In team sports, training is about exchanging information as well as helping players learn and master the game skills much better than if they learned them on their own. Knowing how and when to reinforce is key to this task. Reinforcement is the use of rewards to increase the likelihood that an athlete will learn through practice and understand why they have been successful or what they need to change to enhance their performance. Acts (such as their movements, attitudes, gestures, etc.) that are rewarded have a high probability of repetition. For example, if the training effort is publicly recognized and reinforced with more minutes in the competition, it is most likely to be kept up in the following training sessions.
Reinforcements can be used by the coach to communicate effectively with players by considering the following aspects:
- What are they for? They are useful when an athlete is learning new behaviours, or the coach wants them to maintain a desirable performance.
- When to use them? A lot at the beginning, and then when the athlete requires it.
- How to use it? When the athlete proposes the desirable performance or conducts an appropriate approach.
A positive reinforcement is a reward. We reward when we give a person something valuable after performing an action. Rewards can be diverse: from a material reward to a smile, although, in general, the reward we value most is the recognition of others. The most important thing about rewards is not what the coach does, but what happens cognitively when he or she is rewarded. Performing actions highly motivated is accompanied by neurohormonal discharges that activate our body’s energy reserves, which is the reason why we notice that motivation energizes and invigorates us, which in turn causes pleasure. Neurohormones allow people’s brains to associate the positive performance with a feeling of satisfaction and reward.
In addition to improving motivation and the atmosphere of the session, the coach has to relate the information he is going to exchange with the players to the goals of the exercises. When there is no clear link between what happens in the tasks and the coach’s messages, things usually don’t work out well. To help athletes learn faster, it is advisable to follow the following strategy:
- Explaining the goal to be achieved. It is necessary to explain clearly to the players what the goal of the exercise is.
- Capturing the attention is key. It is necessary to describe to the players what they must pay attention to in order to achieve the goal. What must they pay attention to during the exercise in order to be successful? It is about giving athletes the aspects they must keep in mind. The information should be brief and include the most relevant details, with words that the players understand, as well as examples.
- Exchange information only on those aspects that are related to the goal of the exercise. Do not exchange information about things that do not relate to the success of the task. The players’ attention is likely to be drawn by many different things. It is advisable to have these reinforcement concepts prepared before the training session.
Learning can be improved when players receive regular, specific, explanatory, and timely reinforcement about their performance. Occasional and superficial criticisms and assessment of information such as good work are not clear or explanatory. Besides, they do not increase the athletes’ motivation or understanding. When training objectives are clear, this improves the coach’s assessment effectiveness.
Learning can be enhanced when players receive regular, specific, explanatory and timely reinforcement about their performance. Occasional and superficial criticisms and feedback (such as good work) are not clear and explanatory and do not increase the motivation and understanding of the athletes. Clarity in the goals of the training sessions improves the effectiveness of the coach’s feedback. Coaching is exchanging information with the players in an accurate way.
Carlos Lago Peñas
1 Seirul.lo, F. (2009). Una línea de trabajo distinta. Revista de Entrenamiento Deportivo, 23(4): 13-18.
2 Seirul.lo, F. (1993b): Preparación física aplicada a los deportes de equipo, Colección CadernosTécnico-Pedagóxicos do INEF de Galicia, A Coruña: Centro Galego de Documentación e Edicións Deportivas.
3 Seirul.lo, F. (2010). Estructura socioafectiva. Documento INEFC – Barcelona. Retrieved from: http://www.motricidadhumana.com/estructura_socioafectiva_doc_seirul_lo_Outline_drn.pdf
4 Weinberg, R.S. y Goud, D. (2012). Fundamentos de Psicología del Deporte y del Ejercicio Físico. Madrid: Editorial Médica Panamericana.
5 Marí, P. (2011). Aprende de los campeones. Barcelona: Plataforma Editorial.
6 Bueno i Torrens, D. (2017). Neurociencia para educadores. Barcelona: Octaedro Editorial.
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