Positive Reinforcement vs. Recognizing Excellence and Brutal Honesty

Positive Reinforcement vs. Recognizing Excellence and Brutal Honesty

The Millennial Coaching Challenge

Millennials offer many unique coaching challenges! Badly executed “Positive Reinforcement” may be one of the biggest mistakes most coaches make when coaching this generation.

The importance of recognizing excellence vs. positive reinforcement is an important coaching concept that I feel many coaches and parents miss when developing great volleyball players and people of character who will thrive in the world today.

Looking at this current generation we coach, I think it is imperative to confront some difficult truths, and I feel a video (watch HERE) by Simon Sinek called the “IQ Millennial Question,” sums up some of the challenges we face as parents and coaches.

Important points from the video related to this article:

Failed Parenting Strategies (I will add coaching strategies) includes:

  • Kids being told they are special.
  • Kids getting rewarded for things they do not deserve.
  • Kids getting false expectations of how the real world works.

Much of this stems from a belief in the value of positive reinforcement. Parents and coaches have been told and programmed to constantly reward children, often for mediocre or poor performances.

It begs the questions: Why is there a false belief in positive re-enforcement? Why are the benefits of positive reinforcement constantly touted?

“Positive Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement is a very powerful and effective tool to help shape and change behavior. Positive reinforcement works by presenting a motivating item to the person after the desired behavior is exhibited, making the behavior more likely to happen in the future.” 

So, how does it fail? And why have we created a generation of people with so many challenges and struggles in the workplace and life?

We don’t tell the truth:

Coaches have become like kindergarten parents. You know the one, where your kid makes you an objectively terrible papier-mâché statue, running home, excited to show it off and you tell them it’s the greatest statue ever created. You praise them as if it’s “The David.” Meanwhile, dad comes home, does not get the memo and tosses it in the trash because he thinks it’s literally garbage.

Coaches and parents need to suffer from more B.H.

Every time I introduce myself to players or campers, I draw on the board two letters, B and H, in big hand writing, proceeding to say:

“I just want to warn all of you that I have a really bad problem. I suffer from something called B.H. Now you guys all know what B.S. is, correct? It’s not that. Do you guys know what B.O. is? It’s not that, either. No B.H. (Pause) – Brutal Honesty! What does this mean? If you don’t play well, I am going to tell you. If you lazy and don’t work I am going to tell you. But more importantly, if you do something good, particularly if you do something great or excellent, I am going to tell you the “Brutal Honest” truth!”

We offer “Positive Re-enforcement” too easily and quickly.

This brings us up to the other language we use as part of the Volleyball1on1 Culture on Whole Person Growth!

We only “Recognize Excellence!”

We only compliment excellence in behavior that we establish are the ideal behaviors. Be that on the court with “What Great Looks Like!” and off the volleyball court with “The Volleyball1on1 Winning Culture.”

Whole Person Growth – Building People of Character

Positive Reinforcement vs. Recognizing Excellence and Brutal Honesty

Let’s review how this ties back to the big picture and how to leverage praise to build real self confidence in the areas we want. Let’s review together the diagram from the Volleyball1on1 Coaching Manual on Whole Person Growth:

 “Your self-ideal is the first of three parts of your personality. Your self-ideal is made up of your hopes, dreams, visions and ideals. Your self-ideal is composed of the virtues, values and qualities that you most admire in yourself and others. Your self-ideal is the person you would most like to become, if you could be a perfect person in every way. These ideals guide and shape your behavior.” (This is “The Volleyball1on1 Winning Culture,” and “What Great Looks Like!”)

“The second part is your self-image. This is the way you see yourself and think about yourself. It is often called your inner mirror. It is how you look internally to see how you should behave in particular situations. Because of the power of your self-image, you always perform on the outside consistent with the picture you have of yourself on the inside.”

“The third part of your self-concept is your self-esteem. This is the emotional component of your personality, and it is the most important factor in determining how you think, feel and behave. Your level of self-esteem largely determines much of what happens in your life. The more you like yourself, the better you perform at anything you attempt. And by the law of reversibility, the better you perform, the more you like yourself.”

Our Job as Coaches:

“Your level of self-esteem is largely determined by how closely your self-image – your current performance and behaviors – matches your self-ideal.”

“Over the course of a season, our job as coaches is to steer the team towards a winning team culture, while establishing what good looks like. The result is that players will develop confidence individually, which will then permeate onto the team as their behaviors and performances begin to match their self-ideal, which we as coaches establish.

“At Volleyball1on1, we believe it is the job of the coach to craft an environment that is conducive to developing every player’s self-image. This includes teaching through drills and exercises aimed at building a winning team culture and emphasizing what great looks like, to helping players to perform specific behaviors and volleyball skills in a positive way. Equally important, these exercises will also stress the importance of recognizing excellence in behaviors relative to themselves and others, which produces a heightened level of trust on the team.

“There is such an abundance of opportunities to recognize excellence: tell a teammate when they make a good dig or pass or set, support the overall culture of the team, be competitive while also remaining considerate to your teammates. All can contribute successfully to improving a player’s self-image.

“At Volleyball1on1, we believe it is the job of the coach to craft an environment that is conducive to developing every player’s self-image in the self-ideals we establish.”

As you can see from the content in our Volleyball1on1 Manual, I believe it is vital to reward good behaviors and practice a modified version of “positive reinforcement.”

Implementation For Your Program

However, to implement this culture of “Brutal Honesty” and “Recognizing Only Excellence,” it must be established from day one. This can be difficult to establish or as a coach, create a new habit.


Article courtesy to Volleyball1on1

For more volleyball news and products, visit King Of The Beach website!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s