Coach education

11. Providing feedback

“Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement, but this impact can be either positive or negative.” John Hattie

Key messages on feedback

  • In order to give feedback we need to know where the children are at.
  • In order to assess where the children are at we need to know where we are going or what we are trying to achieve.
  1. Coach knows where the children are going > 
  2. Coach assesses child in relation to that >
  3. Coach can give effective feedback

What should feedback be related to?

  • Where am I going? (What are the goals?)
  • How am I going? (What progress is being made toward the goal?)
  • Where to next? (What activities need to be undertaken to make better progress

A useful resource for coaches is downloadable below. It is a worksheet which aims to help the coach consider what level the children are at, and how they may be able to quickly assess needs from the sideline of games. The aim of this worksheet is to help coaches provide better feedback to children:

Coach Assessment and Feedback Worksheet

What is useful feedback?

  • Specific
  • Individual
  • Linked to a clear learning goal
  • In relation to current or recent Problem Statements, or unit as a whole
  • Linked to previous feedback
  • Give example of a role model (peer or professional)
  • Need to believe they can do it

Careful: Giving is not receiving. What you aim to give in feedback is not necessarily what children receive.

Child self-assessment

We could ask children where they think they are at in relation to a series of levels. This would help them assess themselves, and give the coach an idea of where they think they are at. It also helps to clarify the “next steps” for the player and coach. For example, in the Problem Statement of "How to Beat an Opponent by Dribbling", are you a:

  • STOPPER   I can stop the ball when it arrives and get my head up
  • DRIBBLER  I can stop the ball, get head up & dribble into space or at a defender
  • BEATER  I can stop the ball, get my head up, attack and beat a defender

[The picture above gives another example of Levels for Intelligent Defending].

Giving feedback

  • One-to-one during activity
  • Give individual challenges before the game starts ("Ella, I want you to really focus on your weight of pass - make it hard enough to reach your team-mate", "Sam, you need to try to stay on the ball longer - be brave and wait for your team-mates to help you", or: "Danny, what are you going to try to practice in the game?")
  • Remind individual children and group of previous week’s feedback at beginning of next session – to prepare for learning and to pick up from where you left off (linking sessions)
  • Video feedback – using ipads for example

Typically we give feedback at the end of the session, in the de-brief, but this doesn't give children time to act on what we say. It is better to give feedback during the activity in order that children have time to react to it and explore it physically.

Feedback can be on attitude (self-regulation, effort etc) not just technical or tactical performance (THINK: FA 4 Corners: Technical/Tactical, Physical, Social, Psychological).

Children should be provided with feedback which relates to the amount of effort they put into practising, rather than solely focusing on a children’s ability to perform skills successfully. To exemplify this, consider how you would give feedback to the following children:

  • A child who has put in zero effort but can perform very well
  • A child who has put in tons of effort and can now perform very well
  • A child who has put in zero effort and cannot perform well
  • A child who has put in tons of effort but still can't perform well

As a coach, how will we know what level of effort the child has put in? We may be able to tell during the session, but what about the work and learning that they might be doing between sessions. It is good practice to ask children what other football practice they are doing outside of MoF, and whether they have had a chance to practice the skill between sessions (see Learning to Learn section below for more details on this).

Finally, something to consider: Is it knowledge that is missing, or is it more practice? If knowledge is missing, then actually teaching is needed not feedback (or as well as feedback). For example, imagine a child who keeps trying to pass the ball but it keeps getting intercepted as the pass is easily read by a defender. We could give the feedback "you need to disguise your pass", or similar. But we need to be sure that the child understands the feedback, understands why it is relevant and has the skills to disguise a pass. If they don't have these skills, then we need to teach these skills to them (i.e. demonstrate!).

Peer feedback

  • Needs to be in relation to 'Where am I going?' or 'How am I going?'
  • E.g. Pair feedback on each other
  • E.g. Team assess their own or opponents performance or practice and give f/b
  • E.g. Get one game or activity to watch another (what are they doing well?) - this works well when you have one group or pair that really gets the activity and are working well on it

We need to be careful with peer feedback. Often children will not give accurate or effective feedback to each other, so this process needs to be closely managed. The coach should listen in to the discussion (from a distance) and try to guage whether what is happening is actually useful. Effective peer feedback processes may take time, as trust has to develop in order for children to be honest with each other.

It may help to give children a framework within which to give each other feedback. For example, of three main coaching points, 'which one does your partner do best, and which one needs most improvement? What improvement is needed?'

Involving parents

Individual feedback: Aim to talk to one parent each week, talk with child present also, and give clear, specific feedback in relation to session (after session or during game part of session).

Group feedback: During de-brief at end of session (as this is when parents join the group), address parents as well as children.

Example: Coach talks to a parent about a child who was getting rid of the ball early all the time and seemed unconfident to dribble. Asks the parent to count how many times in a game the child took more than 3 touches in a possession, and give this feedback to the child.


Does the praise help the learner in relation to any of the 3 key questions above ("Where am i going?", "How am i going?", "Where to next?")? If so, then praise can be considered feedback.

Praise may be better used for younger and beginner groups. Use praise carefully with older or more able children. There is a strong argument to suggest that praise is unnecessary or can have a negative affect (e.g. to the development of intrinsic motivation) with more advanced or older children. Expert performers may need more negative feedback than positive.

Something to consider: If we are setting the session as a problem to be solved, and if the coach's role is to facilitate this learning journey, and if we embrace creative answers and don't want to be prescriptive in our approach to solutions, then what value is there in praising what the children come up with? If we praise a particular solution, then are we actually saying: "Yes that is the correct answer, and I was leading you there all along"? The process of exploring the problem and working together to solve it does not require praise for the outcomes or solutions that the children come up with. They will know if their solution is correct or not because it will either work or not (and the role of the coach is certainly to help the children examine this success). Praise may be used better to acknowledge the way in which children are working together, for example for a usually quiet child who summons up the courage to offer their opinion. 

Learning to learn

At Ministry of Football, we believe that all children have the potential to grow. The children that you teach may be starting out with different levels of ability, and this may indicate that they have different learning needs and require different challenges. But we do not see current ability as a predictor of future achievement. Rather we believe that the children who are best at learning will be the ones who reach the highest levels.

We can help children become better at learning by helping them realise the effects of their learning efforts. For example, we can use praise that is related to the effort rather than innate talent. ("Well done, you must have really tried hard to learn that!" rather than "Well done, you must be really good at football!"). In this way we help children to see themselves as learners on a journey, rather than a fixed asset with unchangeable talents. Children who see themselves on a learning journey are much more likely to respond well to new challenges, deal with setbacks, and see mistakes as an essential part of getting better.

Feedback need not only be about football skill development, but also about the learners part (efforts, mindset, attitude) in the learning process. 

Measuring feedback

We have developed a straightforward tick sheet to monitor the amount of feedback that the Lead Coach provides to children during a MoF session:

The MoF Coach Individual Intervention (CII) Analysis sheet

The idea of this sheet is to capture all the inteventions between the Lead Coach and an individual child. So it will include a Q&A where an individual child is asked a question or listened to; praise for an individual; a piece of technical help to an individual child; feedback to an individual child. Each of these interventions is logged against the child's name. The Lead Coach can then see how much feedback they are actually giving and to which children. As assistant coach or other trained person should complete the sheet by following the Lead Coach around during the session and noting all individual interventions they provide. The person completing the sheet will need to know all the names of children in the group.

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Mark Carter

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