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Modifying Athlete Behaviors

Behavior Modification

     Behavior is the way a person reacts to a particular stimulus and varies from
     individual to individual. Behavior modification technique is the way you im-
     prove the behavior of a person, through use of some positive and negative
     inforcements and punishments. It is the process of altering a person’s reaction

     to stimuli. Behavior modification is much used in clinical and educational

Behavior tolerated at home may be totally unacceptable in sports

       Coaches of individual skaters and teams frequently must deal with skaters and parents whose behavior disrupts the focus/concentration of other individuals. This behavior can become so intolerable that it affects the enjoyment and participation of other athletes athletes, parents, and even spectators. If a choice must be made, it is the disruptive parents and child that should be asked to leave.

Positive reinforcement
       The application of positive reinforcement has demonstrated an increasing both on-task behavior and work completion. When a desired behavior is exhibited, a teacher, coach, trainer, or parent who frequently respond with praise is very likely to see an increase in the desired behavior.

       By the time students and athletes reach middle elementary school and through secondary school, there is a noticeable increase in the attention that is given to undesirable behaviors and much less attention to is given to rewarding desirable behaviors. Paying attention to the undesirable behavior generally results in a reduction of the undesirable behavior in the short run, but the undesirable behavior is more likely to occur over an extended period of time.

       Positive reinforcement should begin when children can succeed and positive responses will reinforce the desired action(s). Far to often the initial criteria for success is set too high. As a result, the student rarely achieves the level of success to receive positive reinforcement. Ideally the concept works best is reinforcement is provided when the child is at or slightly better than baseline.

      It is desirable to determine the amount of time a student exhibits on- and off-task behavior by applying a behavioral observation method called response discrepancy because it compares any discrepancy between the target student and the behavior of a typical peer's performance.

      The selection of reinforcers must be age appropriate and not necessarily time-limited. Never deny students activities (e.g. lunch, bathroom use, playground time) under the guise of defining these activities as positive reinforcers. An excellent way to determine what would be most appropriate for each individual is to ask them to list activities that are meaningful to them. Another approach is to provide them with a list of enjoyable or free time activities and ask them to rank in their order of preference.

Groups will contain clusters of personalities, natural abilities, and differences in self motivation.
      In many geographic regions, there may initially be a lack of a sufficient pool of individuals to be able to divide the athletes into various groups by age, physical appearance and/or skill levels and have enough individuals to form a competitive team.

      It is extremely important that each individual athlete work to their full potential through participation in group and private instruction followed by a regular schedule of on and off ice training sessions.

      The following articles attempt to provide methods of preventing and, if necessary, deal with such individuals using non confrontational interventions that defuse the threats of physical violence that increasingly is occurring in amateur organized sports.

Attribution versus persuasion as a means for modifying behavior

       Researcher Miller RL., Brickman P., and Bolen D. compared the relative effectiveness of an attribution strategy with a persuasion strategy in changing behavior:

Study 1
- attempted to teach fifth graders not to litter and to clean up after others. An attribution group was repeatedly told that they were neat and tidy people,  Attribution proved considerably more effective in modifying behavior.

Study 2 - a persuasion group was repeatedly told that they should be neat and tidy to discover whether similar effects would hold for a more central aspect of school performance, math achievement and self-esteem, and whether an attribution of ability would be as effective as an attribution of motivation. Repeatedly attributing to second graders either the ability or the motivation to do well in math proved more effective than comparable persuasion or no-treatment control groups, although a group receiving straight reinforcement for math problem-solving behavior also did well. It is suggested that persuasion often suffers because it involves a negative attribution (a person should be what he is not), while attribution generally gains because it disguises persuasive intent.

Study 3 - was control group received no treatment.

Modification of Athletes Behavior - Performance
          Behavior modification is a treatment based approach whose principle is operant conditioning that replaces undesirable behaviors with more desirable ones through positive or negative reinforcement.

          American behaviorist B. F. Skinner formulated the concept of operant conditioning in 1904-1990, which stated that behavior could be shaped by reinforcement or lack of it. Skinner considered his concept could be applied to a wide range of both human and animal behaviors as published in his 1938 book, The Behavior of Organisms.

          A very popular behavior modification technique that is widely used is positive reinforcement. This consists of encouraging of specific behaviors through a system of rewards. This form of behavior therapy, frequently involves drawing up a contract with the individual to establish the terms of the reward system.

          Some behavior modification programs are based on discouraging unwanted behavior, through administering a punishment. The form of punishment does not involve physical harm or pain. It involves the application of an aversive or unpleasant stimulus in reaction to a particular behavior. Depending on the age of the individual, this could be the removal of television privileges when they disobey their parents or teacher.

         The removal of reinforcement altogether is called extinction. Extinction eliminates involves with- holding an expected response. A technique that removes the expected reward of attention is achieved through a 'Time-Out", that involves separating an individual from the group because of his or her poor behavior.

The Transtheoretical Model of Change
         Every individual progress through a series of cognitive and behavioral changes as their behavior changes. In this model, an individual will typically progress through five stages of change as his/her behavior is altered. These stages include:
  • Precontemplation,
  • Contemplation,
  • Preparation,
  • Action,
  • Maintenance.
        Please note that an individual does not necessarily progress through these stages in a linear fashion; it is not unexpected to see people plateau in one stage or even regress. If you are ready to change your exercise behavior, the use of this type of model can be helpful in tracking the behavioral stages.

One of the most commonly reason to not  initiating and maintaining any training program is lack of motivation.  Goal-setting is a critical component of changing a person's attitude towards initiating any training program. It is desirable to establish long and short term goals. It is imperative to focus on broader goals and then establish several different types of objectives that in short and long term, are achievable.

       Once an objective has been achieved, incorporating positive reinforcements help to maintain the behavior change. Any reward should be desirability, timeliness, and given only when a specific predetermined objective has been achieved.


Behavior Modification in Sport and Physical Education: A Review This paper reviews published research on behavior modification in sport and physical education.

Behavior Modification Techniques For Exercise
July 16, 2010 ... Behavior modification techniques for exercise incorporate psychological principles of human behavior change in order to counter maladaptive behavior. The unwanted exercise behavior is changed by altering thought patterns and utilizing positive and negative reinforcement techniques.

Behavior Modification Techniques - Techniques for Modifying   Behavior modification techniques are ways in which a desired behavior is incorporated. With this article, get to know about the strategies that can be used.

Changing Habits: A Five Step Process for Modifying Behavior   April 29, 2010 Many of us are caught in unconscious habits. We do things without even thinking about them.

Modifying Behavior in an Elementary Classroom: Use Pavlov's   March 29, 2009  When poor behavior interferes with student learning, identify the desirable replacement behavior, then apply extinction and reinforcement.

PostScript File Inheriting and Modifying Behavior   Inheriting and Modifying Behavior. Neelam Soundarajan and Stephen Fridella. Computer and Information Science. The Ohio State University. Columbus, OH.

Animal Behavior :: Conditioning - A Way of Modifying Behavior A way of modifying behavior: The behavior of many, perhaps all, animals can be modified by a kind of training called called conditioning - classical conditioning was discovered by the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov; and operant conditioning discovered by the American psychologist B.F. Skinner.

Operant Conditioning - Introduction to Operant Conditioning   Operant conditioning is one of the fundamental concepts in behavioral psychology. Learn more about the effects of rewards and punishments on behavior.

Modifying Behaviors   Each behavior has a subset (or sometimes a complete set) of parameters that appear in the HUD.

Behavior Modification in the Classroom The effective use of behavioral and cognitive strategies in the classroom may appear daunting even to experienced teachers. Behavior modification assumes that observable and measurable behaviors are good targets for change. All behavior follows a set of consistent rules. Methods can be developed for defining, observing, and measuring behaviors, as well as designing effective interventions. Behavior modification techniques never fail. Rather, they are either applied inefficiently or inconsistently, which leads to a less than desired change. All behavior is maintained, changed, or shaped by the consequences of that behavior.


The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:
Modifying Athlete Behaviors
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The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.

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