A MAGIC ROUTE TO THE
Build Player Confidence
With Praise and Specific, Constructive Criticism
By Rich Pruszynski
(Positive Coaching Alliance trainer)
When the Positive Coaching Alliance presents its live group workshops for leaders,
coaches, and parents all over the country, one Positive Coaching technique that
always raises eyebrows ---and occasional voices—is the use of the “magic ratio.” Rooted in sports and
educational psychology research, the magic ratio states that coaches can get
the most out of young athletes by providing five specific, truthful praises for every one, specific, constructive criticism.
the magic ratio is the key to filling players’ “emotional tanks.” A player’s emotional tank is like a
car’s gas tank. When it’s empty,
the player goes nowhere; when it’s full, the player can go most anywhere.
when we explain the magic ratio in our workshops, we often hear, “Five to
one?! When Tom drops five ground
balls for every one that he scoops?
How am I supposed to get to this ratio?!”
are ways to achieve the magic ratio, legitimately, while helping your players
to improve. One way is to start
during the routine and relatively easy drills you conduct near the beginning of
players warm up and take reps in preparation for more rigorous instruction and scrimmaging that will follow, take
the opportunity to fill their emotional tanks. Take a simple ground ball drill. Lets say you roll out 10 ground balls to each of them in a
five- minute drill.
10 chances to find something positive to say to each player. Start the drill slowly, rolling balls
that are relatively easy to field.
That will gently warm up the players and build their confidence to field
the ground balls cleanly.
since they are fielding cleanly, you have a chance to offer specific, truthful
job attacking the ball, Tom. I’m
glad to see you’re not waiting for the ball to come to you.”
I like the way you keep your bottom hand low. If you keep doing it that way, you’ll scoop through the ball
instead of stabbing the ground.”
scooping motion, Ed, way to push through the ball and protect your stick by
bringing it to your head.”
you can advance to one-on-one ground balls. Two lines of players face out toward the field, and a coach
standing behind the players rolls out the ball, as one player from each line
competes with the other to get possession of the ball in their stick.
of the tank fillers may sound like:
job boxing out, Samantha.”
even though Frank got the ball, I like the way you poke checked his bottom hand
and made it difficult for him.”
“Maddie, perfect curl to your bottom
hand after you scooped the ball.
That’s a great letter C you made.
Way to get your hands free…finish with a strong pass back to the head of
these drills progress, gradually increase intensity. Warmed up and buoyed by confidence from their success and
your praise, they will make tougher plays, giving you the chance to further
fill their emotional tanks and build more confidence, which will lead to more
the tougher plays that they miss, provide specific constructive criticism,
which they are more likely to accept since they are more confident from their
earlier success, and because they have heard plenty of praise.