Thursday, 23 May 2024

A Revolution in Feedback: Maximizing Skill Development

Imagine improving your golf swing by simply focusing on the movement of your arms instead of fixating on the club. Sounds counterintuitive, right? But a 2007 study revealed that this shift in attention actually increased shot accuracy in both beginners and experts. This intriguing finding highlights the power of feedback in sports coaching.

At, we believe that effective feedback is crucial for enhancing an athlete’s skill set. In this article, we’ll explore the impact of different types of feedback and how they can shape an athlete’s problem-solving abilities. Get ready to revolutionize your coaching techniques and unlock your players’ full potential.

Empowering Athletes to Solve Problems

One of the key aspects of impactful coaching is guiding athletes to discover solutions on their own. Rather than simply telling them what to do, we encourage a Socratic approach—asking thought-provoking questions and facilitating the exploration of answers. This method fosters independence and problem-solving skills, empowering athletes to handle novel situations with confidence.

As I started implementing this approach, I noticed a remarkable transformation in my players. They became more self-reliant during competitions, and their ability to recall my stories and apply the lessons improved significantly. This shift in coaching style aligns with research findings and demonstrates the value of nurturing athletes’ problem-solving capabilities.

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The Importance of Individual Practice

In team sports, a coach’s attention during practice is often divided among multiple players. With limited time for personalized feedback, athletes must develop their skills independently during the majority of practice sessions. This is where true athletic excellence is cultivated—not through constant observation but through focused self-directed practice.

Consider this: during a two-hour practice session with 12 players, each player receives an average of just 10 minutes of individual attention. The remaining 110 minutes provide valuable opportunities for athletes to hone their skills on their own. This concept, highlighted by BJ Leroy in his IMPACT course, emphasizes the significance of self-directed practice in athletic development.

Shifting the Focus of Feedback

Now, let’s delve into the core of our coaching philosophy—external focus of attention. Extensive research, including Dr. Gabriele Wulf’s groundbreaking work, supports the superior effectiveness of an external focus in skill learning. When athletes concentrate on the effects of their movements rather than internal body sensations, they perform better and retain the skill more effectively.

Instead of instructing athletes to focus on specific body parts or movements, we encourage coaches to adopt external feedback phrases. By directing attention to the desired outcome rather than the mechanics of the movement, athletes can tap into their innate abilities and achieve optimal performance. This approach has yielded remarkable results across various sports, from swimming and weightlifting to golf and skiing.

Embracing New Feedback Language

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To facilitate this shift in coaching, we need to reconsider the language we use. Metaphors that don’t rely on body parts can effectively communicate external focus. For instance, instead of saying, “Keep your elbow up” when teaching spiking in volleyball, we can encourage athletes to “swing faster at the ball.” By removing explicit references to body parts, we promote an external attention to movement.

In our coaching journey, we strive to minimize the use of unnecessary words and focus on the most essential aspects of skill development. We challenge ourselves to ask thought-provoking questions and encourage athletes to find their own solutions. This empowers them to take ownership of their learning process and drives long-term improvement.


Q: Why is external focus of attention more effective than internal focus for skill learning?
A: Research shows that directing attention to the effects of movement, rather than internal body sensations, enhances performance and retention of skills. By embracing an external focus, athletes tap into their natural abilities and achieve better results.

Q: How can coaches incorporate external feedback phrases effectively?
A: Coaches can replace internal-focused instruction with external-focused phrases that direct attention to the desired outcome rather than specific body movements. By guiding athletes to focus on the effects of their actions, coaches empower them to perform at their best.


In this article, we’ve explored the transformative power of feedback in sports coaching. By shifting the focus from internal sensations to external outcomes, we can unlock athletes’ potential and enhance their skill development. Embracing a Socratic coaching style and empowering athletes to solve problems on their own fosters independence and long-term improvement. Let’s revolutionize our coaching techniques and maximize every player’s learning journey.

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For more expert insights and guidance on sports coaching, visit today.

*[IMPACT]: Integrated Method of Performance and Coaching Techniques