For the past couple of months my evenings and weekends have been devoted to wrestling. This is a new sport for me, but one my family is enjoying together as we watch and encourage my 8 year-old in a sport that he has found to love.
We have now been to 6 tournaments with the opportunity to watch him improve each time with feedback and guided practice from his coaches. Whether it is a practice or a tournament I have found that his coaches are quick to give feedback in a positive way that is specific enough to tell him what he needs to do differently. In addition to the verbal feedback they follow the Optimal Learning Model of “I do, we do, we do, you do” by modeling the move, then physically moving their body to practice it and then watching it as they practice the move with a partner while continuing to provide feedback.
While at tournaments I have been saddened to see how some coaches/parents respond to their wrestlers in a way that is certainly not helpful feedback. I’ve heard comments such as, “You should have done better than that!” “I can’t believe you didn’t cradle him!” or “You let him pin you!” I have also seen some of these wrestlers a few times now at different tournaments and see the difference in their progress compared to others. Those that are given positive, encouraging feedback with specific ways to improve seem to improve each time and enjoy the sport whether they win or lose. Others that have been given hard feedback only seem happy when they win and are practically devastated when they lose. I can only predict that they won’t make it long in the sport.
I can’t help, but make this wrestling connection to what I have learned from the book Mindset by Carol Dweck and the idea of having a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. I am also currently reading Opening Minds by Peter Johnston. Johnston talks about “yet” as a key word to help keep children from having a fixed mindset, that we want them to say, “I’m not good at this yet” and take steps to help them change that. As I think about giving feedback in the school setting and as a parent, one quote from Johnston that sticks with me the most is:
“How we give children feedback is probably the most difficult for us to change, but it is probably the point of most leverage.”