When reinforcing learning goals there is one common method we must stop using!

“Stick the landing! if you fail you have to do 20 push ups before you can continue”

I count at least four problems within this scenario... Yet sometimes I catch experienced coaches (including myself 🤯 ) choosing a “punishment” to reinforce learning goals.

Oh you did this too? Don’t feel bad, but allow me to explain why I believe it is not the best way to go.

  Coach Martin Kallesøe with   student Rasmus Sinding, 2014 at Gerlev Sports Academy. 

Coach Martin Kallesøe with student Rasmus Sinding, 2014 at Gerlev Sports Academy. 


The four (main) problems.


If you want to get good at precisions, don’t spend your time doing push ups.

We must assume the learning goal of the scenario is for your students to get better at sticking precision landings.. in that case we should ensure that time is spent on precisions + feedback and then more precisions in a positive loop. The push ups will steal valuable time where fresh sensory feedback can get lost.

② 
Students may not be paying attention to your feedback.

When you want to give them feedback on a bad landing, all that is on their mind is the push-ups, and even if they are paying attention they first have to do push-ups and in the meantime they run the risk of forgetting the feedback. The delay can also make them anxious about the next attempt and a possible delay again = potentially tunnel vision and over-tension.


Push ups are something we must avoid (NOT TRUE).

You risk passing on a negative association with push ups to your students (if they don’t already have it) and even if they don’t come to hate push ups they get this subconscious idea that when you get better at parkour you don’t have to do workouts. Rather push ups should be enjoyed together in well designed workouts.


You plant bad seeds...!

Let’s assume you also encourage your students to train precisions on their own outside classes.

  • Either they choose to repeat this drill and point 1,2 and 3 repeats now even without your feedback. But “HEY, they get stronger by doing all these push ups..”  well if that is what it means to be strong 😉

  • They choose to skip the push ups, then feel bad and frustrated with themselves.

  • Another bad seed is the idea that each attempt is either fail or success, a better way to look at the attempts would be an opportunity for sensing, reflecting and learning from it of course.

  • You risk that they lose interest in your classes - they sense that they are wasting time on push ups.

  • They may teach others - and the bad seed is passed on endlessly.
     

WHY, THEN...?

It seems so obvious - am I right? Why do we then sometimes choose this method anyway?

I think we tend to use this method because we, ourselves, have been taught this way/with similar methods and attitudes by our coaches - it feels like a natural choice when you sense that the students are not really taking your idea of repeating the jump many times with a serious attitude - it seems they are not really trying. Then when you introduce the punishment, you will immediately see them try harder - it seems to have fixed the problem, but the more intense atmosphere in the group is not only (potentially) increased focus and desire to actually complete the precisions it is also the negative consequences mentioned above in point 1-4.

Let’s talk about better methods in the comments - the next post will be about better ways to make a group focus on repetition.