During my second season coaching at Exeter I surveyed the members of the university’s women’s team. I did it a couple days before they went on the holiday break. Most of them replied (it was anonymous and done online), and there was a good bit of interesting feedback. One thing that came up a few times was the desire for me to provide more individual player feedback. It’s something I addressed in my meeting with the team before training one session early in the next term (keeping in mind that in England the season is basically the full academic year).
It has been my experience with female players that they tend to want more specific feedback than to male players. The fact that this came up wasn’t a shock. Even more so because my focus had been on higher level things. As I mentioned in the Log entries for that team, I’d really been working hard on developing confidence and aggressiveness in the team as a whole. As a result, my attention hadn’t been as player-specific. This isn’t to say I didn’t provided feedback along the way, because I did. It’s just that my concentration was team for the most part. That’s another reason I wasn’t surprised there was a call for a bit more 1-on-1 stuff.
In my team talk I discussed with the players how my focus had been on the bigger picture. That said, I would work to provide more specific feedback when possible. Also, I told them it’s not my way to constantly be in their ear. I will only talk with a player about something if I see an egregious issue or the same mistake repeated. I told the players I didn’t want them to fixate on every single little mistake either. If there’s a pattern, then certainly address it, but everyone makes mistakes here and there. I didn’t want them thinking they can’t do anything right either from their own internal perspective or because I’m constantly pointing out their errors.
I actually had an experience when I was coaching at Brown where some of the players swore I only saw it when they made mistakes. This is a bit of a risk of this sort of thing in coaching. Any of us who have a technical leaning tend to focus more on fixing mistakes than acknowledging good performance. Obviously, we can’t go around saying “good job” every single time a player executes a skill properly, but we do need to mix that sort of thing in now and again. This can have significant benefits to how players perform and your ability to keep them progressing – especially in players who are approval seekers.
Just some things worth thinking about.