INSPIRE Blog: Player Confidence and Feedback

Thinking back to Week 1 of the season, did you plant the seeds of trust and respect, which by now should have flowered into a solid rapport with your players?

If so, read on.

It is becoming increasingly acknowledged that psychology plays a huge role in the development of people, not just sports people, but everyone in everyday life.

By acknowledging this, coaches take on another role in their ever-increasing complex and dedicated role. Confidence is key and it is our role to help our players achieve a state of flow (another BLOG to come on this shortly!) whereby they feel confident, but challenged during their playing time.

Research has shown that building confidence in players comes from four main areas:

    • Past performance accomplishments
    • Vicarious experiences (visualisation or modelling)
    • Verbal persuasion
    • Physical and affective states

We will touch on each of the above briefly before reigning our focus on ‘verbal persuasion’ to support you in providing your players the right amount of feedback to have effective results.

Past performance accomplishments – This directly refers to a moment in time whereby players have achieved well in the past. This may be something a player has completed at training, on their own or in the match and provides confidence that the objective can be achieved. An example of this may be successfully beating a defender in a 1 vs 1. Therefore, it is important for coaches to set tasks for players to ensure they can achieve success, thus building confidence. As they become increasingly successful, we turn the challenge dial, making it slightly harder and therefore progressing our player’s ability.

Vicarious experiences (visualisation and modelling) – This is when an athlete observes another person execute a task, reach success or make their achievement. This increases their belief that they can achieve the set task too. An effective way of modelling this is with the use of player role models (like aged people, not you the adult!) when demonstrating an activity or when highlighting a good player behaviour.

Physical and affective states – This is the players physical and emotional state, such as fatigue or wellness. We must manage our player loading to ensure they are able to physically perform. It is important for coaches to understand our player’s lives such as:

Physically – Did they have a school carnival, school sport game or are recovering from an injury?

Emotionally – Is the player low on football confidence, is school going okay, is family life okay?

Verbal persuasion – The words we speak to an athlete can encourage them through praise, or discourage them with criticism. Young athletes need more positives than older athletes, with research showing:

Youth athletes require a 7:1 ratio of positive to constructive feedback

Adolescent athletes require 4:1 feedback

Elite athletes can manage 1:1 feedback

When providing feedback we must be careful to not focus too much on the negatives. In order to get the message across we need to ensure our players feel confident in their ability and confident in the challenge, task or action you are asking them to improve on.

A typical method used is the ‘sandwich approach’ whereby you provide players with encouragement, instruction or constructive feedback and finished off with further encouragement. There’s your sandwich!

A typical example in football may be:

Sam, great energy out there you look focussed. When beating a defender, can you look up to see where the space is before taking them on. Your dribbling has been positive keep it going!

Harry, you are doing really well at anticipating the play. Can you try to delay the opposition player to avoid driving into the tackle? Your focus is great, lets do it!

There is a lot to take in! Set yourself the task to support your players, and enhance the above confidence factors.

People with higher confidence involve themselves in more challenging tasks, set higher goals, persist longer in the face of adversity and enjoy their experience more than those with lower confidence.

Our goal is to achieve all of these. Happy coaching!

Written by Ed Ferguson

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