My player came bounding off the field after a great play. I pulled her aside as I usually do to use that teaching moment and I said, “That was a great play! Your footwork was amazing!”
I looked at her face and realized she was waiting. “What’s up” I asked her. She said, “Im waiting for the rest…”
It struck me that my job as a coach to find corrections in my athletes, to train ways to be more effiecient, effective, skilled, and knowledgable had turned me into a full-time critic. Even my praise was attached to a correction, because, hey, why lose the opportunity for a teaching moment????
I’ll tell you why. Becuase it completely negates the praise. Sometimes there is a teaching moment that is too good to pass up. Sometimes we need to get that correction in right away to bring about success in the next play; that is after all our job. But sometimes, despite there being corrections that could be made, we just need to give them the praise and leave it at that.
I was always taught to use the sandwhich method – praise, critique, praise. I understand this idea, but Im no longer a fan. Now I believe in Praise. High Five. Let it go. If it’s a correction that needs to be made, critique using language that describes how they can conquer a weakness with specific steps. “Try getting lower, try moving north-south, use your speed..” If it’s a correction phrased in a belief statement and connected to the tools they need to execute it then they don’t need a sandwich. The faith you have that they can do it next time and your knowledge on how they can get it done is enough to keep it from being a negative.
The other approach I like is the KEEP and ADD. “Keep the great speed you have been using, ADD a head fake.”
But let there be praise. Praise that can stand alone, without a correction, praise that they walk away with and can file away as a success instead of a correction. As a coach, this is harder than it sounds. We are trained to seek and share corrections at all times. Being critical is part of the job description. But sometimes, we just need to pat them on the back and let them enjoy the moment. They shouldn’t have to reach perfection before that can happen. Practice giving each player one peice of pure praise at every game and every practice. It’s not easy, but the rewards in their confidence level are worth it.