Feedback and Reinforcement – Encouragement Influences Performance

     Reinforcement is the use of rewards and punishments that will work to either encourage a certain action or decrease it in the future. This is called classical conditioning. There are two ways of using reinforcement – a positive approach and a negative approach. The positive approach focuses on rewarding appropriate behaviour – this increases the likelihood of this behaviour happening again. The negative approach focuses on punishing undesirable behaviours and should lead to a decrease of these behaviours in the future. Most coaches and instructors combine positive and negative approaches, and sport psychologists agree that the predominant approach with physical activity should be a positive one, as negative approaches instill fear in the participants.

How to Positively Reinforce Someone:

1. Choose positive reinforces (rewards)- i.e. activities or items.
2. Time and schedule the reinforcers – if someone is learning something new – continuous and immediate reward is a good strategy. If you are attempting to reinforce an already learned skill – then intermittent and immediate reinforcement is a good strategy.
3. You should also shape or reinforce behaviours that are close to the one you are trying to teach – if it is difficult.
4. Reward good performance, as well as good outcome (winning).
5. Reward effort.
6. Reward emotional and social skills.
7. Provide knowledge of the results (feedback about the correctness or incorrectness of an action).
8. Provide motivational and instructional feedback.

Punishment (Negative Reinforcement):      Punishment can control and change behaviour – but 80% – 90% of reinforcement should be positive.

There are several drawbacks to punishment:

* Can arouse fear of failure. * Can act as a reinforcer.

* Can hinder learning skills

There are also several guidelines for using punishment:

* Be consistent by giving everyone the same type of punishment for breaking similar rules. * Punish the behaviour – not the person – tell the person it is the behaviour that needs to change, not the person. * Allow an athletes input in making up the punishment for breaking the rules. * Do not use physical activity as a punishment. * Make sure the punishment is not perceived as a reward or simply as attention * Impose punishment impersonally – do not berate or yell – simply inform them of their punishment. * Do not punish athletes for making errors while they are playing. * Do not embarrass individuals in front of others.

* Use punishment sparingly, but enforce it when you use it.

Modifying Behaviour in Sport:
     Behaviour modification is the use of the basic principles of reinforcement in order to change behaviour. These techniques have been successfully used to modify sport and physical behaviours and have been developed into Behaviour programs. Behaviour programs target behaviours, record them, provide meaningful feedback and have tailored reward systems.

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Related Links

Sports Psychology
Strategies & Success
Arousal, Stress & Anxiety
Intrinsic Motivation
Team Dynamics
Enhancing Performance – PST
Aspects of PST