End of season reflection-providing feedback for players

My daughter is nearly seven years old now, but I remember well, when I had been trying to teach her how to ride a bicycle. I had shown her many different ways to learn biking, yet nothing seems to be working. The only outcome of my teaching was my growing frustration and losing my patience. Only after few weeks I realized that it was all about me and how I learnt to ride a bicycle and not about my daughter. All these days and weeks my child had been giving me a feedback: “Daddy that is not how I learn” yet I was remaining deaf.

Now you may ask what this has to do with providing feedback for players? Well, I was guilty not to listen to my own child. I didn’t draw any conclusions from her learning. Finally, I did not take on board consistent feedback she provided for me on weekly and even monthly basis, in which she attempts to learn biking. Why? Because I did not know how she learn and instead I had tried to teach her the way I learn. This made completely opposite effect. She does not want to do for a while until I understood I was wrong.

Now back to coaching football, providing feedback for your players should be an ongoing, never ending process, not just end of season reflection. Same as my daughter, players too give you feedback on daily basis. That is why knowing how each of your players learn means you can use their feedback effectively at the beginning, during and as end of season reflection. Here are few useful tips how?

1. Make an effort to know how they learn?
This give you an opportunity to understand each individual better. It will be allowed you to know them as people and as players. It will help you teach the game from their perspective and not how you see it. Your feedback will be accurate and more effective because you teach them the way they learn.

2. The art of emotional connection
Make a young player who received your feedback feels emotionally connected with it.
Avoid dry, boring school wise bullet points performance assessment tool which is easy to forget and has no or very little impact on player improvement. Written feedback may start like this below:
I’m giving you feedback as I always have desire and passion to develop you as player. I also have a great believe in you and therefore WE together can make you not only a better player but also develop you as a person.

3. Do I know the ‘what’?
It may sound silly, but do you know what to feedback each of your players on? I again refer to my first point. Knowing how your players learn may lead to setting personal and performance realistic goals for the season in which you will be giving feedback upon.

4. Yes, your words and language matter
I don’t imagine you would like to receive feedback with often two headed words: positives and negatives. How receptive you would be reading negatives and how would that change if word ‘negatives’ will be replaced by words ‘challenge’? Perhaps the only thing you would notice is, your challenges ahead, so as your young players who now days are very sensitive to any criticism or negative comments. That is not to say don’t criticise, just be clever the way you do it. Careful consideration of words and language may be a good start.

5. Keep it simple, fairly regular and consistent
Consistency increased your players willingness to listen and take feedback on board both positives and areas for improvement. Please remember feedback is there to develop people and players as let’s not forget majority of us working with kids and teenagers.

6. Destroy habit of using ‘but’ or ‘however’-constructive feedback hate these words
Have you been guilty to praise players for doing something good and in same time you said ‘but’ or ‘however’? These are contradicted words that only make your players confused rather than learn from your information you provided.

7. Big No to overpraising or being too harsh
Keep the correct balance between the two. Take to consideration you do work with kids and young people. Their personalities are still developing and their emotional well-being does matter. Be honest and clear what they can improve upon and what they done well. Focus on process not the outcome only.

8. Consider feedback learning environment
Your players are at the centre, you and them understand their needs, the way they learn and therefore they can provide feedback to each other on consistent basis. Your role could be facilitated that feedback throughout the season, consolidate share and conclude with your players as end of season reflection (self-reflective practice). Logically this can be a starting point for next season too.

To conclude is really worth to remember that: ‘Learners needs endless feedback more that they need endless teaching’-Grant Wiggins. In other words, perhaps all the players want is less coaching and more ongoing feedback.