It seems that it’s getting harder and harder for society to relate to the idea of improvement because we live in such a result-oriented world. Think about it: when was the last time someone told you you did a good job, improved upon your skills, or gave you some sort of positive feedback? I hope the answer is yesterday, today, everyday. I start all of my sessions with positive feedback. I tell all my athletes at the beginning of each session how awesome they are and how much they’ve improved. Do you know how EMPOWERING it is to give someone a compliment or provide them with positive feedback? Not to go into great detail, but there was a Japanese doctor, Dr. Masaru Emote, who experimented with the effects of the power of thought on water. Dr. Emote performed a series of experiments in which he observed the physical effects of words, prayers, music, and environment on the crystalline structure of water. After exposing the water to both positive and negative variables, he froze the water, and then took photos of the crystalized structures. The results were nothing short of remarkable. The water that was subjected to positive variables froze into beautiful and symmetrical crystals. The water that was exposed to negative variables formed asymmetrical crystal formations, which were not as aesthetically pleasing. With that in mind, the reason I choose to start with a “positive” is to get my athletes in the right frame of mind. Have you ever tried to accomplish a task when you’re in a bad mood, angry, frustrated, not feeling well? It’s quite difficult. By reinforcing my athletes with positive feedback, I promote the process of improvement, which then leads to better performance.
Improvement starts with a mindset composed of confidence, self-esteem, and perseverance and that translates to the physical. There are a few rules I follow that create a successful recipe for success:
Rule #1: Effort Equals Success! No matter the athlete’s skill level, any effort given is always greeted with an emphatic “Yes!” – “Excellent Job!” – “Perfect!” – “Wow, that was amazing!” Providing positive feedback and encouragement helps promote and enhance self-efficacy and intrinsic motivation.
Rule #2: Continuously Promoting Optimal Motor Movement: Optimal motor movement includes a variety of movement experiences: visual, audio, and kinesthetic learning, which are aspects of the sensorimotor system. All of my athletes have greatly varied movement backgrounds. My main goal is to promote as many positive movement experiences as possible. In other words, I want my athletes to walk away from each session feeling good about themselves as well as what they accomplished in a session (big or small).
Rule # 3: Have Fun! Having fun is a combination of consistent delivery of positive messages and acceptance. Most importantly, it’s about taking the emphasis off winning. I teach my athletes that, when they compete, it’s simply about giving their full effort. By focusing on effort, kids learn to work hard, to respect each other, to work as a team, and to enjoy the opportunity to test their skills. In addition, having fun is about learning to overcome adversity. No one is perfect and, for that reason, not every new skill or lesson learned during a session is perfect. I teach my athletes that it’s okay to make mistakes. Mistakes are what help us improve. When I teach my athletes to deal with mistakes and overcome adversity, they’re better equipped to create solutions and strategies to solve the problem at hand. In essence, having fun while being active helps to build character.
As a “teacher – coach,” my number one priority is to provide my athletes with a positive psychological experience and a positive learning experience. Each of my athletes has their own identity and their own learning style. For that reason, our sessions are age appropriate, sensitive to the needs of the individual, and customized to the ability of the athlete. I want my athletes to look forward to each and every session and, ultimately, develop a profound love of being active.