Feedback

When you think of an analyst giving feedback, you generally think – stats sheets and fancy graphs, then the coach looks at it and decides what he wants from it.

This is where sports analysis has to upgrade itself.

I can tell you from a survey and feedback I have received from rugby players before, that the thing they most value is individual feedback, they all wanted more. Think back over your last 2 weeks, the individuals that likely had the most impact on your thoughts are people you have had one to one interactions with, they are likely your most memorable discussions as well. When you’re one on one with someone, you give them your focus and attention and they are giving back the same. Individual feedback provides many things to an individual; awareness of where to improve, clarity on perceptions of him/herself, confidence, motivation and a sense of value to a group. This is why one on one conversations are so powerful as a learning tool.

This is why as a coach and analyst, you should be trying to increase the amount of instances of individual feedback as possible. This can be done by making yourself available for more time or to spread out the number of people providing one on one feedback. Making yourself available more often is obviously positive for the player but there is a physical limit of hours in a day and detracts from something else you want to fit into your day from session preparation to family time or sleep. Having others delivering one on one feedback requires the people delivering the feedback to be in sync but multiplying the quantity of feedback makes that effort worthwhile as well as the additional benefits associated with being more in sync.

Players do place importance on who delivers the message to them, so it is very important to build up credibility of the other people delivering the message if you want to increase the quantity of your feedback. This can be done in many ways; crediting previous experiences or work done to players, communicating their role and responsibilities and informing of the purpose and methods to increase feedback. In terms of an analyst, often the youngest member of support staff, it requires time for them to build up credibility. In this case you can get the analyst to deliver the feedback the players want as opposed to the coach delivering the feedback. This will give the analyst credibility delivering over time and also, gives the players an ownership of their learning which I discuss more below.

The goal for an analyst should be to become an expert at delivering feedback. There are thousands of different theories on learning and I’ll touch on a few here.

People learn through high impact and emotional events. Think back to the best movies you’ve seen; the reason you remember them well are because of a highly emotive or high impact event. To use an example – Fight Club, you were probably emotive as he was describing the pain of the narrator’s insomnia, Bob crying and holding the narrator into his newly formed breasts and the other different disease sufferers and then you would have been hit with high impact events when the fight club started, when he and Marla are having irrational arguments and finally at the end where you find out a little more about who Tyler Durden is.

Creating these high impact events are what makes feedback powerful and creating these high impact events should be a goal of whoever is delivering feedback. It could be done through a passionate speech, it could be done through a highlight video or anything else taking to your imagination. There is an unlimited amount of ways to achieve this and it can all very well depend on who you are delivering the feedback to and when you’re delivering it as to what would be the most impactful thing to say or do.

People learn more and recall better when they take ownership of their learning. The way to motivate people to take ownership of their learning is making them understand and believe in their “Need to Know”. Make your athlete believe in a need to improve a certain part of their game to improve their performance. This is where you can use stats and video to demonstrate the need to know and the effect of knowing. An example of this might be to show a player slacking on his rehab, how good he was and how much he enjoyed himself when fit. The player will then have a connection between doing his rehab and enjoyment and/or playing well.

Goal setting is an effective technique to help players take ownership of their own learning. I won’t go into details on goal setting as you’ve likely heard about SMART goals hundreds of times already but it creates an ownership on the player to improve which increases their motivation and the result is – improved performance.

If you’re to take anything from this article, make it to try an increase the quantity and quality of feedback as a priority. It’ll directly improve performance and your relationships with players which to me, is one of the main reasons we get the best out of each other. When we’re motivated as a team due to people mutually wanting the best of each other.