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Hasbrouck Heights Aviators

Hasbrouck Heights Aviators

Giving Feedback to Players

Feedback Focus

There are two types of feedback internal and external focus.

To understand the difference, think about the action of passing the ball. An internal focus would mean providing feedback on the body's movement, whereas an external guide directs the player's attention to their relationship with the ball.

Studies have found that maintaining an external focus can lead to quicker development, while internal focus feedback can make players self-conscious or lead to overthinking. Internal focus feedback, in turn, slows down the motor-neural pathways, allowing one to execute techniques and skills.

However, it is essential to remember that players typically cannot see what their body looks like during performance - therefore, providing an external reference point to anchor their focus can be a powerful tool.

External focus feedback may also help players find effective movement patterns which work for them rather than constraining them to 'textbook' movements that may not be appropriate for all players.

Perspective or Descriptive Feedback

Prescriptive feedback involves telling players what to do to correct errors. It is typically more helpful for relatively new or low-skilled learners, who may need more knowledge to self-correct.

As players become more advanced, they may benefit from more descriptive feedback. In such instances, coaches give players information regarding what the player did rather than explicitly informing them of how to correct or adapt their performance.

Descriptive feedback can have several benefits for more advanced players. First, it allows players to take an active role in their learning, which can lead to a greater understanding of when, why, and how to perform specific actions.

This approach can also lead to retaining more knowledge and encourages players to take ownership of their learning when a coach isn't there to provide feedback.

When to give feedback

Consider both the frequency and timing of feedback.

Less regular feedback is typically more effective in frequency, especially in the later stages of a player's development.    There is a minimal capacity for humans to store new information in our working memory, which can be easily overloaded when giving multiple instructions quickly.

However, if knowledge is provided to players slowly throughout multiple sessions, it gives players sufficient practice time to convert knowledge into long-term memory. Unlike working memory, long-term memory is of almost endless capacity - and learned as long-term memory, freeing up working memory to take on the next piece of information.

At this point, the learned knowledge is a building block that helps players understand new information on the same topic.

Another simple strategy that coaches can implement to avoid overloading short-term memory is to begin each session with a game or activity related to the previous session. Such activities can encourage the retention of previous knowledge and automation of skills, which frees up working memory for new knowledge.

Providing feedback less regularly also allows coaches to focus on critical features, helping control the temptation to correct every observed mistake. Overcorrecting overwhelms players and can mean that important messages get lost in the noise.

Coaches may consider feedback timing as a strategy to manage 
the amount of feedback provided effectively.

Limiting concurrent feedback, given while play is ongoing, can be helpful. However, it is essential not to rely too heavily on concurrent feedback as it reduces players' opportunities to make decisions and limits the small failures they will experience, which act as triggers for meaningful learning.

Instead, coaches may delay feedback and provide it in summary form during breaks. Such an approach allows coaches to reflect in practice on what information is most important.

Another strategy may be to give players the power to request when they want to receive feedback.

Despite the benefits of reducing feedback, it is essential not to obliterate it. 
A complete absence of feedback can create uncertainty amongst players, 
which is detrimental to development.

How to give feedback

The most common debate on giving feedback revolves around whether coaches should provide direct instruction or involve players in the feedback process through questioning.

The importance of questioning - allowing players to gain a deeper understanding of information and coaches to check for said understanding - is well established.

However, what is less common is for coaches to have training on how to ask questions effectively. Consider the following techniques to improve your use of questioning.

Firstly, questioning is much more effective when it engages players in critical thought rather than simply recounting what is already known.

For example, coaches may frame questions asking, "What did you notice about x?" or "What would happen if…?". Such questions encourage players to develop a deeper tactical understanding while enhancing problem-solving skills.

Overcorrecting not only overwhelms players 
but can mean messages get lost...

Starting questions with 'what' or 'how' is important - asking players "Why did you…?" can appear judgmental and impact responses. Indeed, the language used during questioning is vitally important and often overlooked.

For example, receiving the ball side-on can also be known as receiving on the half-turn or back foot. When the language used to describe concepts is inconsistent, players can struggle to connect their knowledge and understanding of the idea.

A consistent language framework can help players understand tactical concepts, aiding perception and decision-making on the pitch.

Another skill coaches must develop when questioning is listening to the answer.

Too often, we can fall into the trap of expecting a specific answer and asking closed questions until we get the desired response.

When questioning, coaches should try not to have a pre-determined answer in their mind - instead, be led more by players' responses.

Moreover, coaches may set questions that players can explore through player-to-player feedback, enabling players to develop a wide range of skills, such as reflection, decision-making, teamwork, and communication.

Finally, although questioning is synonymous with athlete-centered coaching, it is not a golden bullet solution to all scenarios.

Sometimes, the needs of the session or players 
mean that direct feedback is more appropriate.

Instances may include players needing more prior knowledge to properly engage in questioning or coaches wanting to maximize ball-rolling time with quick in-and-out intervention.

Coaching License Pathway

U.S. Soccer is committed to providing all coaches, from beginner to advanced, with education tailored to their experiences and the needs of their players. The Coaching License Pathway consists of a series of courses designed to meet the specific needs of a coach at every step of the way. U.S. Soccer believes education is a journey, and our goal is to provide the necessary tools, guidance, and mentorship a coach requires.

Visit the US Learning Center - 


Hasbrouck Heights Soccer Association
P.O. Box 472 
Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey 07604

Phone: 551-427-2385
Email: [email protected]

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