Have you used token rewards?

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    I struggled to think of an idea, but i thought of something slightly trivial that may count as a “token reward” that happens within my training group.

    During a group sprint session we may race over 80/100m, obviously some athletes are slower than others so we are given suitable handicaps (EG; the slower athlete may have a 10m head-start), this helps to ensure everyone remains motivated. The slower athlete is motivated to not let the faster athletes catch them and the faster athletes are motivated by closing down and catching the others. The coach will often say the athlete who wins the most races will get a reward, maybe something like a free coffee!


    I have used token rewards as a coach (The black shirt method as mentioned by Lisa but for high school football. If you hustled, listened and did your job you would get a black mesh jersey to wear in practice). When coaching youth soccer and we play sharks and minnows the 1-2 left at the end get to be the sharks. (I am not sure if that is a token reward though)

    The school system I work in tries to use token rewards for behavior called RESPECT tickets: a student gets them from a staff member for doing something nice or good. The ticket is turned in for a drawing and people are chosen and get to pick a small prize. The positive aspect of this is : all students who turn in a ticket get a call home about their good action or deed. The negative aspect is: not all staff are on the same page on giving tickets as someone who always helps may not get a ticket and someone who is perpetual gets a ticket for doing something they should normally be doing which has caused some complaining of fairness by the students.


    I used token reward in some of my sports athletes. They were mostly under 12 years, I just wanted the class to be fun and interactive. In some instances, I conducted combine activities with my senior athletes and they had to compete with them and the winning group will get some rewards for their competition spirit. Using token reward method with children is very effective.



    i am a swimming coach, i do use candies and small goodies as tokens.
    It proves quite effective with children


    Dealing with kids, yes a token for top 2 best performance will be an isotonic.
    But I had to ensure they only have plain water during training.
    But then some parents brought their own isotonic drink for post training.
    So we have to think of other goodies.
    other attractive items also may be presented at times.
    Like gloves, shorts, tshirts and sometimes jerseys..
    those will be for race winners and other good performances.
    For older athletes, juniors and above… will be some coffee treat at the end,
    and of course some food stuff which they take for their special diets.


    I haven’t coached myself, but have read books about some of the greatest coaches in different sports who used tokens to create team cohesion in team sports.

    And inspired by these coaches I would like to use tokens when I get the opportunity. If done appropriate it can create team cohesion and enhance self-efficacy and confidence in players.

    When I used to play football (european) we had a mascot the player of the game had, and at the end of each season the player who got it the most was our player of the year.

    Randell Siow

    Taking a cue from what some of the army forces do, we have taken to giving out morale patches to our students in our martial arts classes.

    These can range from velcro stick ons to beads.
    Rather than signify a rank or belt achievement, we award these for the characters and values that we observe during training i.e. helping another person, being persistent.

    Each tab is different and we explain the ‘story’ behind each award so that the recipient finds meaning in explaining his award to others.


    I have not coached or used token rewards before.
    The features that stand out to me about token rewards and why I would use them in future are (1) valued by athletes and their peers (2) everyone has a chance of getting a token reward (3) effort or performance relative to ability is the basis of rewards rather than best performer.
    The SCORE framework is helpful guiding the development of TR system. I would try the following:
    Get the coach and athlete (s)/team to get together to create a token rewards (TR) profile:
    [1] What they want to be measured to get a TR
    • Technical (i.e. knowledge & skills)
    • Tactical (i.e. knowledge & skills)
    • Physiological / Physical (i.e. bodily awareness)
    • Psychological (i.e. behaviours, thoughts, emotions)
    [2] How the effort and performance it is to be measured?
    • The effort and performance can be evaluated by all members, but weighted on the coach’s evaluation. For example, observed/questioned by coach (e.g. 55%), observed/questioned by group/team members (e.g 30%), athletes self-reflection (also checking their own self-awareness) (e.g. 15%)
    [3] Collectively identify meaningful rewards to ensure they are actually motivating (e.g. praise or recognition, food, clothing, deciding on fun activities the team can do, certificate or trophy for most supportive team member, self-awareness, self-reflection)
    [4] Determine the frequency TR’s are given (e.g. associated to an event, randomly done to prevent effort based on the expectation of a reward) and type of TR given.
    [5] Chart the above TR profile and put it up somewhere to use it as a visual cue to help them focus on their mind-set before they practice or play. They can also each take home the same visual cue chart to put up.
    [6] Review (e.g. monthly) of the profile and discuss learning points from having TR’s.
    I think there are several functions or benefits of token rewards.
    • Positive reinforcement for motivation (effort and performance) at all stages rather than focusing on performance at the top
    • If they (group of athletes/team) work together to develop the profile used for the token rewards they can get an understanding of each other’s perspective of what they think is relevant and want to be recognised
    • Vicarious learning – seeing others get rewards for values, skills, characteristics and qualities that are essential for success “winning approach VS just being the winner”
    • Developing the ‘value’ around “being supportive of each other’s growth and development


    Nope, and I don’t plan to implement tokens. Am a much bigger fan of recognition, verbally, and often in private.
    The reward is ‘getting absorbed by the task, and loose track of time and effort’. Student-athletes learn to recognize this reward, highly addictive, a rage for mastery.


    I used token rewards for my athletes during my nutrition education sessions. I found it is very effective to motivate and attract their attention throughout the whole series of education session. My athletes range from 12 years old till above 21 years old.


    I’ve used token rewards with youth athletes, however I am not in a coaching position with my collegiate athletes, therefore I can make suggestions to the coaching staff in that environment-leaving it up to them to implement. When doing it with my youth league, it really fostered positive peer pressure and a culture of trying to do better on a weekly basis.


    Have you used token rewards? Were they effective? Would you use them again?

    Yes, I have used them on my Taekwondo kids who behave well in class or who had learnt a particular kick or movement. I think that my kids love them, especially if the tokens are Taekwondo related; such as Taekwondo keychains etc. I will definitely used them again and again but the tokens have to be something new, maybe a taekwondo t-shirt.


    I have never used the token system as a coach but I have seen a meme that uses gummy bears as a token for studying. Simply place the gummy bears at different parts of the page and eat when you reach the gummy in your reading. It is sure motivating for me!


    As a player i have witnessed our coach give us feedbaack and reawrds in form of varbally motivated words to a hard worker and best performer that boost the player to do hard work more after the training session and match. I had used while I trained the School Footbal students in internship program. I gave a rewards of sports wrist belt according to there performance.

    Frank J.H. Lu

    The token is a very useful tool to enhance one’s motivation in a certain activity. But sometimes it is not so useful or effective when the token is perceived as meaningless or insignificant. For example, I once used a convenient store coupon to solicit fitness club members to complete my survey package. Unfortunately, the survey package was so thick with many questionnaires, scales, and inventories but the coupon was only 3 US dollars. So most club members refused to participate my survey.

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