Designing The Environment

Following on from the last blog where the fundamental terms of behaviour were described. The following gives some practical suggestions on how the correct environment can be created.

1. Be a consistent and dependable coach

This is not about being everyone’s best friend. Players like and respect a coach who is consistent and predictable. If we say we start a session at 7pm. All players know that training will start at this time on every occasion and if you are late, you miss the start. Some coaches wait until all players arrive but this makes them inconsistent. Players will then arrive when they want to and your session has now been disrupted.

The more dependable you are, the less variable your players behaviour will be. Players need to know what the consequences are for their behaviour. Players arriving on time should be treated consistently and then this puts them at ease knowing what will happen.

2. Measure and reinforce the behaviours you want

Provide positive reinforcement for the behaviours you want to see. Using small sided games that measures passes and then positively reinforce when passes are complete is a simple method. Be clear on what you are looking to achieve and set the expectation with the player. If you want to develop a player’s first touch then measure the number of times he controls the ball with his first touch. You can then provide the feedback to the player. Setting simple achievable goals is a good a first step. The goals can then be gradually increased.

3. Learn about the downstream impact of your own (the coaches) behaviour

Be very careful when dishing out ‘punishment’ Sometimes we think we are doing this for the best as we see ourselves trying to stop the ‘bad behaviour’ but be aware the most effective coaches administer reinforcement whereas a poor coach delivers punishers. The more punishment that is delivered, the more the environment becomes aversive. The more aversive it becomes, the more revenge behaviours will be instigated by the players. This is an ever decreasing situation with no winners.

The best coaches get feedback on their own performance in order they learn the impact of their own behaviour.

4. Create the right physical environment

Environment drives behaviour. Do we have a plan for the session? Do we have enough balls? Can we smoothly transition to the next game/drill? Are the players actively engaged and challenged in each session? Have we set learning tasks? Is the session correct length of time? Are the coaches providing timely feedback? Do we have the right players in the session?

There are a multitude of ways to design the environment but the players will know when the environment has been set correctly. Are you asking them for feedback?

5. Correct the behaviours you don’t want

Once you have set out your expectations clearly and measured them consistently, the inappropriate behaviours should reduce eg if you set out to measure short passes to retain possession then this is easily measured and fed back. If an inappropriate behaviour in this context is a long, hopeful ball forward then ask what is supporting this? What is in the environment that is causing this? Is a parent instructing someone to do this? Are other players encouraging it? Try and find out from the player what the cause is and then try and remove it. Then set a new expectation with the player of making short passes and support this new behaviour with supportive feedback.

Designing The Environment

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