Document Type



Doctor of Education



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Kathleen Haywood, PhD


Dr. Cottone

Dr. Bredemeier

Dr. Althof


Existing literature suggests that coaches should use rewards rather than punishment for motivational purposes with athletes. The greatest argument against punishment lies in the evidence that the short-term positive effects on skill achievement are outweighed by the longterm negative effects on self-efficacy. Still, punishment is widely practiced within the coaching world; however, little research on coaching practices exists addressing the possibility that punishment could be utilized more effectively. As a beginning exploration of this topic, twelve elite male gymnasts were interviewed to determine what reinforcement their coaches used to motivate them. The results of the interviews seemed to reveal five conditions that could increase the effectiveness of punishment by minimizing the negative affect on self-efficacy of the athlete and the coach-athlete relationship. The first of these is perceived honesty from the coach about when the athlete is doing well and not doing well. Second, the athlete needs to know that the coach believes in his capabilities. Third, the athlete must trust in the coach and coaching plan. Fourth, the coach and athlete must have congruence in the assessment of the athlete’s effort and lastly the coach must be consistent with follow through of pre-set rewards and punishments. The study seems to confirm the Social Learning Theory tenet that individuals are not only manipulated through reinforcement but rather they have the ability based on their perceptions to choose to act on reinforcement strategies.

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