Responsible Coaches Provide Responsible Feedback
Brought to you by the Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports program
Nobody likes being
criticized. But to truly grow and learn, we have to learn to be open to
what if we didn’t even look at it as “criticism”? What if we viewed everything
through the more positive, productive lens of “feedback”? Or at the very least,
we’re acting more like Responsible Sports Coaches. And we’re paving the way
for more motivated, smart, successful young athletes under our instruction. Not
to mention a better, closer, smarter and more successful team.
month at Liberty Mutual Responsible Sports, we’re going to take a
closer look at how coaches always do their best to provide responsible feedback
and instruction to their kids.
Responsible Coaches Are Not “Soft”.
to what some might think or say, being a Responsible Sports Coach does not mean being “soft”
on the athletes entrusted to your care. Yes, coaching methods such as giving
players a “Magic Ratio” of five specific, truthful praises for each specific,
constructive correction exist in stark contrast to the stereotypical,
screaming, demanding, my-way-or-the-highway, win-at-all-costs coach.
Responsible Sports Coaching is not soft. It’s every coach’s job to help
athletes improve – especially Responsible Sports Coaches, who also strive to
teach athletes life lessons through sports, and therefore must carry extra
credibility in the athletic arena. After all, young athletes who don’t think
their coaches can help them improve their games may very likely also tune out
and miss their coaches’ life lessons.
be effective, Responsible Sports Coaches must know when and how to correct
players. In fact, the “Magic Ratio” works not only because it
helps young athletes feel good about themselves, but because that good feeling
keeps athletes open and receptive to the necessary corrections.
When To Correct Athletes.
been said that there is a time and a place for everything. And providing
feedback and correction for young athletes is no exception.
all correction and feedback should occur in practice. In the heat, competition
and organized chaos of a game, technical skill correction rarely works well.
a coach feels absolutely compelled to correct an athlete’s technique during a
game, it should occur during a break in the action, and should be no more than
a minor adjustment that the coach has previously addressed with the player in
practice. It also helps if this correction can be communicated or reinforced
with trigger words, a hand signal or other gesture that just serves as a
opportunities for brief, simple corrections occur during timeouts, when players
check out of a game and between periods. Of course, each of those scenarios has
its own challenges and balances to be struck.
all of the above circumstances, it’s best to correct privately unless there are
several players who will benefit from hearing the same correction at the same
time. In summary, the more removed from action a player is, especially the
action that requires correction, the more open to correction the player is.
How To Correct Athletes.
on athletes’ ages, skill proficiency and your team’s level of competitiveness,
it often helps to ask athletes if they are open to correction. If you do so,
and the athlete says “no”, then it’s best to respect his or her wishes and say
something along the lines of, “OK, when you’re ready to talk about it, please
let me know.”
“Criticism Sandwich” can also be helpful (watch this video to see our lacrosse coach
using this technique). Try to “sandwich” the “meat” of your message between two
pieces of praise – and make it calm, quiet, specific, constructive instruction.
when and how to effectively correct young athletes is part art, part science.
The suggestions here may make the correction more palatable for the athlete,
and thus more accepted. However, note that you, as a Responsible Coach, must
provide the occasional hard-to-deliver, hard-to-hear truth that will improve
your athletes’ performance and help them learn the life lesson of how to
benefit from coaching on the field and beyond.
parents, we have to sometimes correct our children to help them improve. But
how best to do so as a Responsible Sports Parent?
By delivering our feedback with useable information that helps empower our
children. For example, “You need to focus!” contains virtually no useable
information at all. But, “Remember that coach wants you to keep both feet on
the ground on throw-ins” contains highly useable information.
following are a few more handy tips on imparting kid-friendly criticism:
- Avoid Non-Teachable Moments: The ride home from a
game that ended on a costly mistake, for example, is not the ideal time to
- Wait For Privacy: People listen to
criticism better in private than in front of a crowd. Wait for the right
- Ask Permission: If you ask, and your
child prefers not to hear your criticism, honor that, and ask again later.
Do not, however, use this technique in areas where your child needs an
immediate and firm lesson, such as poor sportsmanship or dangerous
- Use “If-Then” Statements: To help your kid feel
in control even while you are criticizing him or her, phrase your feedback
in the form of an “If-Then” statement. For example: “If you call your
teammate off the ball, you’ll be more comfortable settling under that
- Make A Criticism Sandwich: “Sandwich” the
criticism you provide between a truthful, specific compliment on each
side. In other words, the criticism is the meat, while the compliments are
the bread. For example, say something like, “You’ve been exploding off the
line great. You seem to get under the lineman’s pads almost every time
now. Just make sure you keep your hands inside. If you combine keeping
your hands inside with that explosiveness, you’ll be hard for anyone to
Learn More About Giving
more information on how you can provide feedback, criticism and instruction in
a Responsible Sports way, visit our Responsible Sports website at ResponsibleSports.com.
on kid-friendly criticism and quality feedback and you’ll be well on your way
to a truly winning season. Your friends
at Liberty Mutual Insurance and Responsible Sports are here to celebrate your