Stephany C. Coakley PhD., LPC

Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC)

(866) 277-3401

Generating Feedback through Post-Performance Reviews: The Basis for Consistency, Confidence and Mastery in Elite Performance

I could have played better. My shot was off today. Sound familiar? How many times have you walked away from competition feeling this way? It’s frustrating to know that you didn’t perform at your best, and this frustration can damage your self-confidence. Self-confidence – that belief in yourself and your abilities to perform or execute a specific set of skills or techniques – is as fragile as a crystal ornament. If you don’t develop strategies to strengthen and protect it during times of doubt and inconsistent play, it is doomed to shatter.

Doubt is insidious. Why does it creep into our minds so easily? Psychologists refer to this as the negativity bias: our tendency to focus on the negative aspects of a situation. The human brain has evolved to detect negative information faster than positive information, and to remember it longer. Consider a hunter caught in a storm, coming upon a cave: the cave offers shelter…but is probably already occupied by a hungry bear! Learning from negative experiences allowed our ancestors to survive to hunt another day. Simply put, we have evolved to pay attention to what’s bad and overlook what’s good. This tendency may be great for survival of the species, but in sport it can be problematic, resulting in increased pessimism and anxiety, and decreased self-confidence.

You can counteract this natural tendency by developing a strategy of deliberate self-reflection, using a strategy called a post-performance review (PPR). Creating a PPR is like taking a “time-out” to reflect on, and learn from, your performance – both good and bad. This is a very effective strategy to promote awareness, understanding and to provide immediate feedback about your performance.

Why is feedback important? Feedback helps to enhance performance at different stages of training, raise awareness of strengths and areas for improvement, and identify actions necessary to improve performance. The concept of feedback is universal, and is an essential part of training and development in all areas of life. In school, our teachers give us feedback in the form of comments on homework, and grades at the end of the semester. At work, we receive feedback from our employers in the form of performance reviews and bonuses.  In the world of elite sport, feedback from teammates and coaches is critical for skill development, building confidence, maintaining motivation and setting task-focused goals. These are all examples of feedback originating from external sources. In a post-performance review (PPR), the feedback is internally generated, incorporated into a daily routine of self-reflection and assessment of performance!


So, how do you establish a routine of PPR? Invest in a notebook or a sport journal. After every competition and training session review your performance. Record 3 or 4 things that you did well during the session, and that you want to continue doing in the future. (Reflecting on what you did well helps to build confidence and create energy and optimism.) It is also important to record 3 or 4 things that you would like to correct, along with the steps you can take to correct them. Don’t dwell on the things that need fixing: just set goals, and develop a plan of attack! This approach allows you to spend equal time reflecting on positive and negative aspects of performance. Remember, a good post-performance review (PPR) is built around the following guiding principles: it is specific, timely, consistent, and goal-oriented.

  • Be Specific – Reflect on specific physical, technical, mental and tactical skill areas. First, record what you want to continue: e.g. I made 85% of my first serves, I worked hard for every point, I used my pre-shot routine every time I was on the line. Next you record what you want to correct: e.g. for 5 minutes I couldn’t let go of a mistake I made, I need to learn to let go of past events, I dropped 30% of my passes, I need to improve my attention skills, I lost my cool when our team was down in the second half, I have to learn strategies to stay in control of my emotions, etc.
  • Be Timely – It is important to reflect and record your continues/corrections as immediately as possible! When feedback is immediate you’re more likely to remember exactly what you did – or didn’t do – and learn from it. If you wait, chances are you may forget some detail – resulting in a lost opportunity for improvement.
  • Be Consistent – A balanced reflection on development and competition results helps to boost confidence. Simply by collecting and recording “continues” and “corrections”, you are establishing conclusive evidence that you are improving. When doubts creep in, your PPRs can serve as a reminder of your progress, proficiency and productivity in your sport. In addition, consistently applying effective mental, physical, technical and tactical strategies will result in consistent outcomes, leading to performance enhancement.
  • Be Goal-Oriented – Identifying and recording areas for correction allows you to be strategic in your goal-setting. Set goals for training daily, and to direct behavior for the next practice or competition. Set process goals instead of outcome goals. With a focus on controllable and process-oriented performance factors you are more likely to be more tenacious in achieving your goal.

A regular routine of self-reflection through PPRs enhances performance, boosts confidence and consistency, and strengthens motivation and effort, which leads towards mastery and responsibility. It’s a process that requires you to use your own feedback to tune into your performances, and make the changes to achieve consistency in training and competition that will elevate you from good to great! In addition, by developing the ability and willingness to evaluate your performance you are more likely to accept feedback from coaches and others without internalizing it. Best of all, incorporating PPRs into your daily routine can lead to greater enjoyment in your sport because if you’re consistently making progress, and having consistent, positive outcomes, you’re likely to feel pretty good about yourself!


Stephany C. Coakley, PhD

Mental Strength and Conditioning Coach