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Giving Players Money to Score Goals

 by  Coach Diane Boettcher

Coach: What is your stance on a coach giving his player money to score goals during a game?  

I came from a league that frowned on this very much to the point of removing coaches that acted in this manner. I feel it is something that takes away from the whole team spirit and teaches one to become a one man team.

I have recently become involved in a league that not only allows this but was surprised to find that all but one of my fellow board members also practiced this same act with their child.

First, there is no correlation and certainly no cause and effect relationship between money and goal scoring. As well, in soccer eleven players are responsible when a goal is scored. Rewarding one for the efforts of all is counter productive for a coach. Individualizing rewards would break a coach’s wallet. How much for a through pass? A save? An interception? A 40 yard run?

A parent, however, is a different matter.

It seems many parents have embraced operant conditioning. They reward good behavior to bolster its occurrence. It is not uncommon to hear of students who can’t wait to get home with their grades- and have the dollar figures totaled.

What these parents do not realize about operant conditioning is that it is manipulative and requires nearly constant diligence. One must catch nearly every example of the desired behavior in order to have credibility or consistency. Grades and goals are easy to monitor and to catch every occurrence for reward. But, soon, the reward replaces the intrinsic value of performance and establishes a market value for the performance.

Take the classic study about the noisy boys and pay for play. Its premise is that extinction can occur when a behavior is no longer rewarded. When the reward is removed, so is the motivation. Those being manipulated get back at the manipulator by not performing.

The study was conducted by a professor of psychology who was disturbed by a group of distractingly loud neighbor boys playing. He went out to the boys one day, gave them a story about how they reminded him of his youth and told them he would pay them $5 for playing within earshot of his house. He paid them consistently for a period of time to establish value and supplant their intrinsic motivation with a monetary one. They played noisily; then they stopped by his door to collect.
After he felt he had established monetary motivation, the professor cut back on the days he paid up. Then, one day he told the boys he could no longer afford to pay them. The boys were so disappointed, they vowed to him they would never play near his house again. The professor successfully extinguished the behavior by withholding the reward. The boys thought they controlled their manipulator by withholding their performance.

One could argue that monetary reward for goal scorers merely enhances the intrinsic values of self esteem, pride from peers, fan recognition, and personal satisfaction. True enough. But, tangible rewards also demonstrate artificial values and a relationship of manipulation. No money for taking out the garbage? Feeding the dog? Doing homework? Clearly those are not as important as soccer. When the child’s grades slip, then the homework reward is offered. Only then does homework rank as highly as soccer. When the dog goes hungry- prepare to pony up!

Operant conditioning seeks to establish a goal in the mind of a subject. Soccer already has a goal. What part of playing soccer requires external motivation?

Diane Boettcher

Diane Boettcher is a Soccer Bon Vivant, Former Physical Educator in Elementary Grades, High School, College, and University. She is an Olympic Development Program coach with coaching licenses from the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA), Holland (KNVB), and the English (FA).