If you’ve been keeping up with my blog posts, you’ll remember that I already mentioned this concept alongside Autonomy. They go together like (insert song lyrics from Grease). The kids won’t understand that joke but at least I can count on some of the parents for a good laugh! BioFeedback also coincides with proprioception training. Proprioception, often referred to as body-awareness, is the “perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body.” We often see athletes that have good proprioception, but don’t know or understand that they even possess it. Have you ever asked an athlete “How did you do that” and he or she finds themselves unable to really answer that? It’s for two reasons, outcome-based learning and poor biofeedback practices.
Outcome-based learning is quite prevalent in sport and it can ruin athlete development. But it’s understandable; no one WANTS bad outcomes. I don’t go into my games hoping to lose or pass poorly so please don’t misunderstand my perspective as wanting athletes to have poor outcomes. Outcome-based learning places the emphasis of skill on the end goal; “how many kills, aces, digs, blocks, or assists did you get?” But it can hinder proper athlete development because poor mechanics and habits can still create good outcomes. For example, an athlete that attacks a ball but mis-hits, can still score a point. Athletes in this case tend to have a poor understanding of how their body is working and what it is doing. (I’ll dive deeper into this topic on another blog.)
Poor biofeedback practices just means that athletes haven’t spent time listening, questioning, and understanding their body. Luckily, there are a couple of ways to easily combat this. The easiest way to implement biofeedback into practices is to start by asking the athlete for awareness. Athlete makes a mistake; “Why do you think that happened? / How did that feel?” Even when an athlete has a good outcome but utilized poor mechanics, as a coach, I’m asking them to evaluate and verbalize something. Even when an athlete has a prefect outcome and PERFECT MECHANICS, I’m asking them to evaluate and verbalize something because then they memorize that form and stick to it! It’s important to note that there are no wrong answers here. When you ask an athlete to describe how something felt for them, you do not get to gatekeep those feelings. If an athlete tells me they had perfect spacing on his dig, when (on recorded video) his platform is AIMED AT THE GROUND, I do not tell them they are wrong. (Yes, this has happened and thank goodness we had video so he could watch that.) Instead, you can recreate the instance and have the athlete evaluate themselves on the skill more or you could keep asking them about how they feel and help them understand their mechanics entirely (hopefully leading them to the point of error). I also use biofeedback drills and they are always hilarious. Athletes tend to get a good laugh out of them. The first I use is freeball passing but on contact, the athlete must close his eyes and tell me about the ball - spin, distance, height, location, etc. This forces the athlete to think about his body position and contact then we can affirm if anything he said was correct. Another is partner shuffling. A partner goes through a series of shuffles and tasks with his eyes close while the other guides them.
Feel free to send me any questions you have about this topic! And I attached a research article about biofeedback in sport.