No matter the age most people continually look for feedback and acceptance from their peers and mentors. As players mature ,hopefully there is an intrinsic approval instead of external approval others. When this is found approval comes from an internal feeling of acceptance from what the individual wants instead of the external opinion of what others want.
Unfortunately, most kids do not think this way. One only needs to look as far as peer pressure to understand that kids look to each other and adults for approval and acceptance. That is why a quality child may be seen out doing things he or she may not normally do; they are looking for acceptance and approval. As a coach it is important to understand this and provide feedback to players.
Most players will not have the ability to understand if they are doing well or not without feed back. The same can be said about being successful or not and being skilled or not skilled. It is the job of the coach to inform players on how they are playing, what they are doing well with and where they are struggling. It is equally important that a coach not always dwell on the negative. The nature of coaching is one of continually trying to fix what is going wrong, so often the only message players hear is fix this or fix that. The sub text of this is that if something always needs to be fixed then something is not right. Players can internalize they are doing something wrong (and they probably are) but will forget to internalize what they are doing right (hopefully many good things), which can lead to a negative environment. Be careful to continually express not only their flaws but also their strengths.
One successful approach is expressing positives and negatives as a sandwich. First say something positive, then inform them on how to correct it and finish with what will happen when they do the positive behavior. Good, bad, good is the way to go. For instance when talking to a player about defense, one approach might be “You did a nice job of going hard to the ball. But instead of lunging and easily taking yourself out of the play, curve your run to force play and not eliminate yourself the play. By doing this you will dictate play and keep the team defense intact” At half time one approach might be, “Team, we played well in the first half and possessed for a good amount of time. We did a good job checking to the ball (the positive), but our focus must be on playing that ball quickly with two touches and receiving across the body. (the coaching point) If we do this we will finish off the scoring chances we’ve previously had (how it will be effective)”. The good is expressed about the possession, the bad is mentioned as receiving across the body, the good is mentioned in the finishing opportunities. Ending with a focus on what needs to be adjusted for the second half is a great way to keep fresh in the players minds what the improvement focus should be for the second half of play.
As the players move in and out of the game, often the only time to fix mistakes is through discussions with the player. This may mean some of the action is missed during the game, however it is the job of the coach to improve the team, not to watch the game. The coach will still see much of the game but hopefully improve player performance along the way. When players come off the field, take the time to tell them quickly what they did well and where they can improve. This will foster in them a sense that the coach really cares about what they are doing and it will help them to improve as the games and as the season progress.
No matter the age this approach will work. As the players get older, it can be helpful to be more direct and just tell the player what he needs to do better. At times it is needed and as players get to the ages of sixteen, seventeen, eighteen being blunt is often needed to get a point home. However, sandwiching negatives with positives will always be a good approach and can still be used.