As a coach, communicating with your athletes can be challenging, because you have to be at once a teacher, supporter and enforcer. A key component of coaching hockey is to give your players feedback that will help them grow individually and perform better as a team. Below are three tips to help you maximize the impact of your feedback, build relationships with your athletes and help them stay confident. Depending on your coaching style, some of them may be hard to adopt, so set small, achievable goals at first to practice giving feedback. Eventually it will become more natural.
Seek Feedback First
Before giving your players your opinion, ask them for theirs. Focus your inquiry on what they did well and what they feel they need to correct. This benefits you as a coach by providing opportunities to get to know your players and offering a gauge on whether and how your coaching is reaching them. Also it will show your players that you respect their judgment and knowledge of the game, ultimately helping them become more self-sufficient and self-aware. In the beginning, this approach can be challenging, especially with young players. You will often hear the answer, “I don’t know.” But this kind of appreciative inquiry can help players think more critically about their actions, ultimately improving their performance.
Less Is More
Players often need to correct more than one thing on any given play or practice; however, dishing out all of your constructive criticism at once can overwhelm, and even distract, them. Most young athletes can only focus on a few instructions while performing, so giving them one or two things to work on at a time is more effective. Also, hearing a long litany of what they did wrong can be discouraging and sap their confidence.
It’s your job to give constructive criticism to your players, but some coaches fail to offer enough specific positive feedback. Positive feedback builds your athletes’ confidence so they can continue improving. To help balance your feedback, try sandwiching your critical comments with positive ones. For example, “That was a good shot. Next time shoot the puck at the hash marks. Keep working hard.”