'Unlucky!' – I hear you cry

I am sure we have all at some point in our careers either used the word unlucky when coaching or hear team mates say it to one another.

I am sure we have all at some point in our careers either used the word unlucky when coaching or hear team mates say it to one another.

However why did you say it? And what do they mean?

When I was a younger coach and even in my early PE teacher career it would just slip out “unlucky next time” ” oh that was so unlucky” Was this just to fill space? I didn’t know what else to say? I wanted them to feel better?

It wasn’t until I was observing another coach that I realized how normal it had become to give as feedback to a player “unlucky next one” How does this help the player? Does it mean that luck had a part to play in the skill they where trying to execute? Did this re-enforce in the athlete head that no matter how hard they trained, if you fail it is because you where unlucky.

I recently asked some players I coached to tell me what they thought luck mean

  • unsuccessful and pitiful
  • poor
  • ill-fated

So if this is the meaning then why do we say it in sport?

I have also asked some coaches the same question, what do they think it means and why do they use it. Some use it and some don’t! Those that do links it to external factors such as a bad bounce when placing a ball towards goal in football.

My question is that if coaches don’t use then why do players still use it? Are they just again trying to make fellow athletes and players fell better about themselves. Do they again re-enforce that luck has significant place to their performance.

Is there a place to discuss at clubs that this is a “banded” word for coaches and look at how feedback can be given to athletes. Do we need to educate players and athlete about the words they use to each other. To me it seems the meaning given to the word and the reasons it is used contradict each other.

Across the groups I coach and the coaches I mentor. I have been working on educating them about this word, and how to give feedback and support to each other.

Only tonight when coaching hockey to a group of university student, a missed shot on goal with only the goal was met with a “unlucky” Did the player that said it really know why she was saying it? Did the play who missed the goal even notice that it was said and how it made them feel?

In teaching there is a a new way of giving feedback called Active Constructive Responding. Where you praise the good part and then give them something to work on to correct the action. So as a coach when a player misses a pass at training “great power on that pass, now make sure you get your feet in the right position to increase the accuracy” As a coach I am encouraging my player to do the Active part, and praise what what good about the action “great power of that shot” even my under 8’s I coach.

Maybe one day the word unlucky will be banished to the changing room!

Author: Wendy Russel, MasteClass Hockey Coach and Brighton Hockey Club Director of Coaching