Getting the most out of video

An interesting discussion was started in a Facebook group on the subject of sharing video with players. It began with the following statement.

Personally, I have come to the conclusion that if we REALLY want kids to ‘forget the past’ then allowing them to view past performance with an eye to correcting all their mistakes seems kinda silly. I much prefer to focus on what they are doing right and let the bad stuff ‘go extinct’.

There are a few ways we can unpack this. I want to address this idea of “forget the past” before getting into how I think video is most useful.

When to forget and when to remember

To my mind the idea of letting go of errors is most specifically related to the performance phase. By that I mean a player will perform better if they can forget the error they just made and get on with playing the next ball. I wrote about this before in Ways to help players put errors behind them.

This, however, is quite different than the development phase. In the latter case players must absolutely acknowledge their errors. More than that, they need to look at them critically so they can go about trying to correct them. This is a hugely important part of the intentional practice process. See the post Climbing Mistake Mountain, and if you haven’t already, consider reading The Talent Code.

My point is you cannot shield players from their errors in the learning part of the process. They must see them. That said, they should also see when they do it correctly so they can see the contrast. This is extremely important when they don’t understand what’s leading to bad outcomes – and we can’t assume they do.

By the way, it’s important to know which phase you’re in. If you want players to have a performance mentality and let go of mistakes, you can’t then provide technical feedback when they make them.

Getting the most out of video

I use video a lot. If I have the capability where I’m coaching, I use delayed video during practice. This gives players instant visual feedback on what they just did. They can see it for themselves, and link what it felt like kinesthetically with what actually happened. I can also provide additional comment on what they’re watching. This is for both the errors and the good repetitions, so you get both error recognition and confirmation of successful performance.

Delayed video in practice is obviously a raw feed. There’s no chance to edit it, though as coach you can draw the player’s focus to something specific. It’s that latter element that I think needs to be a big feature of providing players with game footage after the fact.

While I agree that if just shown raw video players will tend to fixate on their mistakes – certainly female players tend to be that way – I don’t actually think that’s the biggest concern. To me the problem tends to be a lack of specific focus on what’s most important.

That’s where you have to provide the focus. The most direct way to do that is to edit the video so it only shows what you want the player(s) to concentrate on. That’s not always a reasonable option, however. In that case it becomes important for you to get them to look at what they need to see, and to ask them specific questions related to it. They’ll probably pick up on other stuff anyway, but at least you can keep the conversation moving in the direction you want. This goes for both watching themselves and watching other teams.

Notice that all of what I’ve described above is developmental phase usage of video. None of it takes place during the performance phase. If I were to share performance phase video with my team or players, it would focus on tactical adjustments. I would not show them technical elements.

One final piece of advice

I’ll leave you with one last recommendation. Keep it brief. One of the great aspects of the delayed video is that the player(s) can look at what the just did quickly and get right back to the action. When watching regular video, though, that’s not the case. Attention spans become a problem. As a result, it’s best to keep thing as tight and directed as you possibly can. You can go longer when you’re in a one-on-one with a player, but if you’re in a group session you’ll lose their attention quickly.

John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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