Friday, December 24, 2010

TAGteach Seminar Report - Hershey PA

Theresa and I were in Hershey PA last week for a terrific TAGteach seminar at the wonderful Vista School. The Vista School brings state-of-the-art special education and therapeutic services to children living with autism in Central Pennsylvania. We had a great group of people from several different backgrounds and we all learned a lot from each other. There were four behavior analysis professors there and all of them have plans for research studies, which is very exciting for us.

One of the homework exercises is to think of something that you would like to change in your own behavior and do some self-tagging to see how this works. Everyone takes home the tagulator that they made for themselves and pulls down a bead to mark the tags when they successfully execute the tag point they set from themsleves.

Here are some creative examples of self-tagging tag points that people invented:
After printing off a sheet from the printer file it right away rather than leaving it on the printer to pile up. The tag point is file the paper
While shopping, rather than getting annoyed at other people for pushing or other rude behavior, have empathy for them and think about what they might be thinking and why they might be in a hurry or stressed out. The tag point is think about others.
Instead of giving unsolicited and often unwanted advice to older teens and twenty-something children, keep quiet and let them enjoy the time together as a family. The tag point is keep quiet.
Associate Professor from Penn State, Rick Kubina told us that he has a 6 year old client with autism whose parents have struggled unsuccessfully for the past year trying to teach the child to tie his shoes. Rick had also been unsuccessful in an attempt to teach this. Rick went straight home and tried out his new TAGteach skills on this problem and posted the following on his Facebook page:

After my two day TAGteach seminar I had the chance to use my new acquired skill with a 6-year-old boy (he has autism). For the last year parents have been trying to teach him to tie his shoe. I tried about a month ago and failed miserably. After one, 20 minute TAGteach session I tagged what you see in the picture. Very proud of my little guy.
We had lots of interesting discussions about the application of TAGteach principles to real-life teaching situations that the attendees face. We look forward to hearing from everyone about their successes with TAGteach.

Monday, December 13, 2010

TAGteacher Tale - TAGtone for Medical Students

Thanks to Dr. Karen McLean for telling us about her application of TAGteach with medical students.

I recently took the TAG teach workshop in LA and thoroughly enjoyed it. (Thanks Theresa and Hello fellow students!) I use tagging in the hospital environment where I teach medical students and residents, particularly in physical examination skills or procedures at the bedside. This has been enthusiastically received by the residents who all want their own taggers so they can practice in small groups (they are preparing for a major exam). For use at the bedside I want a "tag tone" that fits better (is less intrusive) in the hospital environment. The click is harsh and may be disruptive or annoying to some patients (we have few single rooms), if used repeatedly. Sadly the clicker plus is not readily available.

There is an iphone clicker app for a clicker but I have found nothing for blackberry (my device of choice), and the iphone app as far as I know only produces the "click". I want a higher pitched tone, more musical than metallic, that will blend better into the ambient background noise, yet still be audible to small groups at the bedside. Our IT guys suggested two options - one being to use the custom profiles (for setting alerts) on the BB and the "try it" function to trigger the tone - that proved to be a bust as the time delay is anywhere
from almost 1 to 3 seconds, even though there are some suitable tones already available on the device.

The second suggestion was to try an online sound generator and import it into the device (should work for any device). After a few unsuccessful attemtps I found a site that works like a charm and within about 5 minutes I was able to generate and load to my blackberry a couple of suitable tones. (my IT guys call me an "early adopter" - but I am definitely not a techno-geek.) On my device this plays instantly with a press of the trackball as long as I have it selected.

If you are interested in trying it out for yourself - here is the website and the steps I used - it is pretty intuituve.

This website is intended for generating morse code ring tones – but if you pick a single letter and adjust the SPEED, PITCH and SOUND functions you can get pretty much what you want. For example, the letter 'e' gives you a single tone, 'h' is a short burst and 'm' is biphasic. I like the pitch high (3) because I want it to be less audible to older folk (which includes the majority of my patients) who often have high frequency hearing loss.

The "make Morse" bar allows you to check out the sound and keep adjusting paramters until you have what you want. Then click on "this file" as per the instructions and it will bring it up as a file on a webpage by itself. If you use the "file" option on the menu bar and "send page by e mail" you can then get it on your device, down load the attachment to a ring tone file...and there you have it. (this last is a little different than the instructions on the website.)

To use it you just open the ring tone file, select the one you want and hit play.

Now, I can get rid of one more thing from my pockets and I will always have my "tagger" with me. Next I am going to see if I can find a sound that is close enough to a clicker to work with my dogs and I won't have to have a clicker in every room in my house and every carry bag I use for classes!

Karen McClean

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Rehearsing Polite Manners with TAGteach

One of the things we learned early on with TAGteach is that the principles we have been developing are brilliant for allowing the rehearsal of specific small pieces of behavior. In our work with children and with adults in occupational and management training we have used a lot of role playing with tag points for specific areas of focus. The role playing allows us to set up situations that are non-threatening and allow the learner a chance to practice and succeed while gaining the skills required to accomplish a specific task in a real situation.

In his excellent book "The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child with no pills, no therapy, no contest of wills", Dr. Alan Kazdin explains that children need to practice desirable behaviors in a no-stress simulated situation so that they have the skills available to offer these behaviors in a real situation. Building a strong alternative behavior is the best way to eliminate unwanted behavior. For example, if a child has trouble sharing, he is more likely to be able to share in a real situation if he has practiced sharing in a simulated role-playing situation. If a child has never had the opportunity to practice the behaviors associated with sharing, and any time he has been exposed to a sharing scenario it has ended in stress and frustration, he will never develop the skills required and will become even less likely to share. Giving a child (or an adult) the opportunity to succeed by applying a new skill in a low stress simulation, increases the likelihood that he will employ these skills in a real-life situation.

We have posted a video that illustrates how we insert a tag point into a simulated situation to help Lear (who is four) practice polite manners. We want him to ask permission before opening the fridge. The tag point is "ask to open the fridge". We have provided motivation for him to open the fridge by providing a bowl of melon pieces. This keeps the game going as long as he wants some melon. The tag comes when he asks, and the primary reinforcer is a plastic sea creature.

You may wonder why we don't just let opening the fridge and getting the melon be the primary reinforcer after the tag. The main reason for this is that we want to be in control of the primary reinforcer. He wants a sea creature more than he wants a piece of melon (or perhaps he is smart enough to know that he can get both!). He is free to open the fridge and take a piece of melon when ever he feels like it. If he did that without asking there would be no tag and no sea creature. We do not want to have to hold the fridge closed or otherwise use force if he does not ask permission. This would ruin our tag session and would result in a tantrum and no learning is possible in this state of mind. In fact he never did just take a piece of melon, he asked every time. In this session Lear asked permission to open the fridge many times. This increases the chance of him asking in the future under similar circumstances. The more practice a child has with polite behaviors, and the  more these are reinforced with a positive outcome the more likely he is to use these habitually.

This video was submitted by Anne Wormald as part of her Level 1 Certification project.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Interview with TAGteach Co-founder Theresa McKeon

Listen to an interview with Theresa McKeon published at the blog of

In this episode, R. Trent Codd, III, Ed.S. LPC interviews Theresa McKeon about TAGteaching.  Items discussed include:
  • An overview of TAGteaching
  • The range of applications for this technology
  • The research base
  • The relationship between TAGteaching and Precision Teaching
  • Current directions in TAGteaching
Click here to go to the BehaviorTherapist blog and listen to the interview

Back Chaining - The Key to Reliablity

Back chaining is a concept foreign to many and counter-intuitive to most who first learn of it. We want to talk about it briefly here, because it is a very effective way to build highly reliable behaviors and it is one of the key techniques that any TAGteacher should understand and apply properly. A reliable behavior is one that looks the same each time the subject performs it. For example, with forming the letter "E", we would consider the behavior to be reliable if the child drew the letter the same way every time and the letter was drawn correctly.

Back chaining involves teaching a skill starting at the end and working back to the beginning. For example we would teach a child to come down the ladder to the climbing structure safely before teaching him to climb up it. This way we know that once he climbs up he will be able climb down. To do this we would place the child on the bottom step and work on taking one step down to the ground until he is confident with that. The we would place him on the second step and work on coming down two steps. After a few steps he would be confident with coming down and we could start working on going up and then coming back down. By teaching the last part first the learner is always moving toward the part of the skill that he learned first and with which he is most confident. The gymnast that learns her balance beam routine from back to front will not be worrying about moving toward the part of the routine that she has practiced the least, she will be confident that she is less likely to fall as the routine moves forward. The pianist who learns the last part of the piece first will be moving toward the part he has practiced most and with which he has the greatest confidence. Karen Pryor has been tweeting lately about her experiences with a choir director who understands back chaining and has been applying it most effectively. Follow Karen on twitter and look back through her choir posts for a play by play description of this back chaining application.

We have posted a video at YouTube that shows a very simple application of back chaining. This is the formation of the letter "L". We taught the right to left stroke of the bottom part of the letter first using a template that already had the down stroke completed and with red and black dots to guide the cross stroke. The tag point is "red to black". The child is to draw a line from the red to the black dot thus completing the letter correctly and with the pen stroke going in the correct direction. After practicing this until he was confident, the next tag point was also "red to black", but this time completing the dots created the down stroke of the L. Notice in the first trial with down stroke he goes on to finish the letter without any instruction or prompting. Because he had learned the last part of the letter first he naturally went on to complete it by doing the behavior that he was first taught (i.e., the cross stroke). This is a very nice demonstration of the power of back chaining.

Many of you have already seen our famous high jump video. This is a very complex skill that involves simultaneous rotation about two different axes and incorporates the transfer of power from the run to the jump. How could we teach something this complex backwards? Watch the video again (or for the first time) and see back chaining in action with a complex skill.

To learn more about back chaining, check out our recorded webinar:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Congratulations New TAGteachers!

Our congratulations to the following new and advancing TAGteachers. We are proud of your accomplishments and honored that you are taking this journey with us!

New Level 1’s
Jennifer Nash LRSD, BCBA
Lisa Knighten, OT
Dr. Jennifer Hennessey, BCBA, Behavior Intervention Consultant
Shelia Smith

New Level 2
Madeline Gabriel

Seminar Feedback from Educators

One of the areas in which we think TAGteach could have a profound impact is in the classroom, so we are thrilled to have been able to conduct seminars for educators from the Alternative Organizational Structure 94 Board Special Services in Maine and Arkansas Department of Education - Special Education Unit. In attendance were behavior analysts, early childhood behavior specialists, school psychology specialists, speech pathologists, and other specialists. TAGteach cofounder Theresa McKeon said:
Every state should be lucky enough to have a group this educated, dedicated and open-minded.
Here are some comments from attendees at the first training session in AK:
It truly was one of the best trainings I have ever had the opportunity to attend. Not only will help me in my professional world, but my daughter also learned to tie her shoes without the normal frustration we would experience. Thanks so much! - Sheila Smith

I agree with all Shelia said! I never believed I could teach my daughter to tie her shoes in less than an hour! I'm excited to see how I can use all I learned professionally. - Jennifer Hennessey

Thank you for investing your time bringing your training to AR. I agree with Shelia and Jennifer. Definitely was one of the best 2 days of training in 15 years. I look forward to applying the strategies at work and home and expect amazing results. - Laura McKenzie Cooke

And some comments after the second session:
Once again, the training was amazing!!! One of the most practical trainings I have ever attended. I highly recommend it to others in the field of education. Can't wait for the advanced training! - Sheila Smith

I agree with Shelia. I got positive feedback from all attendees. One sent me a text saying "I LOVE TAGTEACH" Thanks for another awesome training! - Jennifer Hennessey

If you are an educator and you have a training budget give us a call. Your teachers and specialist educators will love TAGteach!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Continuing Education Credits for TAGteach Seminars

Attendees at TAGteach seminars qualify for continuing education credits from the Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers and from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board


A TAGteach seminar falls under the description for Type 3 Continuing  Education:

Completion or instruction of a seminar, colloquium, presentation, conference event, workshop or symposium not approved by the BACB, or engaging in supervision activities, only if they relate directly to the practice of behavior analysis. A maximum of 25 percent of the total required number of hours of continuing education may be applied from this category during any three-year certification period.


The TAGteach online course qualifies for 9 CE credits from CCPDT. Just make a copy of your certificate and submit this. There is no need for any other form.

TAGteach live seminars qualify for 13 CCPDT credits.  We don't apply for these every time, since each seminar requires a separate application. If anyone whats these credits please tell us ahead for time so that we can do the application.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Self Assessment - Developing an Athlete's "Inner Eye"

By Theresa McKeon

The customary way to put a nail through a board is to pound it with a hammer. It’s fast, forceful and hammering can be a physical outlet for frustration. But what if there was a superior nail that with a little guidance would pull itself through the board and hold longer and stronger? Could you put down the hammer?

The following techniques are designed to help athletes build a repertoire of problem solving skills and a path towards self reliance in place of coach reliance.

Reinforce the Process

Step 1

Although feedback from the coach is imperative, an athlete who can self-assess will ultimately decrease his dependency on an instructor and increase his desire to look inward for answers. The process of handing over some of the reins may take a bit of time. At first athletes may be stymied by the prospect of being part of their own coaching staff. They have been programmed to take corrections directly from their coach, not to look inward. Coaches may initially fear wasting practice time while athletes find their ‘coach within’, but the results are very motivating.

Success is motivational so athlete and coach need to find immediate reinforcement opportunities. The techniques used in the TAGteach methodology are very helpful in providing organized opportunities for reinforcement in combination with self assessment. This can be valuable in the transition from passively being coached to participating actively in the process. With TAGteach, (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance) feedback from the coach is transmitted audibly with a simple device that produces a sharp click sound. This sound, called a 'tag', marks a single response, action or position called a tag point. The tag means "yes, correct". The absence of the tag means “self assess”. This binary feedback eliminates the need for immediate verbal performance feedback from the coach which can be loaded with social and emotional nuances. It allows the athlete to make the judgment "I did it right" or "I need to try something else next time". The athlete focuses on the results of the performance of the specific tag point and not on the tone of voice or other irrelevant information that often accompanies verbal corrections.

To make this work, the coach creates a single issue task that is set up for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Take for example a volleyball player who has trouble remembering to bend her knees before she bumps the ball. The coach sets up a single issue task (tag point) that can be judged as correct or not correct. “The tag point is…knees bent.” If the athlete bends her knees before the bump, the coach tags. The athlete, conditioned to identify that sound as, “yes”, captures the mental snapshot of this correct placement and immediately moves on to assess any internal feedback of the position.

If the athlete does not hear the tag he uses this information to self assess:
“No tag? What was the tag point?

It was…knees bent.

My knees must not have been bent.

I will focus on the bend next turn.”
The athlete self assesses before the coach provides additional feedback. This fosters accountability and may decrease the athlete's dependence on commentary from the coach.

To stave off frustration, the guidelines of TAGteach recommend that if the learner hears ‘no tag’ in three successive tries, the coach lowers the criterion for the tag to a level where success is more certain. The coach then increases the difficulty gradually with ever more challenging tag points. This creates a climate of success for the learner and keeps frustration to a minimum.

Step 2

Now that the act of self assessing has been made reinforcing for the athlete (the sound of the tag is associated with success) and the coach (less corrections, more athlete accountability and faster skill acquisition), the next step is to develop the athlete’s problem solving skills.

First the athlete must be given problems to solve. The tagging technique gently introduces problem solving. The final answer can always be found in the clearly stated tag point.
“I didn’t receive a tag…why?” “The tag point was...toes touching in the handstand” “If I’m not getting tagged it must be because my toes are apart.” “I’ll put my toes together” (athlete hears the tag) “yep, that’s what it was!”
Step 3

Say an athlete attempts a tag point three times and does not succeed. Instead of automatically giving an easier tag point the coach may ask the athlete, “this is what we are trying to accomplish, what you think the new tag point should be?” Depending on the athlete’s age and skill level, the coach can quickly shepherd the athlete to a new tag point or allow a more extended dialogue. For example,

Coach: "The tag point was swing the tennis racket parallel to the ground. You didn’t receive a tag on the last three swings. Do you know why?"

Athlete: "No! I understand the tag point but I really felt like I was swinging the racket parallel."

Coach: "OK, what should we do?"

Athlete: "First we should find out if we mean the same thing by ‘parallel’."

Coach: "Great idea. Show me what parallel feels like to you?"

Athlete: (Athlete demonstrates)

Coach: "Aha! There is the problem. The racket head needs to be tilted farther forward." (Coach tilts the athlete’s racket to the correct spot and marks it with a tag)

Athlete: "OK, that’s different from what I thought the tag point was. Can we tag this position a few more times without the swing so I can get used to it?"

Coach: (Tags the corrected racket placement and the athlete feels more successful and confident)

Athlete: "OK, I am ready to put it back into the full swing.”
This scenario illustrates how useful athlete input can be and that with a little guidance the athlete can solve problems and ultimately shorten learning time. If the coach had simply kept repeating, “Parallel…the racket needs to be parallel…why are you ignoring the correction?” both parties could have become frustrated resulting in stalled progress. By creating a concentrated formula for delivering information (the audible tag), the TAGteach methodology reduces the time spent on external feedback, allowing for increased attention to internal feedback. Now it is possible for athletes to be part of the process and to take a cognitive role in their journey to accomplishment.

The nail, with a little guidance, can pull itself through the board.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

TAGteacher Tale - Toddler Tagging Follow-up

Thanks to TAGteacher Denise Lacey for keeping us updated on her toddler tagging adventures. Denise is a clicker trainer and TAGteacher who has been tagging her young son with great results.

My son is almost 27 months old. Focusing on the stuff I want him to do is working really well. He is currently the only kid in his "social circle" who does not use the word "no" as a general response/statement. He has used it a couple times to decline when I asked him if he wanted something. That to me seems really reasonable.

He is helpful in getting dressed and feeding himself. He (usually) is cooperative with having his teeth brushed. He holds my hand when we go in the street and will insist on holding other peoples hands if they are nearby. He also makes wonderful "piggy noises", has learned to blow "raspberries", and is generally a fun little guy. We're getting good with all sorts of things using positive reinforcement. And usually I can ignore the bad stuff and redirect with other behaviors I want.

But this evening I found it impossible to ignore him kicking a plate of stew left from lunch off the kitchen table. Management issue: I suppose I will have to improve my table clearing skills for the near future.


p.s. Lest you think my child is really a wild beast in a zoo, I confess that I don't think the plate was intentionally kicked. I was turned away finishing wrapping a gift for a cousin's birthday party and had left him happily eating pretzels in a chair so the dog couldn't "help." I believe he climbed on the table and began dancing (a behavior which has earned him a great deal of attention/reinforcement lately so why not try it out on the table) and accidentally dislodged said plate with all contents to the floor. And my response, while I couldn't ignore it, consisted of sitting him on the bottom step so I could clean up the mess without him running through it. Our "bottom down" cue worked pretty well since he seemed to still want to go dancing. Meanwhile, my husband will enjoy our son's impact on my housekeeping skills. I bet I even get clicked for the prompt cleaning!

Check out our previous blog posts about toddler tagging

TAGteacher Spotlight - Helix Fairweather

Helix Fairweather is Certified Level 2 TAGteacher and an accomplished clicker trainer. Helix is a faculty member of Clicker Expo and the Karen Pryor Academy for Dog Training and behavior. She was the first to apply TAGteach techniques in the instruction of dog handlers, developing tag points for the front cross and other agility-related maneuvers.
I first learned of TAGteach through something Karen Pryor wrote some years ago. I tried so hard to chase down more information searching the internet, looking for books and so on - there was nothing out there at the time! Imagine how happy I was to then be invited to be on the first year's Clicker Expo faculty. Finally, I had first-hand information about TAGteaching!

One of the most joyous uses of TAGteach for me currently is in presenting seminars. My co-presenter, Megan Cruz, KPA CTP, and I bring bags of small candy bars and Werthers to our seminars. As people ask good questions or make observations about dog body language, we give them a bone cut out of cardstock, redeemable for the candy of their choice. It's really fun to see the seminar attendees start indicating "oh! she should get a tag for that" as they pick up on noticing the behaviors we are reinforcing. 

Sometimes someone will run up to our table on a break and grab a bone to hand to someone who just did something great.
Find out more about Helix from her blogs and wesbite: (How to raise a puppy the clicker way)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

TAGteach and Sports - How to Eliminate Nagging

By Theresa McKeon

“This is the hundredth time I’ve told you…and last time I am going to say it…”

Ah nagging; the most beloved teaching tool in the world. Just keep at ‘em until they fix it, do it, drop it or stop it. In fact, experienced coaches, teachers and parents often use a highly advanced system called, multi-nagging. Hit them with multiple corrections every turn. One of them may stick. This leads us to the question…
How do you amplify the critical feedback athlete’s need, while reducing the amount of language that accompanies it? There is a way.
In a process called TAGteach, (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance) feedback from the coach is transmitted audibly with a simple device that produces a sharp click sound. This sound, called a ‘tag’, marks a single response, action or position called a tag point, and says, “Yes, that’s correct”. No tag means, “Self-assess and try again”. The feedback is positive and students don’t have to interpret verbal instructions or corrections while trying to interpret their own intrinsic feedback.

For example, a gymnast must learn the basic skill of keeping good form while performing a handstand. Instead of repetitive requests that bear a considerable resemblance to nagging, such as “get your feet together”, the coach can establish a ‘tag point’. A tag point is something the coach wants, phrased in a way that can be answered yes or no, such as “the tag point is…feet together”. If the athlete puts her feet together in the handstand, the coach marks the exact moment her feet come together with a ‘tag’. If she hears the tag, she hears success. If the athlete doesn’t hear a tag, she must self assess. No tag? She thinks, “The tag point was… feet together. Mine must still be apart.” The athlete decides on a corrective action, pulls her feet together and receives the tag. Changes are considered and made by the athlete through self-assessment before further feedback from the coach is given. Now the athlete is in charge of her progress with minimal intervention from the coach. This fosters accountability and reduces the need for immediate and constant verbal corrections.

Break it Down

The coach can also decrease nagging and boost the athlete’s chance for success by increasing criteria in manageable increments and limiting unsuccessful attempts. The athlete can only truly focus on improving one aspect of a skill at a time, particularly if it is a new skill. When they receive multiple corrections it’s a coin toss. Legs straight? Back straight? Legs together? Toes Pointed? Which correction is the most important to the coach? Even if they do make a correction, there seems to be a “better, but” that lands them in the “you aren’t concentrating” hole again. With TAGteach, the coach chooses and tags for the point that is sequentially most important to the make-up of the skill. If the athlete does not receive a tag within three tries, it is the coach’s responsibility to create a tag point that is within the skill level of the athlete. In all cases, tag points are addressed one at a time and the student does not receive commentary on other errors. These errors will be addressed in future tag points. Because the criterion for success is the attainment of the single tag point and not the completed, perfected skill, the athlete and coach can learn to appreciate incremental successes on that never ending road to perfection.

The Tag Point Is…

There are several direct benefits of using the phrase “The tag point is…” First, a tag point is always phrased in the positive. This helps both the coach and the athlete to focus on what should happen. “Your toes aren’t pointed”, becomes, “The tag point is…pointed toes.” “Stop bumping the volleyball with straight legs, there’s no power in that” becomes “The tag point is…bent knees”. Now both parties are focused on what should happen instead of what shouldn’t happen.

Secondly, the unique construction of the phrase sets the stage for a balanced relationship between coach and athlete. Jim Mernin works with athletes of all ages and cognitive abilities in the art of horsemanship for the Festina Lente equestrian facility in Wicklow, Ireland. He found his students felt less intimidated when objectives were phrased “The tag point is…” instead of the standard “I want you to ….” The absence of the words “I want” allows the coach to become more of a facilitator and less of a dictator. This leveling of the playing field is not lost on the learner. Jim says the phraseology helps create a relationship with his students based on assistance instead of dominance, opening the door for better communication and respect.

Finally, because tag points are broken down into easily recognizable bits with simple yes or no answers, athletes can become the ‘coach’ and tag each other. We call this ‘peer tagging’. Athletes instantly fill with a sense of responsibility and pride as they are handed a tagger and put in charge of deciding if the tag point was preformed or not. They learn to look for correct actions in their partner, while mentally reinforcing the same points within themselves. The student who teaches learns twice.

For instance, a baseball coach breaks his team members into groups of two. The tag point is… step into the swing. One player is the ‘coach’ and will tag if the tag point is achieved. The second in the pair is the ‘athlete’ and will perform the skill. Each group of 2 is now completely focused on their individual assignment and after a set number of tags can flip flop the coach-athlete role. Each athlete is now getting a mental workout even though they may not be the one currently performing the skill. Bonus- with the athletes tagging each other, the coach is now free to give an individual attention, without halting the rest of the group.

Positive Reinforcement

Historically coaches are not given many tools to focus on the good. We acknowledge something performed correctly only as long as it takes to consider what still needs to be improved. The key to TAGteach is to increase a correct response, action, or position by pinpointing and reinforcing it. Although studies show that especially in adults, feedback and accomplishment are in themselves reinforcing, the definable and measurable successes of the audible tag can be counted and used in a token economy. As an athlete collects a pre-defined number of “tags,” she may choose to turn them in to “buy” stickers, trinkets, come in late on a Saturday practice, choose the next skill, or even choose next tag point. Groups of athletes can combine their earned tags and turn them in for open gym time, compete in skill contests, or team sleepovers.

Working with Special Needs Athletes

Although TAGteach is being utilized by nationally ranked main-stream athletes, the methodology of marking a predefined response, action, or position (the tag point), utilizing non-threatening language and positive reinforcement also make it perfect for work with the special needs community as noted by the following: Special Olympics: “We saw an almost immediate improvement in skill execution and confidence in our Special Olympics rhythmic gymnasts”, said Debbie Boycott, head coach of the Oakville Butterflies from Oakville, ON Canada. “The athletes were very quick to understand and appreciate this way of teaching and were even able to teach each other using the TAGteach methods”.  [Editor's note: Athlete Emily Boycott won 5 gold medals in Special Olympics rhythmic gymnastics]

Jennifer Golynsky, Special Olympics coach in aquatics and tennis relates, “I have been coaching Special Olympics for 11 years and feel that TAGteach is aligned with the Special Olympics philosophy in that it emphasizes positive reinforcement, athlete confidence and breaking down skills into manageable tasks.

Students with Autism: “Applied Behavior Consultants, Inc., founded in 1986, by Dr. Joseph Morrow and Brenda Terzich, M.A., has provided behavioral services for over 3000 clients worldwide. TAGteach™ allows us to be “language-free” with our reinforcement. This is a tremendous benefit since many of our students have communicative deficits. Once paired with a reinforcer, the “tag” is universal. Preliminary research at ABC, Inc. has shown positive results using TAGteach and positive behavior change. TAGteach™ is not just for competitive athletes and gymnasts; it can be proven functional and invaluable for children with Autism, as shown here at ABC, Inc.”  [Editor's note: visit our website and blog posts for research on TAGteach and autism]

Say Goodbye to Nagging

Like the much loved video game, TAGteach provides instant, positive, audible feedback. It’s easy to use and understand and backed by the science of learning. The methodology described, provides coaches with a tool other than a notional hammer to present feedback in a supportive, productive fashion beneficial to coaches and athletes.

Comments from dance teachers after attending a TAGteach seminar: