Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Give Your Athletes a 'Criticism Sandwich'

There are a lot of tell-tale signs of a crappy

One of the most obvious is when coaches stand around
and chat in a group while their athletes are doing
their speed work.

No intsruction or feedback other than the occasional
'Nice Job', 'Swing your arms', 'Lift your knees' or
other generic sayings.

You and I know this happens for two reasons:

1. They are lazy.
2. They don't know how to teach or correct speed to
begin with.

Coaching speed correctly is a skill and it takes
some trial and error to put in place a good system
depending on your situation.

If you have a large group it can get tiring trying
to watch several athletes run, save the
file of their run in your head and then give
feedback while simultaneously doing the same thing
for the next group.

And then the group after that.

On top of that, let's be honest, most kids are a
complete mess. It's going to take some time to get
their technique under control.

And that means you have to keep breaking them down
over and over and over.

If you're not careful, they'll start to get frustrated
and believe they won't be able to pull it together.

And we all have those extra sensitive athletes (high
school girls??) who need to be tip-toed around.

To avoid drama and maintain motivation, I like to give
all of my athletes a 'criticism sandwich'.

(I'd like to take credit for this term, but I can't.)

A criticism sandwich is when you first *praise* your
athlete for something, then deliver the criticism
and then close with praise that also sends them
back to the starting line before they can begin a
long round of over analysis.

It goes a little something like this:

YOU: Hey Courtney, great effort on that one. I could
tell you were really focusing on (weakness you have
been trying to correct) there and it looks like it's
really starting to come together. It's like night
and day compared to how it was at the beginning of
the season.


YOU: Here's the thing. You popped straight up again
and didn't drive your lead arm. Remember, if you want
to run (goal time discussed in goal setting meeting)
you have to be more patient at the start. If you
rush because you're trying to keep up with (team
superstar) then you're never going to get to full
speed. Remember, it's OK to spend a little more
time on the ground at the start, but you have to
drive the lead arm all the way up over your head
so you can get into good position. If you keep
rushing through the first 5 steps, your times aren't
going to drop.

(Remember, only focus on 1 thing at a time. In this
instance, everything stems from driving the lead

COURTNEY: Umm...OK I thought I drove my lead arm.

(This is where we have to neutralize the self doubt
that is coming in hard and fast.)

YOU: Listen, you're doing great. Once we can fix
that one issue, everything else will fall into place
immediately. As long as you keep trying as hard
as you are and focus on that one thing, I'm 100%
confident that you'll get it. You're more than
half way there, so just keep focusing like you have
been and all of a sudden you'll drop a bomb and
never look back.

COURTNEY: Really, do you think so?

YOU: Most definately. Now I want you to go get ready
for the next one and just visualize the perfect
start, with your lead arm coming all the way up. No
chicken wing arms.


With that interaction, you've neutralized the
possibility of a self confidence crash, given
constructive feedback and likely even boosted the
athlete's confidence.

As long as you maintain that procedure with your
athletes, you'll be amazed at how quickly they

The art of coaching is, in large part, a mental game.

Of course, to serve a really great criticism sandwich,
you have to actually know what problems to look for
and how to fix them.

Otherwise, kids will start to see that
you're BS'ing them. I hired an assistant once who
tried to drop the sandwich on some kids who knew
better. He lost all credibility trying to make up
a technical analysis on the spot that made no sense.

And getting credibility back is tough.

If you're not 100% confident that you can serve up
quality criticism sandwiches every time, I'll tell
you exactly what to look for and how to fix all
the problems that I see in athletes.

It's all on Disc 5 of the Complete Speed Training
Program: Pure Speed Training.

Click here to get your copy.

In speed,

Latif Thomas

P.S. Think you can't do it?:

"Wonderful, enlightening information. Recently, I
went to a speed and agility class offered by my
son's local sports club. I had just completed
studying your Complete Speed Training program and
reading several articles in the newsletter. Well,
I was speaking with the coach who was so impressed
with my knowledge that mid way through the class,
I was instructing the kids on mechanics and
exercises. I was invited back to lead the class by
myself and now I've been requested to set up
programs for the entire program. Also, several
parents have approached me about working with
their kids this summer. I guess I now need
information on getting certified and how to run a
summer camp. Thanks!"

Allen Williams
New Milford, CT

Complete Speed Training