In applied sport psychology debriefing is an area which has yet to be examined (Hogg, 2002).  Most research relating to debriefing has focused on performance evaluationwhich has been looked at in more depth (Hogg, 2002). This type of research uses psychometric tests to assess an athletes strengths and weaknesses before, during or after performance (Smith, Norris & Hogg, 2002). Examples of these tests are the Profile of mood state (McNair, Lorr & Droppleman, 1971), recovery stress questionnaire for athletes (Kellmann & Kallus, 2001) and the sport anxiety scale (Smith, Schutz, Smoll & Ptacek, 1995). We shall look at the debriefing process within sport and what is needed for an effective debrief.

Debriefing in sport stems from three main areas: military campaigns, psychological studies and educational settings. It was first used within military settings where its first aim was to provide soldiers with assistance to help them return to action. As well as this it aided psychological recovery and was used to facilitate learning. The second area where debriefing stems from is of a clinical setting. Within this setting it is used to help people recovery after experiencing a traumatic event. In comparison to the military setting, debriefing in a clinical setting does not aim for the participant to learn from the experience. The final area which debriefing stems from is within an educational setting. In education, debriefing is used primarily for learning purposes. Unlike the military and psychological context debriefing in the educational setting is not used for psychological recovery.

Debriefing in sport is used to facilitate learning as well as to aide psychological recovery. If it is conducted effectively debriefing can reduce negative emotions and can increase positive mood states (Hogg, 2002). For a successful debrief an athlete and coach must develop a certain set of skills.

Athletes Skills Coaching Skills
Ability to mentally recall Ability to analyze performance
To acknowledge strengths and weaknesses Willingness to let athletes reflect and recover from performance
To communicate through thoughts and feelings. Ask the right questions
To reflect on aspects of performance Encourage leadership and offer direction
To be mentally self aware Communicate in a non judgmental way

 

In debriefing it must involve a two-way communication that is positive, honest, open and fair. A debrief will depend on many different factors and therefore in this model that we suggest please take them into consideration. We will provide you with six different steps which are all key for a debriefing model proposed by Hogg (2002).

1)   Select the best time and place for debriefing: Debriefing may need to occur straight after competition or may occur the next day. Studies have shown that an early debrief means that there will be less time for the athlete to develop cognitive and behavioral patterns. As well as this an early debrief disrupts coping mechanisms (Mitchell & Everly, 1995). Consider whether the debrief will be private or among team members. Think about whether your athletes want to debrief in front of each other.

2)   Reflect on your performance: after competition the athletes should constructively reflect on their performance. Why didn’t they do well? Why did they perform well? The Coach should also consider what their role was within the performance. Did they have an affect?

3)   Be open to an exchange: if the athletes and coaches are willing to accept and acknowledge the good and not so good aspects of their performance then this will benefit their learning. Decisions can then be made about what should be done next.

4)   Devise strategies: after talking to each other about what needs to improved physically, technically and tactically, the athlete and coach can then devise strategies to effect change. Think about what is actually happening in performance execution and not what is going wrong.  Athletes will not be able to change if they fail to actually acknowledge what they must change. Think carefully about how you will implement these changes.

5)   Set goals: athletes and coaches should set goals which trigger recovery and which motivate the athlete to commit to a higher level of performance within their sport.

6)   Monitor improved performance: remind the athlete of daily goals that are set and of any new goals which have been set.  Rehearse and monitor these goals until they become reality.

When debriefing it is important to take all these steps into consideration. As we have mentioned there are many factors which affect the debrief and as a coach you should be aware of the role they play on your athletes.