How To See And Fix Errors As A Coach

Oklahoma City's Carmelo Anthony (7) and coach Billy Donovan talk during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017. The Thunder won 108-91. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Good tennis coaches recognize that athletes make two types of errors: learning errors and performance errors. Learning errors are ones that occur because athletes don t know how to perform a skill; that is, they have not yet developed the correct motor pattern in the brain to perform the skill. Performance errors are made not because athletes don’t know how to execute the skill, but because they have made a mistake in executing what they do know. There is no easy way to know whether a player is making a learning or performance error, and
part of the art of coaching is being able to sort out which is which.

The process of helping your athletes correct errors begins with observing and evaluating their performances to determine whether the mistakes are
learning or performance errors. Carefully watch your athletes to see if they routinely make the errors in both practice and match settings, or if the errors tend to occur only in match settings. If the latter is the case, then your athletes are making performance errors. For performance errors, you need to look for the reasons your athletes are not performing as well as they can. Perhaps they are nervous, or they get distracted by the match setting. If the mistakes are learning errors, then you need to help them learn the skill, which is the
focus of this section.

When correcting learning errors, there is no substitute for knowing skills well. The better “you understand a skill-not only how to perform it correctly but also what causes learning errors—the more helpful you will be in correcting players’ mistakes.

One of the most common coaching mistakes is to provide inaccurate feedback and advice on how to correct errors. Don’t rush into error correction; wrong feedback or poor advice will hurt the learning process more than no feedback or advice at all. If you are uncertain about the cause of the problem or how to correct it, continue to observe and analyze until you are more certain. As a rule, you should see the error repeated several times before at to correct it.