Hey coach! Here’s a behavioral principle to live by! THE BEHAVIORS THAT YOU REINFORCE, ARE THE ONES THAT WILL GET REPEATED BY YOUR PLAYERS!
The high school football team is playing a particularly tough opponent and has just played the first half of their lives! The offense was clicking on all cyclinders and the defense, though consistently inconsistent, actually just played the best half of their season. The team had a two touchdown lead going into halftime!
During the half-time talk, the coach was very careful NOT to mention one word about how well his team played in the first half! He mentioned NOTHING about how proud he was of their heart, character and discipline. He said NOTHING about their nearly flawless execution. He did absolutely NOTHING to build on their confidence and self-esteem.
WHAT THE COACH DID TALK ABOUT INSTEAD WAS HOW WELL THEIR OPPONENTS HAD COME BACK IN SEVERAL OF THEIR PREVIOUS GAMES! He stressed that under no circumstances should his team let this opponent back in the game! He told them that if this happened he would be very disappointed in them and pissed to boot! He specifically reminded his players about his opponent’s last game the previous Friday and how the other team had choked away a 17 point lead in the second half to lose by a touchdown!
So this coach unknowingly (no coach in their right mind would consciously do this with his players) set his team up to lose! Rather than reinforcing the amazing job HIS team was doing and underlining how well they were playing, he focused on the opponent in a very negative way. He got his athletes thinking about the opponent’s strength instead of focusing on their own fine, dominating play.
We could have predicted the results. The other team scored very quickly into the second half which sent the players into an absolute panic. Instead of being able to calm his players down and properly focus them, the coach angrily repeated his half-time talk questioning whether his players had listened to one word of what he had said! The problem is they had listened to everything the coach had said! EVERYTHING! AND NOT ONE WORD OF IT WAS USEFUL AND PERFORMANCE ENHANCING!
The team went on to lose the game and then the coach went on to yell at and punish his players for “choking” and showing what little character they were “REALLY” made of! The problem here wasn’t the team! The problem here was the coach He lost the game! NOT the players! The behaviors that YOU reinforce as a coach, get repeated. Focus on CRAP with your players and they will play like CRAP! Focus on their strengths and what they are doing well during a game and you’ll get more of THAT!