The Spaces In Between

Effective communication is a popular theme in sport at the moment. Or maybe it just is with me. I seem to be spending a lot of time thinking, and talking to athletes and coaches, about how to get better at communication and feedback. There are two areas in particular I've been working on:
  1. Feedback, and
  2. Scouting Meetings.


The first question has to be, what is the purpose of coaching feedback1? Answer: to affect specific behavioural change in an athlete.

But we need to be careful. Often the logic is: "I need to affect behavioural change, therefore I need to provide feedback." But feedback is not the only way to affect change. In fact, sometimes the opposite (no feedback) is actually a better option. So, to recap, we have a tool which we know can be used to achieve what we want to achieve, but we also need to consider that the absence of this tool might be more effective.

So what's the answer? The answer is, it is far to simplistic to think there is some sort of magical formula of the right percentage of feedback. But ask yourself this question: how many times in your last training session did you think of something to say but decide not to say it?


Again, the first question is: what is the purpose of a scouting meeting? Answer: to affect specific behaviour in an athlete.

Coaches notoriously spend hours and hours running scouting meetings, but how much of this time is effectively used? A skill acquisition expert said to me recently, its easy to put together a 30 minute scouting video, but really hard to put together a 5 minute one. His point was, finding clips that might be useful is relatively easy, but putting together the key clips which will affect the specific behavioural change you need is a much more difficult job.

Less is More

So in both cases we have a situation where more is not better, and in one of those cases we know that the complete absence of feedback might actually be better than providing feedback. So what's the answer? As I said earlier, to think that there is a simple solution to the 'perfect' feedback or 'perfect' scouting meeting is naive. But it is very unlikely that the answer lies is 'more'. It is very likely the answer lies in 'better'.

So the question then is: what have you done lately to ensure your feedback and meetings are better at affecting the behavioural change you need? Do you simply try to fill the spaces with noise, or is part of your teaching/coaching using the spaces in between the words.

(Photo Credit)

1 In this context, feedback is delivered solely through verbal communication


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