The use of different methods of feedback to improve techniques in hockey

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Feedback is an important element in developing a new skill and is defined as “information received by the individual or group either during or after completion of the performance” (Complete A-Z Physical Education Handbook). In order to learn and expand on skills both guidance and feedback are necessary.

Although guidance is associated with feedback there is a clear difference, as feedback is information regarding what we have already completed where as guidance is with reference to the task ahead. There are many categories of feedback that can be used to help the learning of a hockey skill depending upon the environment and condition of the skill taking place.

Positive feedback is a fundamental part of learning as “feedback about a performance should outline what was performed correctly” (advanced PE for EDEXCEL -pg 112) meaning that the superior element of a skill is constantly repeated through using deliberate praise (the athlete now perceiving what part of the skill is correct) whist recurrently developing the elements which need improving. Eventually the whole skill can be performed at a high standard through positively expressing accurate skill performances to the learning athlete.

A hit in hockey consists of a variety of techniques to collectively join the skill together, therefore if the performers’ feet are in the correct position in relation to the ball but their hands require adjustment in order for further development to take place, positive feedback concerning the position of the feet allows continual advances in skill level as the athlete will no longer change that precise aspect of the skill which is given the praise and consequently focuses on the positioning of the hands.

Eventually the athlete will receive positive feedback in all technical aspects of the skill and continue to practice the correct method, significantly improving their hockey performance. Negative feedback is another example of feedback that is “used to inform the athlete as to what was incorrect about the movement. Negative feedback must include information on the action(s) required by the athlete to achieve the correct movement” (Foundations of Sport and Exercise- pg 43).

This alteration is vital to athletes of a high standard who wish to fine-tune their techniques as reaching an elite level in hockey becomes very competitive and therefore refining all skills is fundamental in attaining this stage. Unlike positive feedback where the basic foundation of the techniques to perform a skill are learnt, negative feedback (although on some level can be de-motivating) is greatly superior in focusing on diminutive details throughout the skill in order to improve performance.

Such detail as during a 1v1 attacking situation, to dramatically move your body to the left to indicate a pass left, implementing the defenders action to step across to stop the pass from taking place and then with speed eliminating the defender by taking the ball to the right is a skill in which only negative feedback can achieve.

This is because although the performer is attaining positive feedback through using this skill, negative feedback enables the coach/trainer to work with talented athletes on smaller aspects of the skill in order to make sure that the athlete can achieve precision when faced with all circumstances on a hockey pitch that you have to deal with. “Terminal feedback is when an athlete is provided information before and after the performance” (advanced PE for EDEXCEL -pg 112) It would appear that terminal feedback is of great importance for the learning of individual skills such as hitting, flicking and dragging in hockey.

Research has been quite consistent in revealing that terminal feedback is not only important to the learning process, but, indeed, is a necessary condition for any learning to occur. When performing a push pass in hockey for the first time, information must be gathered before the event in order to adapt certain principles of how to perform the skill, and also after the event, using terminal feedback to correct the mistakes and errors in any components of the skill. Concurrent feedback refers to information that is available during the performance of a task, that is, while a response is being made” (www. coachsci. sdsu. edu). This is where an athlete gathers extrinsic information from a coach watching their skill or intrinsic information where the athlete feels the wrong movements taking place within him/herself. Although under the same name, there is a clear difference between intrinsic terminal feedback and extrinsic terminal feedback when relating back to hockey performances.

When categorizing the top class perform and contrasting these athletes with beginners in the same sport, the advanced performers would develop further with intrinsic terminal feedback while the less experienced players with extrinsic terminal feedback. Purely through experience and practice a trained athlete can sense through movement alone what was correct or flawed concerning the skill just performed.

Untrained athletes however adopt a more extrinsic terminal coaching method as limited practice and training means that they are not yet aware of the movements needing to occur throughout their body in order to bring about a successful outcome in skill level. It would appear that the more elite the athlete the best method by which to accomplish success at all skills would be to gradually transfer extrinsic terminal feedback into intrinsic terminal feedback. However as all hockey skills and ability can be developed no matter how experience a player is, extrinsic terminal feedback is still vital in order to achieve success.

Intrinsic information is also a kind of feedback as it is a response to how the skill felt as it was being performed through the kinaesthetic sense” (advanced PE for EDEXCEL -pg 112). The primary role of intrinsic feedback is that it allows the performer to evaluate a response. “It provides a frame of reference so that errors in response can be detected and attempts made to correct them” (Periodization- Theory and Methodology of Training) It is this discrepancy between the actual response and the desired response that acts as input for the next reaction.

Typically, when a response achieves a desired end the performer attempts to “do the same again. “. Looking at an example in hockey, when a performer hits the ball down the line, flat, accurate and hard leading to a goal, the athlete will then try to replicate the same movements at the next opportunity in order to bring about this high-quality hitting technique again. Extrinsic feedback, also known as augmented feedback appears from outside the performer by which the information is not inherent in the movement itself but through other means such as coaches, teachers, peers etc.

There are two stages of the augmented feedback which provide two diverse foundations of how to improve a certain skill. “Knowledge of performance (KP) is regarding information about the technique and performance” (www. teachpe. com). This can be provided verbally from the coach or visually via video using both positive and negative feedback. KP enables the athlete to establish a kinaesthetic reference for the correct movement, for example, by analyzing an aerial using video technology allows the athlete to experience his/her movements first hand at all different angles.

Also due to rapid development in technology, at present a performer’s movement can be positioned beside actions of another athlete performing the same skill (preferably an elite sportsman/woman) meaning that now comparison can take place between you and that superior athlete. Through using this technique judgment and evaluation are key factors which could help any hockey player develop more rapidly.

“Knowledge of results (KR) is a further category of feedback which uses information which regards the result of the athlete’s performance” (www. teachpe. om), for example how many penalties corners, shots on target or number of penetrations in the D did we execute throughout the 70 minute game. Using this information is significant in hockey especially when complete at national league level, where consistency in play (four times a week) and players (16 registered athletes) is constant. Gathering data from consecutive hockey games and identifying what minute their team appears to let the most goals in throughout the 70 minute block is an example of KR which may become vital in adapting team and individual play due to receiving this feedback.

Consequently a conclusion and solution can be made as to why in a certain 10 minute spell the team appears to experience a dip in concentration etc. The conscious brain, using a collection of learned movements, controls the action when we choose to move. For the movement to progress successfully the athlete requires feedback which then allows the athlete to evaluate the effectiveness of the movement performed.

There are three loops in this feedback process: The Kinaesthetic feedback process which is where “information is fed directly into the spinal cord from the muscles, tendons and joints to give information that can be responded to without conscious control” (www. teachpe. com). The natural sensations which occur during and following a physical performance is known as Kinaesthetic feedback. These sensations arise through kinesthetic stimulation and provide cues about the rate and location of movements.

Although kinesthetic feedback is an important variable in most motor learning theories it is difficult for the teacher or coach to use. It is potentially available through manual manipulation of the performer by the teacher as when the limbs and bodily positions of a performer can be manipulated by the teacher, some form of kinesthetic feedback is produced. The idea, quite simply, is to have the learner experience the “feel” of proper form. This method is most frequently used when first learning hockey as feeling how the action and skill is performed helps the development of each technique, especially hitting.

The coach will stand behind the player and move their arms in conjunction with the performer to indicate the initial movement. Lawther (1968) suggested that this is also a useful technique when instructing aged or handicapped performers. Practices already exist in coaching and teaching skills which can provide the performer with a “feel” for a particular action. This “feel” refers to the kind of kinesthetic feedback which is associated with the final desired level of skill. The method for providing this information feedback has several characteristics:

1. The activity is graded into developmental steps. 2. Each step provides successful execution. 3. Each step more closely approximates the final action. The Exteroceptive feedback which relates to the “outcome of the movement through the athlete’s senses, observation of the outcome by the athlete, observations from the coach and observations via video” (Foundations of Sport and Exercise pg- 44) is also an effective way of learning a skill as it uses extrinsic and intrinsic feedback to complete each technique, meaning all observations conclude into a better overall hockey performance.

Proprioceptive feedback is from “proprioceptors in the muscle and tendons and the balance sensors which provide information on the ‘feel’ of the movement. Athletes can use this feedback to make fine adjustments to the movement” (www. brianmac. domon. co. uk), for example when performing a push pass in hockey, a slight adjustment to the body position could result in a much more powerful and accurate pass.

After researching the use of different methods of feedback to improve techniques in hockey I have observed that which ever variety of feedback is exercised it is extremely important that the feedback given or received is close to the performance to ensure that the athlete can recall the action taking place, analyze their defective technique, therefore being able to make significant changes to the skill. Although I consider each type of feedback to be essential in all skills to a certain degree, negative feedback is the vital aspect to all performers who want to achieve superior performances in their chose sports.

From exploring the facts presented in this research, it is evident that negative feedback can alter a skill or technique much more prominently that positive feedback due to being able to work on specific details within the skill. However, from experience positive feedback is vital for motivational purposes and therefore, especially when beginning sporting activities, in order for the athlete to enjoy and learn a skill successfully positive feedback (even if the technique was not perfect) motivates the learner into producing a victorious outcome in performance.

When looking at an elite or top class performer feedback can and should be much more critical, as not only is the athlete more capable as to dealing with criticism due to experience of their coach, surroundings etc but also alterations in skill level which can only be brought about by negative feedback needs to keep increasing in order to complete at a top-class performance level.

Personally I feel that when participating at lower levels athletes need much more extrinsic feedback in the process of skill learning and techniques than at elite level as advanced level performers are much more conscious of their own movements and rely incessantly on intrinsic feedback.

Since elite athletes contain additional experience through sources such as kinaesthetic, exteroceptive and proprioceptive feedback which are natural sensations occurring throughout the body each time a movement takes place, knowledgeable performers experience development within the body as to programmed information regarding all skills performed, meaning that the athlete is aware of what part of the skill went wrong or what needed to be changed within the movement. This reaction can only be developed through time and experience with constant repeated actions of the same skill.

Less experienced performers however need this feedback to develop further before it is programmed into them by constant extrinsic and intrinsic information. Lower level participants should in addition receive supplementary concurrent feedback when learning a skill rather than terminal feedback as when a skill is being performed for the first time your brain will pick up instant knowledge of how to carry out the skill a further time, therefore eventually due to repeated actions the skill will become a natural process.

If an athlete is not told how the skill was performed inaccurately, and how to correct the mistakes the athlete will then acquire bad habits and find the skill harder to correct later on in life, when the natural process has already occurred. This is because the body will feel the movement taking place under a kinaesthetic process where by the body is acting without conscious control. An example of this would exist in a hockey game when picking up the ball on the move.

If an athlete had learnt to pick up a ball so that it bounced up off the stick every time this particular skill was performed, then as the athlete progressed into higher levels this would cost him/her to loose the ball due to other players becoming more capable to take advantage of their weakness and step up to take the ball off them. This kinaethetic phase would be hard to correct once the skill is programmed into an athlete and therefore if it is not put correct may prevent participation at the top level.

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