In the absence of feedback, people will fill in the blanks with a negative. They will assume you don’t care about them or don’t like them.—Pat Summitt
Try this experiment with your team. As players migrate in at the beginning of practice, just quietly walk around the track/gym/ice/pool deck and observe your athletes. Don’t chat with them about their day, don’t give them a friendly head nod of acknowledgement, don’t smile.
As they start their warmup, don’t offer corrections to their form, don’t encourage them to stay focused on practice and not whatever happened outside of the track/gym/ice/pool deck, don’t talk about your expectations for practice.
When they do their drills, just walk around, expressionless, and take it all in. No correction, no praise, no “if you want me to stop saying it, then do it right” speeches.
When they’re in the competition phase of practice, don’t get excited about great plays for goodness sakes! And if someone makes a great hustle play, be sure to keep it ho-hum. When they mess up the play you’ve been working on for weeks? Say nothing.
That all sounds ridiculous, right?
Feedback is an essential component of every practice and we’re giving it all the time, whether we’re saying anything or not. We coaches have to be mindful of what we’re projecting, both verbally and non-verbally to our teams.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t project annoyance, disappointment, or frustration to your team…just be sure that it’s your intent.
We’re always saying something when we’re with our teams, even when we’re silent.