When PCA presents its live group workshops for leaders, coaches and parents all over the country, one Positive Coaching technique that always raises eyebrows – and occasionally voices – is use of the "Magic Ratio."
The Magic Ratio, rooted in sports and educational psychology research, states that coaches can get the most out of youth athletes by providing five specific, truthful praises for every one piece of specific, constructive criticism. "Five to one?!" we hear, "When Danny makes five errors for every ball he fields cleanly, how am I supposed to get to this ratio?!"
There are ways to achieve the Magic Ratio, legitimately, while helping your players improve. Take a simple fungo-fielding drill. Let's say you've got five players in a line, and you hit 10 ground balls to each of them in a five-minute drill.
That's 10 chances to find something positive to say to each player. Start the fungo drill slowly, hitting balls that are relatively easy to field. That will gently warm up the players and build their confidence as they field balls cleanly.
And since they are fielding cleanly, you have a chance to offer specific, truthful praise.
"Great footwork, Danny, that's it, left-right field, left-right throw,"
"Perfect triangle from feet to glove, Susie."
"Way to keep that glove low, Bill. That's even better than last practice."
As the drill progresses, gradually increase intensity and make the players range. Warmed up and buoyed by confidence from their successful fielding and your praise, they will make the tougher plays, giving you the chance to praise them more and build more confidence, which will lead to more success.
On 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 your praise.
For more ideas on how to get the most from your players while helping them get the most out of sports, visit PositiveCoach.org.