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When Feedback Fails

The other night at practice, coaches began discussing an athlete who seems to reject feedback from whomever offers it.

We wondered why certain athletes accept feedback when others don’t.

But this turns out to be the wrong question. The issue isn’t why some athletes reject feedback. The issue is how well the coaches give it.

Like anything else, feedback can be either of high or poor quality. Our job as coaches is to find a way, just as we would tell our athletes to find a way.

Giving feedback reminds me of playwright Oscar Wilde, who was asked how the opening performance had gone.

“Oh,” said Wilde, “the play was a great success. The audience
was a failure.”

We can’t consider the athlete a failure for not accepting feedback. Instead we should ask:

Was the feedback constructive?
What kind of feedback best suits the learner: visual, auditory or kinesthetic?
Do we give five compliments for every criticism?

Giving up on an athlete is just as bad as an athlete giving up on a skill, and we certainly don’t like that when we see it.


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