Feedback is a crucial element to establishing a positive team culture as it opens the lines of communication between player and coach. There are many ways to give feedback to your players, but it is important for your team to have a feedback plan. Although feedback can happen organically, having a feedback plan ensures clear communication and builds relationships between the players and coaches.
Types of Feedback
Feedback can come in three forms, and each is an effective method of communicating.
- Verbal Communication – The most common form of feedback, verbal communication can be filled with both positive and negative feedback. A coaches ability to communicate through verbal exchanges with players will begin to create the bond between player and coach.
- Written Communication – An important piece to the feedback plan, written evaluations will give each member involved the ability to hold something concrete. Although tone and tenor cannot be determined in a written document, it allows the player to fully digest the information being shared.
- Non-verbal Communication – This method takes the most time to build, but non-verbal communication can be an effective piece to the communication plan. Non-verbal cues, in many cases, speak volumes. A look can paint the picture, but it takes a relationship with the player for these cues to be interpreted correctly. It is very likely to be misunderstood as much of the interpretation is in the hands of the player. Body language can give a coach many clues into the mindset of a player at any given moment.
Top Down Feedback
Every organization is different, but here are three methods of distributing feedback from coaches to players.
- Informal Everyday Communication – This feedback is the most common, but highly important. This is an opportunity for coaches to interact with players on a daily basis. However, there must be a conscious effort to give feedback to each and every player. When players are left out of the conversation, they begin to doubt their value. It is very easy for a coach to spend time with the stars of the team because they can often give you rewarding feedback in return, but coaches should know that it’s the rest of the team that will drive the ship. Coaches should make a conscious effort to make contact with each and every player on a consistent basis. For an insecure player, silence is the worst feedback you can receive.
- Player Meetings – An important part of the feedback plan is the player meetings. Each player should have individual time with a coach to clarify where the player stands within the team. It is not something that needs to happen weekly, but monthly meetings would be appropriate. Coaches can use this time to discuss player expectations and where the player is in meeting those expectations. It is a time to re-establish goals and the process to achieving goals. These meetings will create a dialogue between you and your players, and these meetings will become a cornerstone to building a positive relationship between you and your players.
- Formal Player Assessments – It is important to take stock of what you have. Formal evaluations will give players some written feedback of their strengths and weaknesses, and will provide direction for guiding players into their strengths and helping develop the weaker areas of their game. A full evaluation of skills, intelligence, and intangibles should take place in the beginning, the middle, and the end of the season. If you have the luxury of coaching players over time, it will help you in understanding how to help develop each player correctly.
Bottom Up Feedback
If you have a feedback plan for relaying feedback from player to coach, you will be amazed at what you will receive in feedback from your players ,if you take the time to really listen. In your player meetings, you will learn a lot about who the player is if you ask questions. Let the players talk and give you their perspective on where they think they are in the process. The information you learn in the player meetings will help put the pieces together in regards to their daily efforts and tendencies. You will begin to understand what makes them tick. You will learn how to push them to higher levels and when it is time to back off. Listening to your players will help strengthen the player-coach relationship.
Feedback and communication should run from coach-to-player-to-coach. It is cyclical, and every plan to distribute feedback from coach to player should be available in the other direction. This includes the written evaluation. Players should have the opportunity to give their coach an evaluation. If you are interested in really understanding your team, you should give players the opportunity to evaluate the coaches at least in the middle and the end of the season. In the end, coaching is about the players. If you want to know if you are giving them everything they need, you need to ask them.
I was involved in a coaching discussion on the sidelines of my daughter’s soccer team, and a parent asked me a question that I couldn’t fully answer. He asked, “As a coach, how would you like to hear feedback from the parents?” My response was simple, parents usually just give it to me as they see fit. That question got me to thinking, I am open to hearing feedback, but I never thought about how I would prefer to hear it. Some parents have no problems calling, texting, or emailing me, but some parents probably do not know how to get information to me, or they are unsure of how it will be received.
This is the toughest piece to communication as a coach because I like to coach kids. I am not as interested in coaching parents, but parents are a part of the equation. When players are young, they are not always able to articulate where they are in the process. On the other hand, parents will impart what they think they know and do not always know the feelings of their child. This is an area where I know I can improve and I have put some real-time in to trying to improve this part of my coaching.
So I go back to my piece on coach-player communication. If you do not have an open line of communication, parents do not know where they stand. Players do not always relay messages to their parents, and parents feel left in the dark. I find that the many complaints or concerns can be thwarted by keeping the parents in the loop. If your parents do not know what is happening, they make up their own answers and they become your adversary, but if you keep them informed, they will become your ally.
Although it adds another administrative element to your coaching responsibilities, keeping parents informed can be as simple as a weekly email. In the email, you can outline what you have accomplished for the week, highlight pieces of the upcoming schedule, and give a few general impressions of the team’s progress. Keep the tone of the email positive and you will see a change in the attitude of your parent group. I cannot guarantee that every parent will be happy with every decision. I will not say that the phone calls and emails will stop, but you will see that parents will at least begin to understand what you are doing behind the scenes. There will be fewer questions about what is happening, and you will have a much happier group.
As a coach, what can be more important than feedback and communication? Without it, what are you really doing with your team? Every moment of your coaching has some element of feedback involved, but having a plan for feedback can ensure open lines of communication and will strengthen the player-coach relationship. As these relationships grow, your team will grow and achieve at a higher level.
Do you have a feedback plan with your team? Are you open to feedback from players? How do you deal with parent feedback? Let us know in the comments section.