Positive Reinforcement for Tennis Players


You can enhance the athletic experience and performance of your players by recognizing and adhering to one of the oldest learning principles in psychology: positive reinforcement. Rewarding appropriate behavior, or catching people doing things right, is much more effective than punishing negative behavior, or being predominantly critical. When a player does something right, frequently reinforce the behavior by giving the player rewards that she or he values. Since each player finds different things rewarding, you have to know your players. A common way to discover appropriate rewards is to simply ask your players directly!

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Don’t reward positive behavior every time, as this may undermine the effect of the reward. Psychological studies show that people produce greater effort and persistence for occasional positive reinforcement than for continuous reinforcement. For example, in tennis, players would probably see positive comments and praise that are given about half the time after good behaviors as greater rewards than if praise were given automatically every time. However, positive approaches to behavioral change are highly motivating and enjoyable for players. Researchers in sport psychology suggest that 80% to 90% of reinforcement from the coach be positive.

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