Motion correction – what do coaches need to consider?

In order for athletes to make progress on a motor level, besides the exercise itself, the feedback of action and learning results is especially important. Against this background, coaches should know what, when and in what form feedback should be given to athletes for them to develop their performance optimally.

Movement assessment

One of the tasks of a coach is to improve the movement of his/her athletes. For this purpose she/he has to judge the performed movement. Here she/he faces two limitations of focus. On the one hand, the area of greatest visual acuity lies within 2 degrees, which is approximately the size of a thumbnail when the arm is extended. On the other hand there is saccadic supression. It describes the perceptual suppression between two gaze fixations and is, so to speak, the “image stabilizer” of our eyes. If the coach observes the athlete, she/he only sees what one thinks to see in a period of 20-200 ms. In order to obtain a comprehensive idea of the quality of the movement despite these focus restrictions, the trainer must choose the best possible observation position and define a look or observation strategy in advance.

A movement can be considered under various qualitative and quantitative aspects. Depending on the aspects chosen and their mutual interaction, they can influence performance. As practice shows, as a trainer it is advisable to decide in advance on a few observation points. A checklist with the functional aspects of the movement can possibly provide support during the observation. The analysis of the movement then focuses on identifying the main and subsequent errors. Here the relevance of the sport specific movement knowledge of the coaches becomes apparent. The main errors in particular must be looked at repeatedly. The expectation of errors should also be reflected upon and questioned. If a correction is considered necessary, the coaches should plan an intervention.

Error feedback from a scientific point of view

A glance at the literature shows that various research efforts are focused on feedback and its influence on performance. Magill (2007), for example, divided feedback into task-intrinsic and augmented one (see figure below [1]). The former refers to what the athlete himself perceives from the movement, be it visual, acoustic or tactile. This sensory feedback is limited with regard to the perception of a movement. The augmented feedback is given from outside (e.g. via the coach). It describes what the athlete does not perceive himself.

Let’s illustrate this with an example: A swimmer does not see how she/he executes the arm pull over water. A video or the verbal description of the trainer can complement the sensory perception. With this mix, the swimmer can over time increasingly differentiate her/his initially inaccurate kinesthetic perception and create connections between this information and a cognitively representative idea of movement. Once this connection is solidified, an intuitive correction towards a clean execution of movement takes place.

Checklist for coaches for targeted movement correction 

Trainers should pay attention to the following points:

  • Provide precise feedback: the more precise the feedback is, the better it can be received and assessed by the athlete. However, the level of detail should only be broad enough for the athletes to be able to relate to it.
  • Give correct feedback: athletes adapt very quickly to feedback. In order to develop them further, it is important to ask yourself in the role of the coach whether you are still able to give feedback according to their level.
  • Do not correct during movement: If athletes receive information during movement, their immediate performance is higher, but a drastic turn from appropriation to retention is evident. The following findings from a corresponding study show this effect, which is often misinterpreted in practice, particularly impressively [2].
  • Ask for self-assessment: The feedback from the athletes helps coaches to respond to them and initiate a suitable correction.
  • Summarize feedback: Several correction decisions are given at once instead of giving back each one individually. 
  • Promoting self-correction mechanisms: For example, if the coach can point out which aspects of the exercise are important, the athlete can focus on them and monitor the movement more effectively.
  • Explain video feedback: If a positive internal reference value is to be established, there are two possibilities: the athlete is shown a video with correct movement execution or a video with poor movement execution is commented on by the coach. Pure video watching shows little learning effect, as mistakes are repeated.

Motion corrections should be an integral part of training planning. If the feedback on motion takes place regularly and is based on trust between coach and athlete, it increases the learning success of the athletes, which strengthens their performance.

AZUM helps coaches to optimise athletes’ motion patterns.

With AZUM, coaches can plan motion correction sessions easily and purposefully. The clou? Coaches can upload their own videos via the platform, in which they can demonstrate the correct execution of an exercise to their athletes. Athletes, for their part, have the possibility of playing the videos when they are in the planned session. After the training, they can use the comment function to tell the coaches quickly and conveniently how the exercise felt and how successful they were in performing it. This gives coaches a more comprehensive understanding of the current condition of the athletes and where they can take action in the short, medium and long term to improve performance sustainably. 

Would you like to learn more about how the unique planning, monitoring and analysis software can support you as a coach? Then book an appointment for a live demo or test AZUM for free.

[1] Magill, R.A. & Anderson, D. (2007). Motor learning and control. Concepts and applications (10. Aufl.). New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

[2] Armstrong, T.R. (1970). Feedback and perceptual motor skill learning: a review of information feedback and manual guidance techniques. Ann Arbor: Human Performance. Zit. n. Schmidt, R. A. & Lee, T. D. (1999). Motor control and learning: A behavioral emphasis (3. Aufl.). Champaign: Human Kinetics.