Monday, October 11, 2010

You need positive reinforcement (chaper 7)

What:  Stew is a Junior Varsity Football Coach he is trying to prove to the varsity coaches that he is a good coach but his players do not respond well to him.  He has a talented group of players, but his methods have turned the team away from him.  He needs to do something fast to regain the trust of his team or he will embarrass himself in front of the other coaches.   He has come to me for advice to help him improve his coaching style for the benefit of the team, and for his own benefit.
So What:  I went to Stew’s practice to see if I could find some of the things that he could improve on to make him a better coach. The things I found were as follows.  Stew has not been spending enough time in his initial instruction, so the team doesn’t understand how to run the plays in the to begin with, and then they don’t run the plays right.  He compounds the problem by yelling at the team when they run he plays wrong.  He ends up having to show them how to run the plays again, and again which takes up to much of his practice time.  He is always punishing the players who don’t run the plays correctly, by making them run laps during practice.
Now What:  Stew needs spend more time on his initial instruction; it is the most important part of running a play.  If the team doesn’t know what to do they cannot do their jobs and execute the play.  The coach needs to spend the most amount of time making sure the team understands what they need to do.  This is important because the plays are the foundation if they don’t understand them in practice then in the games the players will not be able to adjust to the changes that come up in competition.   In a study of Coach John Wooden by Smith, Smoll (1997) they found that Despite the UCLA teams experience and high skill level, more than 50% of Coach Wooden’s behaviors were specific instructions to players.               
                Stew’s next problem is that he is yelling at his players and yelling without providing instruction is just taking the self-esteem from the players.  By lowering the self-esteem of the players Stew is making them have less confidence in the team, and him.  Instead of yelling Stew needs to use positive reinforcement to encourage the players to do better.  Smith, Smoll (1997) also discuss the Feedback Sandwich.  In this three-step approach, a positive action orientated instruction is sandwiched between two encouraging statements.  Stew is also punishing his players by making them run in practice for their mistakes.  This is counterproductive for him; first if the player is running he is not getting the repetitions wile he is running around the field.  This also hurts the self-esteem of the player running, because he was embarrassed in front of his peers.  With his use of positive reinforcement the running should stop.  The fact the players are not forced to run laps will be a negative reinforcement.  Gill & Williams  (2008)  Behaviors can also be strengthened by eliminating something negative or adverse; this is called negative reinforcement.              
Conclusion:  Stew is a coach who is trying to improve his coaching style, but he needed a little help.  By observing practice I saw that he spent too much time yelling at his players instead of instructing them on how to do things the right way.  He was punishing his players arbitrarily when they failed instead of reinforcing the positive things they did do.  By spending more of his time instructing on how he wants the players to run the plays the players should make fewer mistakes do to the fact that they will actually understand their roles in the plays.  Positive reinforcement will help with the players self esteem.  With the punishment laps taken away the players should feel better, and they won’t miss as much practice just running laps.  I hope Stew will take this advice to heart because I believe it will make him a better coach, and it will lead to more success for his team.
Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008) Psychological Dynamics of Sport and Exercise pg100. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics
Smith,R.E.,&SmollF.L. (1997). Coaching the Coaches: Youth Sports as a Scientific and applied behavioral setting. Current Directions  in Psychological Science, pg 6,16-21.

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