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Sample Chapter from Winning the Mental Way by Karlene Sugarman


Problem solving

Clear communication will also lend itself to sound problem-solving skills. If you avoid conflict it can lead to more serious problems. Confrontations are a part of sports - if a team is to improve, it will face changes and adversity. Conflict tends to grow out of mistrust and unresolved issues. Effective problem solving has to start from a foundation of mutual trust as well as a common desire to improve. You need to:


The need for regular performance feedback must be established. Having continuous feedback will help the proper behavior/actions become a habit. Sharing feedback is something players may shy away from at first because it may seemingly leave them vulnerable. Keep this in mind when players come to you. Feedback directs behavior and increases motivation. The player will feel competence through this process. Give explanations for the corrections, and then listen to what the athlete is expressing to you regarding the feedback.

Feedback that lacks credibility may jeopardize the relationship between the player and coach. The benefits of feedback depend on how receptive the player is, the approach the coach takes and the validity of the information that is being conveyed. Team, as well as individual feedback, is very important to a group's success. Without this, the team will not be able to change and grow.

There must be a willingness to both give and receive feedback. It must be timed well and given in a constructive way. The athletes must feel they are in an environment where they are given the opportunity to use their full range of abilities and reach their potential. The norm for this should be established early in the group. According to research positive feedback is almost invariably rated as having greater impact, and leading to greater intention to change, more so than negative feedback (Morran & Stockton, 1980). Feedback that describes specific behavior is rated as more effective than interpretive or mixed feedback. Negative feedback is taken better and given more credibility if given after positive feedback and is then followed by more positive feedback. You don't want to give feedback on too many different areas at one time, it can be overwhelming.

When giving feedback describe your observations of the specific behavior, don't critique the person's attitude or personality. It is important that you express your feelings, not judgements. Sharp negative criticisms and judgements tend to put players on the defensive and arouse resentment. Communicate things that are helpful not harmful - ask yourself, "Is what I'm saying significant to the team?"

Feedback is best when given during the act (concurrent feedback) or right after the completion (terminal) of a task. It is recommended that you use the ratio of 2:1 when giving feedback and constructive criticism - this goes hand-in-hand with the sandwich technique mentioned earlier. Communicate the process, not just the solution - communicate what you want done, not what you want avoided. Many times the thing you want avoided most of all comes to fruition due to the coach telling the player "not" to do that.

The feedback needs to be timely, informative and brief. There is no need for excessive verbiage. Deal in specifics and stay focused on this issue, don't bring up the past unless it has direct relevance. It is also important that you make only justified statement. That is, provide backup for what you are saying. Showing statistics is a good way of doing this. They provide a neutral basis for a discussion on ways to improve. You always need to be ready to explain unclear messages and answer questions.

It's is also important to respond to both correct and incorrect execution. If you speak to them only when mistakes are made it can affect their self-confidence and they will shy away from you. Also, praise the slightest improvement in a skill that a player is learning or having trouble with. This will provide an atmosphere where the athletes will welcome feedback and respond positively to it.

When receiving feedback it's vital that you don't interrupt and don't react immediately. Keep an open mind, seek further clarification, and keep things in perspective. Try to get all the information first, when we lack some of the information we tend to fill in the blanks with negative information that we have created. Remember, you have 2 ears and one mouth, use them accordingly.

For communication to be effective you not only have to listen and absorb what is being said, but you also have to retain the information and/or feedback. You need to store it in your memory bank, not let it go in one ear and out the other. You may need to refer back to what you were told at an earlier date. Or, the information may be more applicable in a situation later on down the road.

Effective communication is the life-line for success in all aspects of your life (Brennan). During the 1996 Summer Olympics, AT&T had a commercial saying, "Because when people communicate, there's no limit to what they can do." This statement sums it up perfectly! There must be a good rapport for there to be successful communication, this means you must feel comfortable going to your coaches and teammates when there is something on your mind, and everyone must constantly be aware of what it means to be a good communicator - being able to say the right thing, at the right time, in the right way. This encompasses being a good listener, good problem solver, and good at giving and receiving feedback - all of the things that were talked about in this chapter.

Winning the Mental Way. Copyright © 1999 by Karlene Sugarman. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

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