Do you want your athletes to maximize their potential in their sport? Sure you do! As a coach, you do everything within your power to put your athletes and teams in position to succeed.
Coaches utilize training, practice and technique instruction as vehicles for the optimal development for athletes. Unfortunately, even the best coaches can make this one critical mistake that can hinder an athlete’s performance and negatively impact their confidence. This one unconscious slip-up is over-correction.
This is how over-correction can actually hurt performance…
Many coaches take pride in being technicians. These coaches spend a lot of time developing their knowledge of their sport, understanding the most effective technique and mechanics that produce optimal results and learning how to breakdown performance to increase efficiency and results. As technicians, coaches want to correct all the minute details after an athlete performs with the goal of guiding their athletes to near-perfect technique. This process becomes a cycle… the athlete competes, the coach corrects, the athlete practices, the coach corrects, the athlete competes, the coach corrects, etc. It’s absolutely logical and works to a point. The problem is not the correction itself but how the athlete perceives the feedback.
Let me explain by relaying a personal example outside of sport… When I graduated high school, I worked construction as a laborer for my Dad. My Dad was an amazing carpenter. He could build anything and he excited to hand down his knowledge to me. Every task he assigned to me he would tell me, “You’re doing it wrong.” No matter what I did or how hard I tried, he responded with, “You’re doing it wrong.” One time, at the end of the work day, my Dad asked me to sweep the floor. Easy enough! Two minutes in, my Dad said, “You’re doing it wrong.” I lovingly responded with, “How many #$%&ing ways are there to sweep the floor?” My Dad’s intention was to teach me (I think.) Instead, I learned that I sucked at carpentry and the sight of a broom (or watching curling for that matter) repulses me.
Too much correction, especially if it is ill-timed, is perceived by some athletes as, “I suck! I can’t do anything right!” It doesn’t matter what your intention may be. It is how the athlete interprets the message. Over time, this leads to many athletes quitting their sport and you wondering, “Why in the world would he or she quit? They had so much potential.”
What’s the resolution to this dilemma? Pull back on the technical correction a bit. Say some warm, fuzzy shit once in a while. Compliments go a long way to building confidence. And here’s the big thing, know when to give feedback. I know you want to dissect technique right after your athlete competes while it is fresh in each of your heads. DON’T! There is a time and place for everything. If your athlete just set the World Record in the Modern Pentathlon or the Coney Island hotdog eating contest, the last thing they want to hear is “Great job, but if you dip your hotdog bun in more water, you would be able to get one or two more hotdogs crammed in your face!” This type of feedback only deflates an athlete after a good performance. Likewise, if your athlete just struck out with the bases loaded three times in one game, they probably won’t be receptive to a dissertation on the physics of swinging a bat.
To sum it up coaches, if you are giving too much correction, “You’re doing it wrong!”