As a coach your goal is to help your players get better. That means letting them know when they do something wrong, how they can do something differently and generally how they can improve. This is part of what you do. The how you do it will determine if your players start to shut down on you are take it as the true opportunity it is – to learn from their mistakes.
For example, if you have your U9 girls team warming up with paired passing to start a session, what’s more likely to be your response to giving feedback? Are the things you say likely to sound like this, let’s call it Style A?…
- “Make sure your partner is looking at you and is ready for the pass before kicking it.”
- “Don’t use your toes. Use the inside of your foot.”
- “Don’t kick the ball so hard until you can control your pass better.”
- “I saw you use your toes again. Remember – inside of the foot.”
…and so on. Or, are you likely to be more like Style B?…
- “Hey Suzie, that was a really strong kick there, “
- “, nice job pointing your non-kicking foot where you want the ball to go, “
- ” and I liked that you looked at the ball before making contact.”
- “The ball didn’t go where you wanted to go though, did it? Why do you think that is? Right! Kicking with your toes. If you kick with the inside of your foot you’ll get it where you want it more often than not.”
- “I know you are a hard worker “
- “and you’ll get it the more you do it.”
The problem with Style A is that it will start to tear down your player’s self-confidence pretty quickly. Especially kids who tend to think they either have talent or they don’t. That is, most do not realize that talent is grown with practice and over time. If you keep with Style A you are likely to have players who have lower self-confidence, are less likely to put themselves in positions to push themselves or take risks and maybe even dread practices. Definitely not what you want!
Style B is taken from a principle from the Positive Coaching Alliance called the Magic Ratio. Basically, the goal is to make sure you are giving your players 5 positive messages for every 1 criticism. A ratio of 5:1. This way you are constantly building up your players while you are helping them improve on the things that need work.
For some of you who might think this is a lot of fluff and it treats the kids too softly (they need to toughen up for crying out loud!), you’d be surprised. On the contrary – your players will be able to handle adversity better. In my book, Handling Adversity = Tough. In addition, they will listen to you more and be more optimistic. This is a competitive edge. It also gives them the juice to handle adversity better off the field, and away from practices. Better still!
There are two key things to keep in mind when using the Magic Ratio:
- The positive comments need to be specific. Don’t just say “good job.” Find specific things to be positive about.
- Bring your own style into – don’t be robotic. And you might be the kind of coach where if you get to 3:1 it’s a big win. That’s OK too – it’s the right direction!
So start paying attention to how your are giving feedback to your players and build up that ratio. Guaranteed to see results and these are the kind of results that can last a lifetime.