Posted 30/04/2020 in Category 1

When Coaches Offer Encouragement, Players Tend To Try Harder

When Coaches Offer Encouragement, Players Tend To Try Harder

This statement seems obvious but when we think more about our efforts to persuade other people to do things with more effort, our exertions often backfire. Imagine someone asking you to put in more effort while you clean the bathroom or rake up leaves in the garden. How would you respond to their well-meaning encouragement? One of the most important elements in this question is the context. 

In sport, we expect encouragement to present an immediate and predictable response. But why would encouragement work in sport and not in other life settings like doing housework or yard work? In short, most people in sport enjoy yells of encouragement and support from the side-lines. Sometimes it’s 60,000 fans; sometimes it’s your team mates; sometimes it’s your coach. But why do we seek encouragement and what does it do for us? Does encouragement help us try harder? Does encouragement increase our enjoyment of our sport? Researchers from Turkey, Portugal and Switzerland were interested in answering these questions. 

They examined the effect of coach encouragement on the psychophysiological and performance responses of junior tennis players based on previous research in team sports (e.g., soccer). In this tennis study, encouragement from the coach improved the intensity, performance and enjoyment levels during on-court tennis training drills. Tennis players had higher physiological responses (heart rate, % of heart rate maximum, and rating of perceived exertion) in on-court training drills when the coach encouraged them during the drills. 

The key findings here relate to context (e.g., on-court) and activity type (e.g., fitness drills) that benefit from encouraging effort (i.e., trying harder) in well-learned skills with low complexity (i.e., running backwards and forwards). Moving one’s body is effortful and (sometimes) exhausting; so encouragement in physical activity settings for physical fitness benefit from encouraging (motivational) voices rather than instruction. 


Kilit, B.; Arslan, E.; Akca, F.; Aras, D.; Soylu, Y.; Clemente, F.M.; Nikolaidis, P.T.; Rosemann, T.; Knechtle, B. Effect of Coach Encouragement on the Psychophysiological and Performance Responses of Young Tennis Players. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, 3467.

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