Briefing and Debriefing Skills

Using Open Questions

If a question is begun with one of the words above then it is nearly impossible to ask a 'closed question'. In addition to this, if you use these words as a frame work to your briefing then your students will be rarely left with unanswered questions about the activities/plan ahead.


For Example: Once you have completed your initial briefing - ask individual students questions to confirm understanding of the brief; such as:

'How are we going to approach the berth?' (Powerboating/PWC)

'What sailing area are we using?' (Windsurfing/Sailing) 

'When will you hoist the spinnaker?' (Dinghy sailing)

'Who is skippering the boat for this session?' (Powerboating)

'Why are we using the 'steer then gear' technique? (Powerboating)


More on Questioning Techniques - Click here

The 'Praise Burger' 


Positive - Contructive Feedback - Positive

Always start a debrief with the positives of the activity or session. If you don't, you run the risk of losing any chance to give your students effective imput as it is human nature to 'shut-off'/ become defensive if someone is giving them negative feedback. Once you have done this, give them some constructive criticism I suggest no more than 3 points as most people won't be able to take any more on board. End your debrief with some more positives to build your student back up and finish on a high.




Big TED (Tell, Explain, Describe)


Tell - E.G. Tell me what happened 

Explain - E.G. Explain how you feel you could improve 

Describe - E.G. Describe how you are going to improve your XYZ


The 3 P's of questioning


Pose, Pause, Pounce

This is a clever questioning technique and should be used with care, but it can be useful for gently co-ersing information from someone that you want to get more involved in a group discussion.

E.G. we want 'John' to answer this question. 

1) Pose the question i.e. "What do you think is the best way of approaching this berth?" 

2) Pause (not for too long otherwise someone else may answer or you will make the student feel awkward) 

3) Pounce - encourage a response from 'John'. This may just take eye contact or perhaps leading 'John' into the correct answer. (Imput from I.Hayes - Absolute Aqua Ltd)


If you can follow this golden rule when briefing or debriefing then you will find that your words are more constructive and memorable. The clue is in the title 'brief' - by using key words and bullet points your student will go away from the brief/debrief knowing and understanding exactly what is required from him/her.

What happens if I can't get round to see all my students,

how do I debrief the session?

Self coaching is potentially one of the most important skills your students will beable to learn during their progression in any sport. If they can self-coach; their improvement will potentially be ten-fold; if not immediately, then eventually they will spend more time taking part in their sport without an instructor around than they will do with an instructor present... and of course they still need to develop regardless of their environment.

So, I see nothing wrong in starting early, as long as their is a good balance. Too much of the time our 'perfect session' isn't as perfect as we might wish due to the fact that one student may take up more of your time than another; as a result of this you may miss an opportunity to give feedback during the session and therefore be struggling to give an effective debrief at the end of a session.

Alas, do not beat yourself up, because if you give them these key skills prior to completing the exercise/activity in question you may find you can still give an effective debrief.

Some key words for you: 


By keeping these words in your thought process you will beable to get effective feedback from your students that you can then interpret into a good debrief.

Some examples are:

DISTANCE: How far were you from the rest of the fleet?

SHAPE: When you were sailing upwind what shape was your sail?

SOUND: When you were sailing downwind did the hull make a sound?

AHEAD/BEHIND: In comparison to **** where were you positioned? Why do you think this was? What were you doing differently to ****?


A Short Guide to Questioning by the RYA
Short Guide to Questioning.pdf
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