The research that has been done over the past couple of decades into how we acquire and develop skill has now shown us that, apart from practise itself, it is the quality of feedback that we provide to the learner that is the single most important factor in determining the extent and rate of tactical and technical skill development.

Our role as coaches then is to ensure that the feedback that we are providing is as effective as we can make it and is based on a complete and accurate picture of performance.

But that is the where the problem lies – our ability to observe performance is crucial, but there are a number of factors that limit our ability to do this. While recognising that the human brain is a remarkable machine, our capacity to process and accurately store all of the information that we need to see and understand during a game or performance is still relatively limited. A team sport example of this would be watching an attack unfold. From a coaching perspective, we need to focus our attention on viewing and analysing that part of the action. However, we may also want and need to see how our defence is reorganising at that point in time.

Other factors have also been shown to impact considerably on our interpretation of a performance;

• The passage of time between the performance and the opportunity to feed back to our athletes

• Talking to others can influence and change our initial perceptions

• The fact that our pre-conceived ideas relating to the abilities and limitations of our athletes impacts on our ability to objectively observe performance

• The impact of the ‘Highlighting’ tendency that we regularly exhibit. This relates to, not surprisingly, the fact that we tend to remember those moments in the performance that are memorable (e.g. the great save by our goalkeeper, or the last-gasp block by the defender). However, from a coaching performance we probably want to remember and understand clearly the piece of action that led to the save or tackle having to be made.

As a result the limitations that impact on our ability to effectively observe performance, we therefore often base our feedback to our athletes on an incomplete and inaccurate picture of performance. The problem here does not lie in our lack of knowledge/experience of our sport or our ability to interpret what we are seeing, but rather in the limitations that we as humans have in our ability to process and accurately store the large amount of important information in an objective way.

Over the past 30 years or so the ability to use video to fill in some of these missing pieces has proven invaluable to coaches. Advances in computer and video technology, and the development of powerful analysis software tools like our Focus solutions, have now brought us to a position where our ‘picture’ of performance is complete and is accurate. The ability to instantly access and interactively view any aspect of performance that we are interested in is invaluable to coaches.

Our understanding of performance is therefore greatly enhanced - and as a result both the quality of the coaching decisions that we make and the crucial feedback that we provide to our athletes significantly improved. It is based on information we can trust. Given the importance of feedback we believe that analysis technology can enhance the quality of any coaching programme.

Check out the next generation of analysis technology with our Focus X2i app for the iPad. Combining powerful analysis capability with the flexibility and portability of the iPad technology.

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