I reviewed the book The Science of Volleyball Practice Development and Drill Design a while back. Here’s a quote that I think touches on a couple of key things for coaches.
“Knowledge of Performance (KP) provides this internal error-detection mechanism through external feedback; (e.g., when passing the ball, a performer knows the arms and/or body were out of position if the ball is not passed accurately to the target area). Thus, KP provides information about movement success in terms of meeting the performance goals, such as achieving the correct body position when passing the ball to the target area.”
So we have as a starting point something the athlete wants to do. That could be outcome based, such as passing a serve to target. It could alternatively be more of a process based thing. For example, doing a good transition to be ready to hit after blocking.
Either way, the athlete should be able to judge whether they succeeded or not. This is likely to be their biggest source of feedback. It is also how they are able to self-coach. That means we, as coaches, have to be very clear in our expectations.
Continuing the quote…
“If KP is to be effective, players must be given concrete instruction that shows how to achieve the desired skill execution. ‘Watch the ball’ and ‘nice play’ are expressions that give the athlete little useful information about performance (other than motivation) and will contribute little to performance improvement. ‘That was an excellent pass because the elbows were locked and the arms were away from the body at a forty-five degree angle,’ is an example of feedback that provides more efficient KP and increased learning.”
This is something I talk about in the Providing meaningful feedback post. It’s worth saying again, though. You’ll probably have to train those useless types of feedback out of your talk. We’ve all heard it so often it tends to come out automatically. That means we have to take the time to be more attentive to our words. Not a bad idea in general, really.