Coaching Styles

A coach can be a valuable addition to your life when taking on a difficult challenge. However, there are different styles of coaching, and the type of coach you have can hugely impact your progress and motivation. 

The two styles we most commonly see are positive reinforcement and encouragement versus punishment. 

But how do these dramatically different coaching styles affect your progress and journey?

Positive Reinforcement And Encouragement

Positive reinforcement means to give the subject positive words of encouragement or a “reward” when they perform well, reinforcing their good behaviour.

Example: a personal trainer in a gym may celebrate their client’s progress by bringing in a protein bar for the client. 


Example: a personal trainer may motivate their client who is not making progress by providing helpful tips and encouragement.

Negative Punishment 

Punishment is handed out in different forms in order to weaken whatever is causing the bad behaviour, this also manifests in the form of negative feedback. 

Example: a personal trainer may punish their client for not improving their performance by making them do 50 pushups at the start of each session.

New York State Hospital

The study Using High-Technology to Enforce Low-Technology Safety Measures conducted by New York State Hospital, shows how different approaches perform when put into practice. 

The aim of the study was to encourage hospital staff to wash their hands more frequently to prevent the spread of diseases. The hospital had warning signs of the effects of bad hygiene at each station, and cameras were also placed at each of these stations.

The recordings showed researchers that only 10% of medical staff were following this procedure. 

In an attempt to increase this percentage, the hospital placed electronic boards by the stations which rotated words of encouragement, such as “Good Job!”.

This positive reinforcement increased hand washing by 90% in just four weeks of it being introduced. 

Whilst this study isn’t placed in a coaching environment, what it does show us is that people respond better to positive reinforcement than punishment when progress is required, regardless of the environment they’re in. As the Harvard Review stated, this is because

positive feedback triggers a reward signal in the brain, reinforcing the action that caused it, and making it more likely to be repeated in the future

The College At Brockport

Coaching styles have a significant impact on a person’s motivation and performance. This was investigated by Mike Marcone of The College at Brockport: State University of New York in the study The Impact of Coaching Styles on the Motivation and Performance of Athletes. 

In this report Marcone sifts through several studies, and the literature examined shows an “autonomy supportive coach having the most positive impact on the motivation and performance of athletes.”

An “autonomy supportive coach” sounds pretty complex, but in actual fact, this is a coach who tends to be “pro-social, approachable, and very positive” – just like our encouragement coach. This style of coaching contrasts that of a “controlling coach”, one who “ exhibits behavior that is anti-social, making them unapproachable, and oftentimes provides negative feedback”  – very similar to our punishment coach. 

This study not only supports the idea that coaching style is significant to a person’s development, but, also, that the best type of coach is one who motivates and encourages, regardless of the discipline. 

Your Brain

When it comes to motivating people to complete an action, neuroscience tells us that positive reinforcement works much better than punishment. This is because positive reinforcement encourages the brain to take action in order to reap the rewards. This releases a surge of dopamine in the brain’s reward system (and we love dopamine).

Based on the research by Armellino et al., when it comes to coaching, an encouraging coach is more likely to motivate their subjects than those who follow a Sergeant Major “drop and give me 50” style of coaching.

It is for this reason, that the Peak app features an encouragement coach, to motivate you to beat your score and ensure you’re making progress each time you open the app!

Now that you know all about coaching styles, which coach will you choose?

Sources Cited:

Sajal Azam

One thought on “Coaching Styles

  1. When I first started Peak brain training my scores did not improve much. Every game completed came with a future target score that was way above where I was. Then the messages changed, often giving me favourable comparisons with others and I began to rise through the ranks. Now the goal posts have moved again and there are several hoops to jump through before gaining promotion to the next level. Unfortunately some of these targets are again unattainable and some of my scores have dropped back.

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