The Art of Coaching Youth Ultimate: Effective Feedback [Sponsored Preview]

How can coaches provide effective feedback to their youth players?

The following is a preview of Elevate Ultimate‘s book, “The Art of Coaching Youth Ultimate.” If you like what you read, consider buying the kindle or paperback edition! To buy it, and for other free resources, visit their website.

Chapter 15 – Effective Feedback

There’s a group of 12-13 year-old girls at the session I’m coaching and they’re all trying ultimate for the first time. We are working on backhands and taking them through all the steps. Half of them are stepping out awkwardly, resembling more of a pretzel than an athlete, yet I am too afraid to correct this because I want them to feel confident and stick with ultimate.

In retrospect, I was doing them a disservice. Ignoring the error was allowing these young athletes to practice improper movement patterns, quickly turning them into habits. Instead of waiting for the “right time,” I should have made the correction right away. Kids want to learn, but their receptivity to the feedback has everything to do with my delivery.

Feedback: Providing meaningful information to athletes and teams during or after a performance.

There are three primary reasons for providing feedback:

  1. To motivate them
  2. To reinforce good performances or discourage poor ones
  3. To speed up improvement

Five Keys to Giving Good Feedback

  1. Make it positive. Catch people doing things right (especially if they generally struggle)!
  2. Make it specific. This will help them repeat the awesomeness.
  3. Make it soon. You’ll get better results if they remember what it was/how it felt, etc.
  4. Make it sincere. Kids can tell when you don’t mean it. You want to build their trust so when you say something positive, it’s really positive!
  5. Make it focused on effort, not results. Growth mindset feedback. “Sarah, I really love how you tried to run through that disc. That effort is exactly what we are looking for.”

Now I’m going to go back to the scenario at the beginning of this section with the 12-13 year-old girls and rewrite my history.

The girls are partner-throwing and I notice that half of them are pivoting oddly when they step out (hint: more than three people doing the same error means you can give this feedback to the entire group rather than singling each person out every time).

“Hey everyone, let’s pause for a moment. Great wrist snaps overall, and I love that everyone is stepping out. I just want to make a quick correction about the step outs. Can anyone tell me why I would want to step out like this… and not this…? Ok everyone, now follow along with what I’m doing… Ok, keep practicing that while I walk around. Feel free to give each other feedback on how your partner is doing as well… Ok, great. I really want to see these awesome step-outs when you’re throwing for the next two minutes, ok?”

I pace around the group a little bit ensuring that I’m checking in with my pretzel people and positively affirming the change in the skill.

“Okay, that looks way better everyone. Great work.”

How to Structure Feedback

Let’s take a closer look at the structure of my feedback in my remade scenario.

  1. I start off with a positive. “Great wrist snaps overall, and I love that everyone is stepping out.”
  2. I proceed to the correction. “Can anyone tell me why I would want to step out like this… and not this…?”
  3. I give them an example they can copy. “Ok everyone, now follow along with what I’m doing… Ok, keep practicing that while I walk around.”
  4. I encourage the action. “ I really want to see these awesome step-outs when you’re throwing
    for the next two minutes, ok?”

One final tip for you. When your athletes apply what you’ve been working on in a game, you should lose your mind. Nothing solidifies learning for them more than seeing their coach get excited about something they were able to do. Being energetic and passionate when they achieve their goals and learn new skills can be incredibly motivating for your athletes.

Your Turn – Give Feedback

Scenario #1: Your athletes are scrimmaging and just scored a point using the end zone system you practiced.

Can you think of an example of feedback that’s too general? i.e., “I like that you all cut when you were supposed to!”

Now give feedback that’s specific.

Scenario #2: Your athletes are working on 1-on-1 cutting. A few athletes aren’t using the proper footwork but are still scoring because they are tall.

Can you think of an example of feedback that’s too general?

Now give feedback that’s specific.

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