Sports Motivation: The Power of Positive Reinforcement

Motivation plays a huge role in boosting sports performance. Athletes must be motivated to maximize their abilities fully, to achieve their goals, and to perform their best. For coaches, motivation serves as the foundation for all athletic effort and accomplishment.

While there are many ways to motivate athletes, positive reinforcement can be one of the most effective strategies to change and shape behavior. This is especially true for coaches who are enormously influential in the lives of their students, especially the youth.

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Regardless of the sport, coaches have the responsibility to teach the skills of the games and how to effectively execute them. The teaching process, however, must be a systematic method and should not be rushed. Through positive reinforcement, coaches recognize the individual differences of players, whether through thought, feeling, and behavior, and try to adapt by developing a positive interaction with the athlete or the team.

For example, when a player does something right or has improved in performance, a coach can reinforce the behavior by giving the rewards that the player values. But given that each player finds different things rewarding, it is important that a coach knows his players. A coach can ask a player what motivates him or her to excel at the sport.

However, there are limits. A coach need not reward a positive behavior every time because doing so can undermine the effect of the reward. What coaches need to remember is that the best way to shape behavior is to offer no response to undesirable behaviors and to reinforce positively desirable behaviors.

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