POSITIVE COACHING? Help your players to help themselves. How to encourage self reflection
Most, if not all, coaches want their players to practice self reflection and to take ownership of their performance. Research suggests the they very process of doing so helps cement learning outcomes. A former colleague introduced a simple technique that has proven to be very effective in helping to build and reinforce this habit in players.
At the end of every session simply ask the players to evaluate their performance by giving themselves a mark out of 10. I suggest not doing this for games as they can be very emotionally charged. Besides, what happens in games is usually a function of what is happening in training.
The players assemble a very short list of things they did well and areas for improvement and relay this to the coach. The mark is the players own evaluation and is not something that the coach comments upon. Some really interesting things emerge.
Most players know exactly what they did well and where they struggled. I believe that we get the best performance from people by focusing largely on strengths. We are usually good at something for a reason. Focusing on strengths allows the message to be very positive:
“ I agree that your dribbling was very good. Keep practicing this at home and see if you become an even better dribbler because this could really make an impact in games. “
The players also know (usually) where they did not do so well and these are areas that need to be worked on. But the dialogue is very different if the problem is acknowledged initially by the player – and most times it will be.
“ Yes I agree that your passing was sometimes not as accurate as it could be. If you would like some help with this let me know. “
Then introduce another positive:
“ I also thought your transition and work rate was very good. This week at home maybe you should do a little practice on your passing and dribbling.”
What have we achieved?
The player has briefly reflected upon their performance and taken ownership of it.
The coach has used the standard “sandwich” technique: positive, negative, positive.
In a totally non judgmental way strengths and weaknesses have been acknowledged and agreed upon.
A plan for practice at home has been created and implicitly agreed upon.
We also get a very clear sense of the self image of the players. Most times it will not come as a surprise but sometimes the self assessments are revealing. Some players might routinely give themselves a mark like 4 when they are in fact doing well. This is crucial information for the coach. On the average players need positive and negative (or corrective) feedback. Overwhelmingly negative feedback creates a whole host of well documented problems but if the feedback is only ever positive then research suggests that the players feel shortchanged and see their coach as more of a cheerleader. Players want to improve and they accept and want some corrections. The Positive Coaching Alliance has suggested that based upon their research 3 positive comments per negative (or corrective comment) seems to be the optimal ratio. But players are not averages. In the short term is this the right ratio for someone who routinely sees themselves as a 4 out of 10?
The whole interchange finishes with a the coach asking the question:
“ So Sally if you rate yourself as a 7 what could you do in the next session to make yourself a 7 1/2? Whatever you think, on the way to practice next time try to remind yourself for just a few minutes or so of what you think you need to do to get to that 7 1/2? “
Maybe Sally does this, maybe not, but if she does another important habit, a pre performance routine, is being developed.
This self reflection technique can be very effective. Most importantly, it builds confidence and allows the players to self evaluate their strengths and weaknesses with no trace of judgement.