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Coaching Feedback.

Its why and How

FEEDBACK IS BECOMING an increasingly critical constituent of learning. Motor-behavior researchers have characterized it as the most essential factor in the teaching and performance process (Bilodeau and Bilodeau).

Sage indicates that it both enhances the rate of improvement in new tasks and makes them more interesting.

The various classes of feedback include:

Intrinsic feedback. Provides information on the movement patterns of a performed skill; especially the sensory interpretations of the movement: the feeling of limb positioning, the sight of a moving ball or opponent, the auditory cues and sounds of competition ( e.g., the crack of bat-ball impact, QB's cadence and crowd noise.

Extrinsic feedback (also known as augmented feedback). Consists of information that is sent to the athlete from some external source. It could be the coach's voice, a game tape, the shot clock, or anything that supplements the information already available. It is an important source of feedback, as the coach has a certain degree of control.

Knowledge of results (KR)--a category of extrinsic feedback that furnishes verbal and or technical information on the progress of the action. It is highly useful in situations wherein the performer has to wait upon judges' scores--as in gymnastics and diving.

The importance of KR is magnified in situations where intrinsic feedback cannot provide enough information for a judgment on the completed task. In addition to the examples cited in the preceding paragraph, KR is also a critical variable in assessing responses to various cues.

For example, a linebacker who drops back into a zone defensive position upon perceiving a visual pass key and is then burned on a draw play, will require more specific information to correct the miscue.

Research scientists believe that the timing of the feedback has an extremely influential impact on the desired outcome. Thorndike (1927) speaks of an empirical "law of effect" wherein an action elicited by a stimulus that produces a pleasant result tends to be repeated whenever the same stimulus is applied.

Conversely, an action followed by an unpleasant consequence tends not to be repeated.

The implications of using KR and KP in performance enhancement and as disciplinary measures are readily apparent.

Feedback offers three paramount functions in the learning process:

Positive Reinforcement. Example: A statement like "Great job with your footwork and body positioning--keep it up!" will give the learner a feeling of satisfaction about his performance. More importantly, it will instill a desire to repeat the performance in the same manner.

Informs the learner. Specific information on the execution is crucial to both the current performance and future repetitions. Example: "You have too much bend in the waist and not enough in the knees to be able to redirect."

Motivate the learner. When initiated in a consecutive manner, feedback provides the incentive to achieve better performance levels. Example: "You've made tremendous improvement in your ball-handling, and I can see you becoming one of the best point guards in the conference."

Note that the teaching process includes both general and specific feedback. General feedback alone, while motivating, can quickly lose its spark. It must be complemented with specific feedback; that is, feedback aimed directly at the mechanics, strategies, and related components.

Error Feedback Frequency

When the feedback centers on the correction of errors, the coach should attempt to pinpoint the biggest miscues early in the learning process. A gradual reduction in errors will prevent a lapse in overall performance, especially in consequent attempts.

This is known as "summary feedback," where a set of trials (or repetitions) are reviewed for critique.

The rationale behind this technique is to encourage the athlete to analyze his own performance and verbalize it to the coach. Both player and coach will wind up with a better understanding of what is actually being learned.

Conveying Productive Feedback

Be as positive as possible. If necessary, look for things that are being done correctly and acknowledge them.

Provide immediate feedback, especially when indicating correct execution. Exception : When the "summary feedback" approach is being implemented, you are usually already correcting your errors.

Correct one error at a time. Attempting to correct too many errors at one time can confuse the athlete and hinder performance.

Use both group and individual feedback. John Wooden used to say, "Criticize the group, praise the individual." The occasional use of group feedback will reduce the perception that you are persistently picking on one or two individuals.

Be specific. Give precise, meaningful, and useful information in an easy-to-understand format. Remember that the average person has limited ability to acquire, store, and recall detailed data on a specific task.

As often as possible, use preplanned teaching cues- short, to-the-point words/phrases--that carry distinct meanings and can be used when the performance is in motion.

When a sprinter reaches the middle of a 100-meter repeat, the coach might shout, "Fix!" to him--a one-word teaching cue indicating that the elbows should be positioned at 90 degrees.

As a coach, you will find that pertinent feedback not only motivates your athletes, but provides positive reinforcement to your goals as well as correct and incorrect actions in skill execution.

By employing these reinforcement principles, you will maximize your ability to choose your options on skill development.

Both positive and negative reinforcement can be applied. If it is negative in nature, it must be tempered with clear, specific information on how to correct the miscue.

Reinforcement feedback should be effected intermittently to enhance its long-term efficiency and make the athlete understand that it will be gradually withdrawn as he learns to operate independently.


* E.A. Bilodeau & I.M. Bilodeau: Motor Skills Learning. Annual Review of Psychology, 1961

* R.A. Magil: Motor Learning: Concepts and Applications (fourth edition). Wm.C. Brown, pub., Dubuque, IA, 1993

* G.H. Sage: Motor Learning and Control-A Neuropsychological Approach. Wm.C. Brown, pub., Dubuque, IA, 1984

* A.W. Salmoni, R.A. Schmidt, & C.B. Walter: Knowledge of Results and Motor Learning: A Review and Critical Reappraisal. Psychological Bulletin, 1984

* E.L. Thorndike: The Law of Effect. American Journal of Psychology, 1927
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Author:Mannie, Ken
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2000
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