One of the most important roles of a coach is feedback. Feedback helps skill learning by effecting motivation.
Today’s blog post hinges on the difference between the following two examples of feedback:
You did really good
You are really good
The difference may appear small but it does have significant importance. Research shows that people can be taught to think about their ability as a fixed capacity or an improvable capacity.
This has important knock on motivational effects regarding the effort a person will put in trying to change these abilities. Most people don’t try and change their height as we know its genetically predetermined, the height is a fixed element, however a person’s strength and power can be improved therefore people put effort into to training to improve this.
The key point is how people view their ability to improve at something, determines how much effort they will put into trying to improve.
Commonly these beliefs are effected in childhood within the sporting environment.
The research by Chiviacowsky, & Drews (2014) highlights the effect of feedback on forming these beliefs within children aged 10.
In this study the children practiced kicking a ball against a target area, they received feedback which was either generic or non-generic that means some were told “you have a talent for football” (generic/fixed) and another group were told “those kicks were very good” (Non-generic/improvable). Following the praise the children where then given negative feedback on subsequent kicks the negative feedback was the same for both groups. “those kicks were not very precise”
This test attempted to determine the different effects between feedback types after the child receives a setback of receiving negative feedback.
Following the initial experience the children were then tested 10 minutes later for skill retention. The group who received the generic (fixed) feedback had a decrement in their performance and the group who had received the feedback which was indicating that they could change their ability performed approximately 10% better on the final trial.
The results present significant evidence that even how we word feedback can result in performance increase.
Most importantly this was over the period of 30 minutes, just imagine the effect a coach who provides feedback for a whole week or a whole month or a year.
Going back to our first example can you now see the difference?
You are really good (generic feedback indicating ability is fixed)
You did really good well (non-generic feedback indicating they have the ability to improve though hard work)
For some of you reading this you will find it amazing that a child aged ten can read into a subtle difference between words. The big issue is many coaches don’t know what they are saying half the time other than repeating cues. Becoming more aware of the words we use and the effect they have on our athletes will help coaches to increase their performance.
When it comes to it there are few people who understand how a sport and performance psychologist fits in to maximising your results. One of the most surprising things people find out when they start working with us is that we like to work with the coach as much as the athletes.
If you improve one player he performs better, if you improve one coach all the players perform better. This is why the best coaches seek out accredited sport psychology support.
Chiviacowsky, S., & Drews, R. (2014). Effects of generic versus non-generic feedback on motor learning in children. PloS one, 9(2), e88989.
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