How much information to provide to the team?

The coach needs to present as little information as possible and to ensure that the information is directed at specific teaching points or actions.

The coaches should always refer to any pre-game goals or objectives and then identify three or four key things about the game.

Provide a cure not a diagnosis

The feedback after a game should be focused on what the team is going to do, rather than listing each negative thing that the coach observed or that the statistics show. The past cannot be changed but referring to it can change a player’s level of self-confidence.

Particularly junior players may be prone to thinking negatively about their performance, and the coach giving a long list of what was done wrong will quickly overshadow any positive comments that the coach may make.

The most important information is what the coach wants the team to do, not the coach’s reasons for choosing that course of action. For example, the team may have been outrebounded by their opponent, which the coach identifies was because of the team’s failure to “block out”.

Further, the coach may consider a number of tactical responses - changing defence (from zone to man to man), giving specific instructions (zone slides to emphasise defending rebounding coverage) or design contested activities for practice to emphasise the importance competing for rebounds.

All of this information is by and large irrelevant to the players. Instead, what they need to know from the coach is what action is being taken, perhaps with some supporting evidence. For example:

  • The coach may inform the team that their opponents had 22 offensive rebounds (supporting evidence);
  • The coach may repeat the teaching points for blocking out (“this is what we need to do”);
  • The coach may then have them doing a physical, contested rebounding activity at practice, where points are awarded for blocking out (even if the rebound is not taken) and points are deducted if players do not block out (even if they got the rebound).

Don’t OverRate Opponent

Particularly in league play, the team may face the same opponent again. Accordingly, the coach’s feedback after a game should not make the opponent seem unbeatable. The feedback should be balanced, presenting positive and constructive information.

Different ways to present the information

The coach must determine how they want to present the information to the team This will be very much influenced by how much time they have and the athletes that they are coaching.

Some methods that can be used are (either separately or in conjunction with other methods):

  • Written report
  • “Chalk Talk”
  • Individual meetings
  • Team video sessions
  • Video clips
  • On court

Written Report

Coaches may provide the players with a written summary of the game, which can be particularly useful if there is a lot of statistical analysis. However, the coach should avoid just having a long list of statistics.

The coach should not assume that players understand all of the information. They should also discuss the information either formally or informally with the athletes.

Giving a written report can also be an effective method to educate the parents about the factors that are important for the development of the team. This may give the parents a basis (other than the final score) to see improvement in the team.

“Chalk Talk”

This is simply the coach speaking to the team, using a whiteboard to show diagrams or statistics. For a kinaesthetic learners (as many players are), such sessions can be excruciating!

Once a coach speaks for more that 5-10 minutes, many players will struggle to keep attention on what the coach is saying. The longer the coach speaks, the more likely that players will not retain the key information the coach wanted to deliver.

Giving the athletes diaries so that they can write their own notes in a session such as this may help to keep the players focused.

Individual Feedback

Coaches may opt to provide specific information to each player, although this obviously requires significantly more time for both the athlete and the coach. This can be done in a meeting, in writing or by providing a video.

If a video is used it should still look to show the athlete what to do, rather than focus endlessly on what was done wrong. This might be a very specific technical instruction (e.g. the player may need to adjust stance to maintain position of their opponent) or it could be reinforcing specific teaching points.

With young players, their parents should also be given the opportunity to attend any individual meetings, or the meeting should be conducted in public view.

The coach should be careful with comparisons with other athletes in the team and should assume that whatever the coach says will be repeated at some stage to the other player.

Identifying a teammate as a positive role model can be very positive and lead to an improvement in performance by both players. However such comparisons can equally reduce the confidence of the player because they are not as “good” as their team mates.

Video Session

Depending upon the resources available to the coach, video feedback is likely to require a lot of time to prepare. The video should not be a highlights package (showing only the good) nor should it be only negative (e.g. showing where the team made mistakes).

If possible, showing video footage of the team doing what is correct is more likely to help them to understand what they need to do, rather than showing it being done incorrectly and then explaining what should have occurred.

On Court

Sometimes the coach may just focus on getting on the court at practice and doing activities that highlight the various teaching points that the coach identified. The coach may briefly provide some statistical evidence of where improvement is needed but the focus must be on opportunities to develop the necessary skills.

When to provide information

Immediately after the game is not the preferred time to provide feedback, although, particularly with young players, the coach may have limited contact. The coach’s limited time should be used for either development of specific skills or work towards the team’s goals.

The feedback does need to be provided in a relatively timely fashion, particularly if it does not include video. Each player will have their own feelings and thoughts about the game and recollections may differ to that of the coach.

If the coach is speaking about a particular play or moment in the game, the more time that has elapsed since the game, the more likely that recollections will differ. The coach’s feedback, therefore, will be interpreted according to the memories of each player.