By Lewis Charnock
Academy Performance Psychologist PhD Practitioner

Feedback in general is critical to coaching and player development.

Feedback allows coaches to inform young athletes how they are performing in relation to the coaches’ expectations. Coaches provide this information to help correct errors and guide performance toward more desirable outcomes. It can help reinforce or refine an athlete’s ability to carry out specific skills.

The feedback from a coach in youth sport is vital information to players and parents in regards to their progression. Throughout the academy journey, young players will receive an abundance of feedback, both positive and negative from coaches.

Some young athletes hang on to every single word their coaches provide them with throughout training and competition, and this may fuel their general feeling of their game.

It goes without saying that parents are an important part of the coach-athlete-parent team in the feedback process. If all parties fulfil their roles, the young player will learn the sport faster, perform better and have a generally positive sport experience which helps them approach challenges both in and outside of football in life. The question is, how can parents help their sons manage this feedback to gear themselves towards improvement?

A study in 2014 conducted interviews with 50 elite youth academy players to identify factors, from their perspective, that influenced positive development.

In regards to feedback, young players commented that whilst parents are a great help for their development, certain parental behaviours such as conflicting coaching advice are considered to have a negative impact. When parents’ advice was consistent with the coaches’, it was a positive for their long-term development.

Whether feedback is positive or negative, if the same messages are being relayed by both the parent and the coach there is a lower chance of the young athlete becoming confused, which means they will be able to focus more on working towards the set goals.

Sometimes feedback will be negative and this can become a difficult time for both the player and the parent. At these times, it is vital that parents provide emotional support. This may seem obvious, but reassuring your son that you are there when they need you will show your support. Whilst these situations on the face of them seem disappointing, they present great opportunities for young players to progress.

As a parent, it could be said that you may teach them the ‘gift of failure’. The most successful people in and out of football do two things differently than everyone else. First, they are more willing to take risks and therefore fail more frequently.

Second, they use their failures in a positive way as a source of motivation and feedback to improve. Young players are unlikely to be successful or have peak performances consistently if they are worried about losing or failing. If we as an academy community teach our young players to view negative feedback, setbacks and mistakes positively, we’ll have given them some of the stepping stones to success.

To summarise, throughout the academy journey young players receive huge amounts of feedback, both positive and negative in regards to their performance. This feedback is given to ultimately help young players take steps forward in their journey to becoming a professional footballer.

As a parent, you can support the coaching process of feedback to players by; Putting trust in the coaches’ methods. If the same messages are being portrayed by the parent and the coach, then it means the player will have consistent goals and the coach-athlete-parent team will be on the same page.

Parents should provide emotional and tangible support through negative moments throughout their young career and teach them the gift of failure.