Go beyond “Great job!”: Make your praise praise-worthy

July is all about esports coaching! Read on for some tips to help your players play at their best.

You’re watching your team compete. A late-game fight breaks out and your players perfectly focus target after target, leading to a clean ace that ends in a victory. As you meet up with your players, you shout, “Great job!” and give them each a high five.

What if I told you your praise wasn’t enough? That it was missing something vital?

As coaches and managers, we are constantly given opportunities to praise our players for what they do right. HOW we praise is essential for our players’ success.

In fact, it has been shown that praising in a specific way can build trust, show we are authentically interested, and enable our players to increase their future success.

How we usually praise

I’ve reflected on my time coaching lacrosse and realized that I was sending a strange message to my players about success and failure. If a player was doing everything right and succeeding on the field, I’d often tell him things like, “Great job!,” “Nice play!,” “Keep it up!,” or give him a high-five. If a player was struggling, or got beat on a defensive match-up, I’d say something like, “Make sure you keep your body angled to their weak side and drive at their hips to push them into a low-percentage shot.”

If you look at my feedback, I was demonstrating two things:

  • There was nothing to be learned from success.
  • You could learn a lot from failing.

Learning from a failure is a good thing. Thinking that you cannot learn from success, though, is problematic. By simply adding as little as one sentence to your praise, you can teach your players how to replicate success.

How to make our praise better

Example: Your team solidifies the first dragon of the game.

Ineffective praise: Great job on that dragon!

Effective praise: Great job on that dragon. The ward coverage you set-up beforehand made it easy to take the dragon risk-free. It was also great how bot lane rotated up immediately.

By pointing out the behavior that led to the success, you demonstrate that you know the effort that led to the positive outcome. Additionally, your players learn exactly what to do to succeed again. By simply adding an extra sentence or two, your players walk away knowing how to replicate what they did right. You also show them that you were truly watching.

At this point you might be thinking a good coach needs to invest in a serious set of pom-poms. That’s not at all the case! When you find something you’d already be praising, add an extra sentence to give your feedback more power.

Next time you review your teams’ games, try this:

  • Name 3 things the team could improve.
  • Add a sentence to each describing HOW it could be improved.
  • Name 3 things the team should continue doing
  • Add a sentence to each describing what actions led to the success.
  • Throw in a high-five … who doesn’t love high-fives?

Go make your praise praise-worthy!


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