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Impact Refreshers

Better Feedback vs More Feedback

Photo by Han Duong |

Shout it

Shout it

Shout it out loud


At a high-level coaching clinic, one of the attendees was showing his favorite drill while the other attendees acted as players. I was one of the players. The coach was talking so much that I tuned him out. What might work for rock and roll isn’t quite the same in the gym. I had tuned out the coach.

One instructor walked over and whispered something in coach’s ear. Immediately, the coach was quieter, said about 10% of his previous comments, and I could hear him again. Turns out, he was saying some decent stuff. I just couldn’t hear it through all the (previous) noise.

The instructor told us later, he asked the coach to dial it back from a 10 to a 3. I hope it stuck, for the sake of his players.

Coaches refer to this as information overload, static (like an old TV set), white noise, or even verbal diarrhea. None of those things are desirable.

Have you considered the frequency of your feedback? Are the players able to absorb it all? Is your delivery method getting in the way of the message?

Studies show that ironically, younger players while needing a ton of correction, aren’t capable of using more than a few words at once. The IMPACT manual suggests short cues, and focusing on just one or two things, despite the need to make lots of corrections. There it’s called a four by four, meaning, four cues of only four words. That may still be too much for a young player to handle.

More experienced players, despite not needing a lot of feedback, are more capable of handling more words and corrections. That said…if they don’t need the corrections, why give them more words to deal with?

As always, finding that balance is the art of coaching, and every player will be different. Marv Dunphy, after his retirement, said that he wasn’t very good at team speeches, and felt that he made most of his progress talking to one player at a time. Can you figure out some ways to do that in your practice?

In our gym, we tend to play a lot of rotating games, small court games, and small sided games. With that going on, it’s easy to find those moments where players are off the court, where you can talk without disrupting everyone. Out of interest, chart how many times in practice you might stop the whole drill to help just one player. Is that efficient?

One more idea about good feedback. If a player does something well nine times out of ten, is it important to talk about the one? Generally a success rate of 50% in attacking is really good. Digging, maybe even less. In other words, take the time to watch a series of players before wasting good air on the one bad play, if everything else is going right.

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