After a competition, players (and coaches) have difficulty assessing their performances.
- How did they do?
- Did they do their best?
- Can they do better?
In order to improve, athletes need to accurately understand how they performed – without letting the outcome get in the way.
A mentally mature athlete can usually separate the outcome from their evaluation and identify areas of improvement. Immature athletes may be blinded by the result and unable to seriously better themselves. Athletes should focus on their performance, not the outcome.
Following a tough competition, athletes may experience the following feelings:
Each situation requires different coaching points.
Good Performance/Good Outcome
The coach should congratulate the athlete for a successful performance. Not only did they reach John Wooden’s definition of success (“Success is the peace of minds that comes from the self-satisfaction of knowing you did your best to be the best you are capable of becoming.”) but they won the game. Since the athlete is performing well, there is not so much of a danger of over-confidence but coaches should be mindful and prepare for future performances in a matter of fact way.
Good Performance/Bad Outcome
Athletes may look at this situation in two different ways. The experience athlete may have a positive outlook and understand that they did well and deserved better. Coaches should focus on what was done well and remind athletes to keep executing well. The next week of practices could include work on skills or systems that contributed to the negative outcome.
Some athletes may feel frustrated and tempted to give up. They may not understand that by practicing the correct fundamentals or good team play that they will win most of the time and want to change their training methods. Coaches should calm the athlete down and focus on specific areas for improvement. Coaching techniques such as a story of an athlete in a similar situation or a motivational speech may be inspiring.
Bad Performance/Good Outcome
A possible danger area for some athletes as some may focus entirely on the scoreboard. They may not understand that the opposition was weak and that they still need to improve before the year-end championships. These athletes may hold a false sense of confidence and ignore key information about their weaknesses. Coaches should be subtle about motivating athletes to improve. A dramatic event, like tearing a strip of the athlete in practice might backfire because they don’t believe the coach is right. The athlete-coach relationship will prove useful as the coach shows the athlete how to better evaluate themselves and consistently provides little tips for gradual improvement.
Some athletes may feel that they could have done better and the victory provides no solace. The coach should help the athlete to look on the bright side and celebrate the win. The athletes’ feelings about their performance will spur their improvement throughout the next week and the coach should have no trouble running an intense week of practices in order to develop a specific set of skills or systems.
Bad Performance/Bad Outcome
Everyone may feel negative at this time and with good reason. Hopefully it was only a mid-season performance and after some time for recovery, both the coach and the athlete can return to practice and begin building for the playoffs. There should be lots of areas for improvement so planning a schedule with weekly goals will break up the large task into smaller chunks.
It may be that the athlete is so bad that they will be totally outclassed for the rest of the season; the coach should put more emphasis on player development instead of winning and ensure that the athlete comprehends the reasons for this shift. If this occurred at a major competition, the athlete may need serious counseling before returning to training; the coach should be a constant source of encouragement during this time.