Define how and by whom personal feedback should be given
Feedback allows a player to improve. But there should be clear rules on how to give it and who should do it to avoid confusing players with contradicting suggestions. Feedback is a central tool in developing a person and their skills, but all involved need to know how to use it.
General rules for giving feedback
Those who can give feedback must be identified, defined and communicated throughout your team (e.g. only coaches can provide feedback or chosen team leaders and captains).
They must ask for permission to give feedback.
Feedback has to be punctual and precise. Refer to a situation that the receiver remembers: ideally, soon after the action, and not too complicated. The longer the act lays in the past, the weaker the feedback effect is.
There are various techniques on how to give feedback. One of the most used methods is the “feedback sandwich”. This involves the feedback giver first highlighting something positive, then something specific that could be improved and then closing the feedback with a positive message, e.g. how they could improve the noticed behaviour. For example: “I see that you have improved a lot in this-and-that. In this specific situation, I noticed that you did this. In the future, try to do this-and-that, and the result will be much better”.
Do not abuse this tactic to manipulate others; you will hurt your relationship with them.
Try to avoid words like “always”, “never”, “sometimes” when giving feedback. Keep your feedback clear and concise.
They should always use the first person, like “In this situation, I noticed that you did this” or “When this happened, I had the feeling that you …”.
Expressions like “You did this” can come across as aggression and block any further input.
Critiques must be constructive and not refer to the person but their behaviour/actions.
“In this situation, I noticed that you reacted that way ”. You cannot change the person, but you can change the behaviour.
They should be willing to get feedback from the feedback giver, either by actively asking for it or consenting to receive it.
Be aware of previous interactions and the emotional relationships between the giver and receiver.
They should not reply or justify themselves when receiving the feedback and accept it instead.
They can, of course, ask for deeper explanations.
They should thank the feedback giver for their perspective
When explaining these feedback rules, make sure to highlight that sometimes it is not possible to receive feedback from someone. It is your right to say so and come back to the feedback giver at a later time (or not at all).
Comments like: “Please not right now, I will come back to you if I’m ready” help to create a sense of when feedback is appropriate and when not.
Feedback during training
As a trainer or a mentor/buddy, you are supposed to give feedback, so there is implicit permission for this. However, it is still important to approach feedback as an important tool, which could be misused within your team, and thus should be given significant consideration. Feedback for drills that focus on the form of execution, like correct and precise throwing or cutting, is often enough to give quick verbal notes to each player for each execution. This fast and immediate method pushes players to focus on their performance and improve their actions. Many teams have playing coaches (a person who both coaches and plays for the team), which can be challenging because if the coach is directly involved in the drill, they cannot give prompt personal feedback. This situation may be unavoidable, but it leaves aside a vital tool to improve. To compensate for this, you may have a person who stays out for each drill, observes the execution, and gives personal feedback.
In mixed training, when highlighting for the whole group some specific situations, the coach should make sure that successes and improvements of all players (men-matching and women-matching players) are mentioned so that everyone feels addressed.
Use appropriate language and do not compare the physical differences or stereotypes between women and men. As a coach, you must make clear from the beginning who is allowed to talk and give feedback during training and who is not. Even if well-meant, input from different sources can confuse the receiver if not done correctly or may contradict the feedback given by the designated feedback giver. Additionally, this situation could make the receiver feel patronised or embarrassed in front of their teammates if not done correctly. This is not saying that feedback among peers is unwelcome, but it is important to work together and learn together how and when feedback is ok.
Feedback during tournaments
Make sure you talk about the different roles for feedback as well as moments when to give and receive feedback. For playing coaches it is especially important to be able to focus on playing as well as coaching. Highlighting to your team, how you are able to receive feedback on tactics etc. will help you greatly in managing all the stress that comes with these responsibilities.
Ultimate as a young sport has a lot to learn from other more established ones in terms of coaching, specifically the understanding of pedagogic skills, learning types, psychology and physiology and how this affects coaching demands.
As an ultimate coach, you should be aware that you need to develop these skills to do a good job.