In the past year I have heard, and personally been given feedback from my coaches and team mates as a Roller Derby player and I feel there is a lot to be said for the words we use in the feedback we give.
There are players on all sorts of teams, far and wide who always get told they need to be more X, Y or Z, but one I hear about regularly is being more aggressive. This is a hard concept to grasp for a lot of players.
I’ll be honest, I’m not an aggressive player. I’m not an aggressive human and I certainly don’t want the visuals of an aggressive player being used on track – for a non-confrontational human the term aggressive conjures up images of all kinds of illegal hits, broken limbs and general untamed and unfocused angry players.
This is NOT what I feel roller derby as a sport is about.
When I was discussing this with a couple of my team mates after a game we came to a resounding agreement, the use of the word aggressive is generally incorrect!
Being aggressive is about being angry, its exact description in the Oxford English dictionary is as follows:
Aggressive – Ready or likely to attack or confront; characterized by or resulting from aggression
Aggression – Feelings of Anger or Antipathy resulting in hostile or violent behaviour; readiness to attack or confront
This isn’t what the feedback actually wanted to deliver to the player – but this can cause them to question their personal ability and their value to a team. How can they be this person if it’s something so far removed from their personality or values as a human being?
When you think about your favourite players (in any sport) and about the characteristics that make you want to emulate them, what are they? I can say with 98.9% certainty that of all the characteristics you’d list aggression as a word wouldn’t feature.
The word you would use would be strong.
Being strong is something that every human can become. It isn’t outside of their comfort zone, it’s well within they’re grasp – They will already be strong in certain aspects of their life and can become stronger, or apply it to their sport as well as their life – it is an achievable goal and a better word to use to give feedback.
WORDS ARE IMPORTANT – and we would all do well, as coaches and team mates, to remember that – don’t make people feel like they can’t be something that they aren’t right now, everyone can become the player they want to be, they just need the right terminology, drive, ambition and support to get there.
Strong – Powerful and difficult to resist or defeat