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05.21.13Annals of Coaching: Chris Hayden Models Critical Feedback that Motivates and Inspires (Video)

vlcsnap-2013-05-21-13h48m13s15In my spare time this year I’ve been working on developing a set of teaching videos of soccer coaches, part of it as a result of my work with the US Soccer Federation, where the coaches I’ve worked with–Dave Chesler and Tony Lepore especially–have blown me away with their attentiveness to and insight about the craft of teaching on the soccer field.  They see making coaches better teachers as having a key role in improving national player development.  Dave helped me get access to video of elite coaches from some of the top Development Academies in the country and I wanted to share the first of several great clips.

This one is of Chris Hayden, Director of Coaching at FC Dallas youth academy.  I cut it to show how effectively he uses positive framing to make crticial feedback–which can often feel negative but which is a necessity on the training ground–motivating and even inspiring. I’ve rarely seen such a strong example so I put together a tracker to go along with the video, analyzing the language Chris uses and why I think it’s so effective.

As a reminder, in case you’re not familar with Teach Like a Champion, there are six elements of Positive Framing:

  • Live in the Now–Describe the solution, the next step on the path to excellence, as precisely and quickly as possible without tension or negativeity in tone.
  • Assume the Best–Give students credit for what they’ve done so far and assume the best of their efforts unless youhave reason to do otherwise.
  • Plausible Anonymity–If you have to describe publicly what a studnet did wrong hold them accountable without making their identity public when possible.
  • Challenge–Make critical feedback a challenge… ie show me what you can do.  Kids love to exceed what they beleive you think they can accomplish.
  • Talk Aspiartions–Remind kids of where they’re going; frame your feedback in terms of those things.  (e.g. when you get to the next level that ball will have to be on the ground so let’s start putting it there now.)
  • Narrate the Positive–Draw students’ attention tothe normalcy of strong effort and accomplishment around them.

You’ll see textbook example of all of those in this clip of Chris at work with his U13s.

Here’s my own log of his Positive Framing technique.  Hope you’ll add some insights.


Positive Framing in Chris Hayden’s Training Session


What Chris Says


:00-:20 “How quickly can we get rid of it?”“1-2! 1-2, quick.”“Good. See if you can have yourself half turned and playing quickly.”


“Even quicker, Julian.”

  • “How quickly can we get rid of it?” turns the correction-we need to be quicker-into a challenge:  Let’s see how fast we can do it.  It’s judgment free; not that you were doing it poorly but that our goal is to do it as well as we can.
  • Then Chris describes the solution—“1-2. 1-2!” is an example of Live in the Now describing the solution—no the problem-as simply directly and non-judgmentally as possible. His “1-2” also demonstrates how fast he wants the receive-pass sequence done, thus setting a tangible goal for his players: “this fast!”  Again it’s kind of a challenge— a ‘see if you can do it.’ And it’s focused on the goal.
  • Of course “See if you can have yourself half turned and playing quickly” is another challenge, a great way to focus the conversation on trying to be as good as you can be rather than judging where you are right now.
  • Saying, “Even quicker, Julian” again offers critical feedback but Assumes the Best by giving Julian credit for what he’s done. It’s pretty quick…  but it’s got to be “even quicker.”


So, four pieces of constructive (i.e. critical) feedback in 20 seconds, but the tone is aspirational and positive all the while.

:27-:46 “A little sharper with your movement, David.”“David, see if you can sharpen up your movement.  Quicker!”

“Tell him, tell him. It’s late Martin. Tell him.  Tell him, now! Excellent.”

  • Another challenge, this time to David, but also some elements of assume the best.  Compare “A little sharper with your movement, David” to “I want to see sharp movement, David.”  Chris’s statement implies that he sees some sharpness; he just wants to see more and knows that David can give more.  But there’s credit for what’s been done.   He also shrinks the goal to make it seem manageable.  Telling David that he needs it “a little sharper” makes it seem like something David can quite plausibly achieve, which conceivably motivates him.


  • These examples of Assume the Best and Challenge are different from the ones above though in that they are “tagged” more directly to a specific player as opposed to offered generally to the group.  I like the personal accountability here and the idea that tagged guidance to a specific player makes it clear that Chris is not just idly talking with listening is optional.


  • Nice also that his feedback to Martin, which is a Live in the Now similar to the “1-2” in the first sequence is the most demanding and direct feedback he’s given so far but ends with him giving martin credit for achieving it via the word excellent. Of course he’ll want to protect the power of that word—and his praise generally—by not overusing it.
:48-1:20 “See if we can play a quick combination.  Quick combination.”“Benjy, in your supporting run, make sure you’re facing the next pass. Orient yourself so you face the next pass. It’s easy for you.”

“Accurate, boys, accurate. We’re asking you to find a window… be that good.”



  • “See if we can”…. yet another challenge.


  • “Make sure you’re facing the next pass.” Total focus on the solution not the flawed initial execution and that perfect bit of a bit of Assume the Best “make sure you’re facing…” both socializes players to self-monitor and eliminates any conversation that might start “but I didn’t”… it’s all about the future… just make sure you do.


  • “We’re asking you to find that window [Challenge… and one that applies to everyone, by the way] and then– love this phrase—“Be that good [Talk Aspirations].”



1:30-1:58 “We’re good enough to change the direction, yeah? Good. Change the direction.”“I see some of us doing a great job of really accelerating to try to get to a spot, and others of us are fairly casual in trying to get to a spot.”
  • “Love this very subtle way of reminding players that they earn every step. When we change direction to show we can run the drill both ways it’s because you’ve shows mastery.   But here’s it’s a little bit of a challenge.  “We’re good enough to take it up a notch, right?”  Shows Chris’ faith in the players and makes kids want to prove they can do it.”


  • “Others of us are fairly casual…”  Love the Plausible Anonymity here.   Chris is explicit that some players are not getting it right yet.  He describes in detail, with a visual model what they’re not doing.  But he lets them ask (and answer) the question of which group they’re in.  Likely result: everyone striving to make sure they give their best.  All the while credit where credit is due for excellence… and an opportunity seized to model what that looks like.
2:07- “You guys understand the difference between possession and penetration?   Can you do both? Can you possess the ball and penetrate? A great team can.  And that’s the team we’re going to become.”
  • Love this framing.  What a way to end practice—with a challenge to reach the goal that every player wants—to be great.  Other elements of the message: the little things will get us there,; that’s where the team is going and the greatness we seek is to be a great team.



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