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A.D.'s Corner


Motivation is often said to be the key to successful performance. One of the cornerstones of motivation is positive reinforcement. 

Positive Reinforcement and Rewards

When used appropriately reinforcement is one of the primary communication tools of a successful coach. Reinforcement is used to praise an athlete when he/she does well or to get an athlete to stop undesirable behavior. Reinforcement is relative and not absolute. For reinforcement to work, a coach must be consistent and systematic in its use. If you are not consistent, your athletes will behave erratically, like the coach. If you are not systematic, you will send confusing messages to your athletes.

 Communicating and Correcting Errors

One skill at a time. Correct only one behavior or movement at a time.

Ask before giving correction. Allow the chance to explain what they believe they did. This lets them feel they are a part of the process.

Find the cause. The cause of an error may be something that you may not see. Again, ask the athlete what they believe they are doing.

Provide constructive instruction. Avoid too much of "what's not right" by focusing on "how to do it right." Always build up the athlete; do not tear them down.

Praise before correction. Begin with a positive comment about something that the athlete is doing well. Now they are attuned to you. You have gained their attention and trust. Follow up with constructive instruction. Be concise and to the point. Remember to send another message of praise and encouragement.

Using Rewards

Rewarding athletes is not always as easy as it sounds. Below are a few tips on rewarding your athletes.

Reward the performance, not the outcome.

Reward athletes just as much for their effort as you do for the desired outcome.

Reward little accomplishments on the way to learning an entire skill.

Reward the learning and performance of desired emotional and social skills too.

Reward frequently, especially when new skills are being learned.

Reward as soon as possible when new skills are learned.

Reward an athlete when they have earned it.


It is only natural for athletes to misbehave. As a coach, you can respond to an athlete's misbehavior with a positive or negative approach. One positive approach is to ignore the bad behavior. This approach can prove successful in certain situations because punishing the athlete's misbehavior encourages them to act out more. Ignoring misbehavior does not work when the athlete causes danger to himself/herself or other teammates and coaches. In that case, immediate action is necessary. Ignoring misbehavior is also not successful when the misbehavior is self-rewarding to the athlete.

 Punishment is also a means to correcting an athlete's misbehavior. Below are a few suggestions for appropriate use of punishment.

Use punishment when team rules are violated.

When possible give a warning before using punishment.

Be consistent when administering punishment.

Do not choose a punishment that causes you to feel guilty or upset.

Once a punishment has been given, do not make the athlete feel like they are still in trouble.

Punish sparingly, only when absolutely necessary.