Feedback is easy to give, but hard to give well. It's worth doing well because great feedback is a powerful way to improve your cricket.
It's something I notice recently when assessing a couple of new coaches. They are knowledgeable, passionate guys and are very keen to give lots of feedback. I have found myself giving feedback to them about what to say, how to say it and when to say it.
So, here are some tips on making feedback better.
Pick a focus
While coaching, you might see a dozen things you want to feed back. But rather than pointing out a bunch of cricket tips, stay quiet and pick out the one thing that will help most in a session.
This is hard because it's natural to want to talk a lot when you see something. Try and say as little as possible so when you do speak you have a clear focus point.
Read more about keeping quiet and being effective here.
Praise effort not success
Research into mindsets from Dr. Carol Dweck has shown us that it's more helpful to offer praise for effort than for success. This is the opposite of how most of us offer praise.
It was found that when success is praised directly, people go into a fixed mindset where they think ability is fixed and proven by performance. This leads to players who are less likely to improve and more likely to be crushed by failure.
However, when effort was praised - regardless of success or failure - cricketers are encouraged into a growth mindset, where failure is a sign you need to work harder to improve. Success is a sign that things are too easy.
Read more about it here.
So, next time a player hits a half volley out of the middle against a poor bowler, ask yourself if saying "great shot" reinforces a fixed mindset. It probably does. Instead, keep quiet about that one and praise the effort of the same batsman to get in line to a rising ball from a fast bowler. They might nick it in their efforts, but it's better than refusing to bat against that bowler because they are too fast.
Then when you do praise successful effort, follow it up with questions like "what can you do to repeat that skill every time?"
Often we want to be nice about feedback and avoid saying difficult things. It's hard to be truthful and a nice person.
The alternative are situations like this, where a young cricketer was shocked by his lack of County cricket selection because he had received no feedback on what he needed to do. He thought everything was rosy!
Naturally, how you deliver an honest message has to be considered.
If you are giving negative feedback, it's best to give clear, provable reasons then offer a clear path forward.
For example, with a selection issue you can say "Look, I think you have not scored enough runs at this level to move up yet. As far as I can see this is down to your fitness levels. You get twenty or thirty then lose technique as you fatigue too quickly. If you can show an improvement in your general fitness and convert some scores we can talk again."
Even better, this kind of conversation can happen long before it becomes an issue. If you see an ambitious player doing well but lacking something - fitness, technique, mindset, fielding skills or anything else - bring it up as early as possible so it is never a shock.
Feedback is a conversation
So far, this feedback is all one way. Yet, probably the most important thing about feedback is that is is a conversation, not a monologue.
Players - even young players - know far more about themselves than you will ever know about them. It's your job to find out as much as you can. It's also your job to help them discover more about themselves and their style of cricket.
The only way to do that is a conversation.
Ask questions like "how would you advise yourself?", "what can you do differently to make it better?" and "what did you learn about yourself?". Then listen to the answers and try to hone in on solutions.
When you offer advice, make it as a suggestion and talk about it rather than impose it.
Naturally, you have to judge the cricketers. age, experience, skill and your position will all slightly adjust how you engage in conversation, and how long you talk before getting back to some actual cricket.
By approaching feedback as an honest, open conversation that focuses on single-minded effort, you'll see fast improvements in your cricket.