Positive Sports Coaching - Feedback

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Earlier this year I attended the AFL Coaches Conference in Adelaide to further my knowledge and enhance my continuous improvement as a Level 2 Coach. The key interest for me was the session on “Feedback – leading challenging conversations to successful outcomes”.


One thing as a coach that I learnt very early on was what is measurable becomes attainable…so feedback was imperative. I was also lucky enough during my Level 2 Coaching accreditation to be inspired by one of the presenters, Matthew Scholes who focused on Positive Sports Coaching. Positive Sports Coaching is a strength-based approach built around the science of positive psychology. It has a clear focus on building player optimism, resilience and improving their wellbeing. The bonus is this will also improve individual and team performance.

It was fair to say that my philosophy of player feedback changed very quickly and I found myself adopting a more strength-based and positive approach with my players. In fact, what I had done was empower my players to improve in a more positive environment and be accountable for their own improvement levels.

Some of the below outcomes are what I adopted based around a positive, strength based
feedback loop:

• Moving from a command and control, directing and telling to a highly engaging style by asking power questions and demonstrating deep active listening skills

• Creating awareness of active listening, checking in and agreement questions when giving feedback

• Learning the critical steps in framing a conversation before providing feedback

• Keep the feedback relevant, precise, honest and specific with outcomes for improvement

• Empower the player with accountability for their performance

• Ask relevant questions which lead to further specific conversation around positive improvement

• Encourage players to write down their 5 best positive after each game

“We talk about improving players deficiencies but the best players play to their strengths week in week out” - Paul Roos

I have learnt through positive sports coaching that once we genuinely trust and respect each other, we then allow ourselves engage in regular, honest dialogue about individual and team performance and increase our capacity to improve.

The final consideration in the importance of positive feedback is how to deliver the feedback and what language we use. The words you use make a difference. If you want to change a player you need to change the way you speak yourself. Move your language patterns to a more positive dialogue.

Consider the vehicle you use to delivery your feedback. Is it best one-on-one and face-to-face, do individuals prefer small group or collective feedback, do they respond better to written, verbal or via technology mediums including text messages, social media or vision?

Finally, don’t wait for the right moment to adopt a Positive Sports Coaching, strength-based approach. My advice is to start from where you stand, start now and take action quickly, as you will not only grow better relationships with you players but also assist them to improve and reach their full potential.

Justin Abrams

Regional Operations Manager
AFL Central Victoria

AFL Central Vic in a Good Headspace

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