As Craig Wrisberg, a Professor of Sport Psychology, states, you can either tell athletes what you saw (descriptive) or tell them what they need to do based on what you saw (prescriptive).
There isn’t a right or wrong, and both forms of feedback need to be provided to have a balanced barometer. However, it’s important to understand the age group of your athletes and the training situation in order to provide feedback in the most positive light possible.
For example, younger and less experienced athletes can take descriptive feedback more personally, and your goal is to motivate. An example of these differences would be, “that was a poor shot, it went over the net” (descriptive), versus “keep your chest over the ball and keep your ankle locked” (prescriptive).
“To provide helpful prescriptive feedback, you must be able to both detect errors in athletes’ performance (e.g., see an incomplete follow-through at the end of a jump shot) and offer possible solutions for the problem (e.g., ex the wrist more forcefully at the point of release).” -Craig Wrisberg
The coach/athlete dynamic is the most important relationship in the athletic arena. Clear and consistent communication is key to this relationship, which is why taking the time to give a formal athlete evaluation is critical.
Coaches are in an important position where they are not only able to provide feedback, but to also create a plan for the athlete to take action based on the feedback to improve and grow.
Give athletes constructive criticism to build on skills, technique and game tactics.