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Awards and Rewards

Children are by their very nature extrinsically motivated. They seek the rewards for their efforts, want to be loved
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and recognised by others. And like all of us they need to see the exchange process in action.

The “Exchange” is a phrase used by a good friend, Doug Cash, from the USA. He uses it to talk about business and many other issues. It is a simple concept, in life we seek all things to be fair.

Fair means that you get something for your input. If you win you expect a prize or at least to be recognised. It is because of this that I am going to suggest that in all competition there should be a winner or winning team, and this winner should receive a prize.

However this is not the only part of the “exchange” process that is important to children. If they have participated, improved or made a great effort then in their minds they might also feel that they deserve something for their efforts. The question to ask is what are these prizes.

First let me define prize and reward.

A prize is generally a physical item, something that can be held and kept. A medal, a tennis item or something small that recognises the winner.

Reward can also be a prize but it also spans things like recognistion by coaches, parents and peers, an opportunity to move on or up. Rewards are things that should be given as part of the exchange process and can be given for such things as improvement, commitment, enjoying the challenge of competition

How you structure any reward ceremony is therefore very important as it is this more than any other part of the day that signals what you value as a coach.

Winners and Placings

So you know my stance on this already. There should be a reward for the player who wins the tournament or event, but it could also be for the team that wins and this would help to place less emphasis on any individuals. But without a winner’s prize you run the risk of creating less aspiration for all players to participate and improve.

Recognising and Linking Progress

This is a more difficult prize to give. The tendency is always to give this prize to a player who has improved but not finished victorious in the event. So you must be careful that this is given for a genuine reason and not simple out of pity for a competitor who is not yet winning matches. The result of giving this for the wrong reason can leave players praying that they do not receive it, since it can be viewed by their peers as an excuse for taunts and ridicule.

Not giving this prize means that you are sending the message that “winning” is the most important thing and that improving skill is not of value. And yet we are coaches and we sell our services based upon how much we can help a player to improve so we must be careful here. So keep your eyes peeled thoughout the event, look for a player who is making genuine pr.ogress and who is deserving. Even better if this is an event between your own players link it to someone who has improved in lesson as well as in performance in the event

What to give

How big this prize should be is certainly worth discussion. For sure it should not be money or something that has a value that parents could attached pressure to. In my experience kids love to get medals, trophies and things that shine, whilst parents may discuss the victory long after it has passed the child moves on and can still remember through the prize their victory on the day.

If you value improvement as much as winning then give prizes of equal value for these events.

Having an Audience

Don’t forget that when the awards ceremony comes around you will have an audience so it is your opportunity to make a real impression. You need to work to ensure that both parents and players stay until the end of the end of the event, and you can do this easily by publicing the awards that will be given in advance and keeping some of them secret until then.

Tryers, Buyers and Flyers

Remember that the stage of participation as discussed earlier is linked to the motivation of the child for playing the event. As such the way you present and behave at the event should change depending upon whether players are just starting out and so have a short format, relaxed and fun based event or if the players are highly committed and you are therefore delivering an aspirational and highly competitive environment.

Presenting Skills

If you have never had to present at an awards ceremony or speak in front of an audience it can appear daunting. Try to remember that everyone is there to listen so its highly unlikely that there will be hecklers. Secondly parents will be with their children so they are less likely to cause a fuss. In short what i am saying is that no one wants you to fail.

  • Start with some comments about the event, and don’t forget to thank the helpers and any officials right at the start. It’s a great idea to ask the players to get in the habit of thanking the officials at the end of every match and also ensure that they don’t leave without thanking the tournament director. So sending the message out that the first people to thank are the ones that made it happen is a great start.
  • Then award the special prizes to players who have improved etc…. remember to avoid the silly awards, no one wants to win them.
  • Then make some comments about any final matches and award the placings, leading up to the winner.It’s a good idea to call them Semi finalists, finalist and winner, rather than using the word losing or runner up.
  • Don’t forget the thank the officials or any parents that helped on the day.

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