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The importance of Driver Feedback

Driver Feedback is essential to get right if you want to see improvements and build confidence.

Driver Feedback: Alex Zanardi Go KartThroughout this post, we want to take a look at the subject of driver feedback, both from the driver and given to the driver as this is an area little understood for its importance, good feedback is also the way in which you are likely to create more trust and confidence between the relevant people involved with a driver and the driver him or herself.

Post race driver feedback is essential to get right if you want to see improvements and build confidence, it really doesn’t matter whether it is testing, practice, qualifying,  race or other but when the driver comes back in from a session the first 5 to 10 minutes are crucial for providing feedback and gathering information, there are a few exceptions to this though and they are mainly for the younger children as they may need some time to reflect and make sense of things for themselves before they are able to provide any form of adequate feedback, some are able to but on the whole with the younger children you are more often than not better to provide them with your feedback and give them some time before quizzing.

One of the easiest things in the world to do is to find fault, it seems to be human nature that we criticize, you only have to stand in the collecting area when the karts come in from a session and listen, there will be someone criticizing a driver for something, often times something trivial as well, sometimes it can be justified, but what we want to get into here is the way it is done and when.

The first thing I want you to think about is how you yourself feel when someone criticizes you for anything, some people get defensive and find reason to have a go back in order to deflect the criticism, some feel threatened and frightened, some get angry, some want to shrivel up and go hide, some become embarrassed, the responses are so varied, notice though that nobody ever welcomes criticism with open arms and a smile on their face because they might learn something, virtually everyone will have some form of negative response or reaction to being criticized.

So how do we give and receive feedback where driver, mechanics and coaches can gather useful information without confrontation or anyone left feeling bad? Well it’s actually very simple and I have a formula for this, for anyone who has driving experience of at least 18 months, is older than 10 and is able to verbalize accurately what the kart did in the session then the first thing you do is ask them what they feel the kart did, what they might want to change, also feedback on any changes that were made for that session, then just let them speak without interruption. In the case of youngsters and the less experienced you provide the feedback first and give them little hints about what you saw the kart perform like.

So when the information about the kart has been gathered for the older more experienced, you then give them feedback on what they did that was good, what they have improved upon, if they didn’t get all of their lines right but did get some right you focus on the praise of what they did get right. Now, here is the important bit, where the driver was struggling, or with areas of the track they made mistakes, or where their race craft was less than perfect you first of all ask them what they think they could improve on, let them talk without interruption or correction. Once you have that information you can then give your feedback, but, when you do this keep in the back of your mind that what you are doing is giving them information on what it is they could focus on improving because you know that in time they will actually master it, put your information across in such a way that you are being nice to them and helpful, after all we want their racing to be enjoyable, and let’s face it we always do things well and with enthusiasm when we enjoy what we are doing and avoid doing things that we don’t enjoy, we certainly never have enthusiasm if we are forced to do something, especially when we get shouted at or heavily criticized.

Sometimes there may be people around such as other drivers, mechanics, coaches and like that we would rather not have overhear what we are teaching the driver, in these circumstances you just have to wait until or create a situation where this can be done without giving anything away to anyone else.

Here is an example of a critical driver feedback “I can’t believe you keep on messing up that chicane, how many times do I have to show you, I mean, what do you think when you are out there, useless, I spend all this money and you can’t even follow a simple instruction” That is an actual feedback I overheard! What would have been far more constructive would have been to say something more along the lines of “an area for improvement would be the chicane, if you turn in later you can hit the apex at that point we talked about”…..so on and so on, that will leave the driver thinking about what they want to do, it will eliminate the pressure and anxiety of making mistakes and being punished for it by way of criticism.

What happens to anyone and especially with children is that the more criticism they receive the more they shut down, the less they hear, the more tense they become, tension when driving causes them to be rigid and the least little mistake they make causes them to be distracted with thoughts of trouble or criticism when they come off the track at the end of a race or session. So getting frustrated with a driver and placing massive pressures on them can have the opposite effect of the one you actually want.

Rarely there are exceptions to this, where a child has been brought up all their lives receiving pressure and being heavily criticized it becomes the norm, they connect the criticism with receiving attention and for a child any attention is better than no attention, and so this particular child will only perform well when being shouted at, the child then learns that shouting and being angry is the way we communicate to put across the point.

I say that feedback is critical in the first 5 to 10 minutes because everything is fresh in the mind and whilst the brain is assessing the session and filing stuff away in its archives of memory in that period when they have just finished the session you are able to influence the way the thought or memory is perceived, therefore influencing confidence and self belief.

Sometimes we do have to be firm and put a point across, but again there is a right way to do this and a wrong way. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel frustrated and you just know you are going to be critical it is better to take a breath first and think about what you need to say and how you are going to say it, if you just know that won’t work then it is better to say nothing of what has got you all bothered and wait until you feel you can calmly discuss it and end up with a constructive outcome.

source: 9th January 2015 KartingMagazine.com


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