Creativity and Coaching’ where he takes you through the 6 steps he uses to introducing a new idea.

    Hope these help!



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