Positive Reinforcement For Athletic Performance

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It’s a simple fact of nature, if doing something results in a positive outcome and acknowledgment, the person will be positive reinforcementmotivated to repeat the behavior so they can receive even more of the same.

No big shocker here right?

But take a movement to reconsider this statement and think about what it means to you as an athlete.  An athlete is more likely to repeat the behavior or action when they receive some type of positive reinforcement.

This statement is simple and at the same time quite powerful.  Sure this  statement can be applied to all areas of life, but for the purpose of this article let’s apply this to sports and athletic performance and see how it can be used to influence behaviors – yours and those around you, i.e. training partner, teammate, etc.

Let’s take two athletes who are starting and plyometrics program…

Jack, who is doing plyometrics for the first time, hears from his strength coach, “Much better, now on the next one, work on exploding off the ground as quickly as possible.”

Now Allen on the other hand, only hears, “One set left.” Inspiring don’t you think?

So, put yourself in their shoes.  What would you prefer to hear?

Of course, you’d much rather be in Jack’s shoes.  Not only did you get positive reinforcement but you also received specific instruction on how to improve.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a 50-year-old skier who has never done any strength training or a 28-year-old veteran of the slopes; you both want to know, “How am I doing?”

The beginning statement in post really captures what reinforcement is all about, to produce a consistent and desirable outcome.

Reinforcement is important not just because it can enhance skill development and sport performance, but is can also affect other areas in athletic performance as well,  such as self-confidence, enjoyment and satisfaction.

So, let me ask you, do you give positive reinforcement to yourself, or do you beat yourself up regularly?

Do you give positive reinforcement to your training partner to encourage continued good performance or technique, or do you point out all the faults.?

Let’s take a look at some principles that can help you in the mental strength skill of positive reinforcement so that you can efficiently and effectively use this skill to influence behavior and athletic performance.

What Is Positives Reinforcement?

There is no easy answer to this question; it really depends on the athlete.

A positive outcome for one athlete may not be the same for another.  It is critical that you understand what type of reinforcement works best for you as well as those around you.

To reinforce yourself you’ll need to take a different perspective by acknowledging the positive and good things you are doing instead of only looking at your results with a critical eye.

If you’re going to provide reinforcements to others, this can be simple things such as a pat on the back or even smile.  They can also be material things such as T-shirts, plaque or ribbons. And even as simple as allowing yourself a special treat, such as a latte or recovery drink for your training partner.

Here are a few more points to consider:

  • Be aware of what you are reinforcing and how often you provide this reinforcement.  Too much too often can lessen the effect.
  • When learning a new skill, athletes need a lot of reinforcement and feedback about how they are doing.  As they become more skilled, periodic reinforcement serves as a better motivator.  Seek feedback and reinforcement for yourself.  When giving it to others, be sure to match it to the ability and skill level of the athlete.
  • Avoid reinforcing or rewarding just outcome.  It’s easy to do as outcomes are so obvious and a major focus in sports.  Instead, focus on the behaviors or characteristics that relate to the outcome; reinforce effort, progress towards the correct technique, mental strength attitude, process performance, and other positive behaviors.
  • Get detailed.  Give yourself and others motivational, instructional and specific feedback.  Be your own best friend by giving yourself the feedback that will enhance your athletic performance.  Provide detailed and specific information about what was done right or what needs to improve.  John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach at UCLA, was observed by researchers to uncover the factors that made him such a successful coach.  When assessing how he coached, the researchers found that most of Coach Wooden’s behaviors involve giving instructions about what to do and how to do it, and reinforcement.

Reinforcement – you can effectively use this mental strength technique to motivate and enhance athletic performance and self-confidence.  By using the suggestions in this post you’ll be able to progress in your athletic performance purposely and on a consistent basis.

OK, your turn to share, what techniques do you use to provide positive reinforcement?  Please share them in the comments below:

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