The importance of self-reflection cannot be overstated. Observing ourselves in order to learn and improve is a key part of development — whether we’re a player or a coach. So what does it mean to self-reflect? And how can we create coaching environments that promote independent thought and learning? Below, we consider the fundamental components of self-reflection, and how we can facilitate self-reflection within our coaching environments to support our players’ development.

In This Article

What Does Reflection Mean?

According to PDP Co-Founder Dave Wright, reflection is the process of constantly observing and considering our experiences, actions, feelings, and responses, in order to analyse and then learn from them. “In simple terms, we do this by asking ourselves questions about what we did, how we did it, and what we learned from doing it,” Wright explains.

As coaches, it’s vital that we not only reflect on our own performance, but that we encourage self-reflection within our teams. “In a football context, it’s important to remember that young players are immersed in an experience,” says Wright. “So let them reach that state of flow, then perhaps encourage reflection with clever questions afterwards.

“From a coaching perspective, those questions are a key part of facilitating self-reflection. And for players, that encouragement to think about how they’re doing, how they’ve played on a given day, and what ‘good’ looks like can be a really powerful developmental tool.”

Understanding How Different People Reflect

It’s important to remember that everybody reflects differently; some individuals will enjoy reflecting on themselves while others will not; some will be more honest, or even overcritical, in their appraisals, while others might judge themselves more favourably. We must account for every type of individual and support each of them accordingly.

“You see a lot of perfectionism these days,” says Wright. “But when we notice those tendencies, we have to manage them carefully — because while we don’t want players being too harsh on themselves, we also need to have honest conversations.

“Some players disengage from this kind of thing, but it’s vital that we maintain that honesty. We need to encourage players to be determined, to develop a learner’s mindset, to want to train and improve.

“These are great attributes, and they’re underpinned by self-reflection.”

Supporting Players with Self-Reflection

So how can we support our players with self-reflection? “Just giving each player a match or training diary, where they can write things down and reflect on their goals, can be incredibly beneficial,” says Wright. “The informal aspect is really important; self-reflection doesn’t have to be confined to formal reviews and the setting of targets. The ongoing nature of the process is key.”

Finally, Wright reminds coaches not to fixate upon self-reflection at the cost of enjoyment: “Kids need to be engaged in the learning process, but it’s even more important that they’re enjoying their sport. We don’t want them to become bogged down in report cards or social comparisons. 

“Remember: this is still football; it’s meant to be fun.”

The Importance of Self-Reflection: The Key Points

  • Self-reflection means observing and considering our actions with a view to analysing and learning from them.
  • As coaches, we must reflect on our own actions, but also encourage self-reflection in our players.
  • It’s vital that we understand how different individuals reflect, and then adapt our approach to support them.
  • While self-reflection is crucial, it’s even more important that we help kids to enjoy playing football and stay engaged in the game.

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