Friday, September 27, 2013

Sport Coaches: Four Things Your Athletes Wish You Knew

As any career coach will agree, the best way to train a winning athlete is with creativity, fun and positive reinforcement… theoretically. The reality is, all that fun can be time consuming. The bridge between theory and reality is battered by the short time coaches have to produce results, the competing obligations of the athletes and a dozen other factors. Under that bridge lies the impatience of teachers, team directors, students and their parents. We have a name for the practical response most coaches have to this pressure: “Correctional Multi-Nagging”. To keep our heads above water and conserve precious time, trained coaches see errors made by the athlete and dutifully make the corrections...all of them - at once.  What else can you do, right?

With TAGteach the coach gives the athlete a very specific goal for each time they take their turn. This goal is called a tag point, and defines the precise movement that the coach will watch for and will reinforce with a tag if the athlete succeeds.

Here are four practical tips that TAGteachers know and that your athletes wish you knew about getting maximum performance in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of stress. Each tag point must meet these four criteria:
  1. Ask for what you do WANT. Be very clear about exactly what your athlete needs to do right in the next moment. Keep this instruction uncluttered by removing descriptions of the many ways it could be done incorrectly.
  2. Ask for ONE THING at a time. Think about what will be that one key element on which the athlete should put their full focus on the next try.
  3. Be sure that you can clearly OBSERVE the exact moment that the athlete meets your criteria for success.
  4. Formulate your final instruction to the athlete in FIVE words or less. This is all they will remember anyway as they go to take their turn, so make those final words count! Make sure these words tell the athlete the exact, specific detail that you will be watching for and that they should be thinking about.
Watch this video of a sport coaching session using TAGteach. There are lots of great coaching skills displayed by these coaches but most important of all is the WOOF factor. As you watch, notice how these skilled coaches  implement the four tips discussed here.

The click sound you hear in the video is the sound of success! We call this a tag. This tells the athlete that she has met the criteria set by the coach (the tag point) for that turn. Read more about tag points.

Learn More About the Extraordinary Power of TAGteach

Now available is a recorded webinar presented by Karin Coyne and Abigail Curtis along with TAGteach co-founders Joan Orr and Theresa McKeon on the topic of TAGteach for sport coaching. Sport coaching is where TAGteach got its start and where it truly excels. If you are a coach or an athlete this is must have information and a low cost way to learn about TAGteach.

Click here for more information or to register

Use the code ILOVETAGTEACH for 50% off until Thurs Nov 7, 2013 (price will be $9.97)

100% money back satisfaction guarantee

Because we want to get this information into the hands of more coaches, we will give you a discount code for you to give to your coach or your child's coach to access the recorded webinar for free. Coaches need to know this stuff! You will get an email with the free discount code after you register for the recorded webinar.

More Sports Posts

Monday, September 23, 2013

TAGteacher Tale: TAGteach - How Learning to Tag has Changed My Life

By Katie Scott-Dyer

Reprinted with permission from:
Who can spot me?

A bold statement but true nonetheless. I recently attended a 2 day TAGteach Primary Certification seminar in Bristol UK and it has revolutionised my thinking and strategies for coaching my own learners. Why? Because it cuts out all the blurry stuff, all the fluff and fuzz that can easily lose the learner in the fog of information.

This means that learners can have a clear goal or tag point, which is marked with an audible distinct sound such as the word tag or a clicker. This can be applied to any learner, be it human or animal. The instructions are finely sliced, the tag point is delivered in 5 words or less and gives immediate feedback of success to the learner at every tag point stage. It’s clear and simple learning with positive reinforcement, which can be tracked with a tagulator (beads on a string) that can be collected for a primary reinforcer or just the immediate success acts as a reinforcer for the learner. The science geeks among us know this as operant conditioning. OK so why the hooha about it changing my life?

I am on the Autism Spectrum. I’m both high and low functioning but have achieved a level of integration in ‘normal’ or neurotypical society because of my higher functioning attributes. It has been a difficult path to walk alone though. If TAGteach had been around when I was a kid I may have a had an even more successful, less frustrating, anxiety ridden childhood and been a higher achiever than I currently am. Plus I can still find it difficult to communicate clearly and effectively, even on relatively high functioning days. In class you can imagine the confusion which can arise from not delivering instructions efficiently to the learner. TAGteach will now be incorporated into my classes and has already been adapted into my coaching with measurable success. Having a tag point, clear determined goal which the learner can self select to personalise and even tag the teacher and each other is very empowering, makes the learning environment cooperative and progressive which can only be a good thing, right!

My gratitude to my TAGteach coach Theresa McKeon BA is infinte and I will always be indebted to the seminar organiser Sara Roberts KPA-CTP. Thank you ladies, my life will never be the same again! And being in the same room as some of the best animal and people trainers was inspiring too.

Learning never stops, I have a brain which mostly works but needs steering in the right direction at times so my aim is achieve Level 1 TAGteach certification. I had better crack on and get some TAGteach experience under my belt…

Here’s a link to the TAGteach International website, so you can see for yourself what I’m blathering on about:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

TAGteacher Tale: Douglas Goes to Camp - The Magic of TAGteach in Action

Smiling teenage boy on swingsteenage boy smiling, wearing blue life jacket 

By Joan Orr, MSc

Doug is the subject of the book Chaos to Calm: Discovering Solutions to the Everyday Problems of Living with Autism, by Martha Gabler. Martha explains step-by-step in the book how she methodically taught Doug many simple and then more and more complex behaviors necessary for life in a busy family. She used TAGteach, an approach based on the science of behavior, to teach new behaviors to replace screaming, running around, self injury and other chaotic behaviors with which many autism parents struggle on a continual basis. All Martha's teaching used positive reinforcement to strengthen desired behaviors. Now Doug is 17 and his self-stimulatory behaviors are almost non-existent. He chooses to exhibit behaviors that he has learned and that have become more reinforcing for him than the chaotic and sometimes violent behaviors in which he engaged during what Martha refers to as "the dreadful early years". Doug at 17 is happy, affectionate and cooperative. He loves his math and reading lessons and he loves outdoor activities. This summer Doug went to Shadow Lake Camp for a week and his counselor was my daughter Anne Wormald who is a level 2 TAGteacher. Martha came prepared with a tagger and some treats that Doug likes and left him in Anne's capable hands. Anne had read Chaos to Calm, so she knew many of Doug's tag points. The other staff at camp looked after Doug while Anne was on break and they too learned to use TAGteach with Doug. He had the whole camp trained by the end of the week! Here is what one of the other counselors said about Doug:
"He's so cute and well-behaved! When you first gave me the tagger I was kind of unsure, but once you told me about how he was before and I used it, it became obvious that it really works. I really want to read the book!"
Doug's experience at camp is a testament to the power and effectiveness of TAGteach and the skill of Martha as a teacher. Martha was able to hand over her son, a tagger, some treats and some basic tag points and he was able to enjoy himself immensely at sleep away camp for a week with strangers. Anne kept in touch with me by text during the week with Doug. Here is a transcript of those messages:

camp texts 1
camp texts 2

Here are some videos of Doug having fun at Shadow Lake Camp. In the swing video, Anne is tagging him for "hands on". He had been letting go with both hands at the top of the upswing so she gave him a tag point for a behavior incompatible with the undesirable behavior. You can see from the video that Doug no longer needs to get a treat after every tag. He will in many circumstances defer the reinforcement in order to keep on doing a fun behavior. The swinging behavior itself is reinforcing to Doug and he would rather keep doing that, than stop to come and get a tictac after each tag. This is a good example of a learned behavior that has become self-reinforcing.

Click here to read more from Martha Gabler and how she taught Doug to be confident and cooperative enough to be able to enjoy himself at sleep away camp for a week with strangers.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

TAGteacher Tale: Out With the Rules, In With the Tag Points!

By Gwen Hunter

I recently convinced staff at a new program for families with children who present with a gamut of behavioral challenges (ADHD, OD, autism spectrum, etc.) to try TAGteach. After a few telephone conversations they invited me to come and observe their most challenging class of 6 kids. Wow, it was chaotic and, frankly, dangerous. The following week I met with staff after school for a couple of hours, passed out info on TAGteach. They were excited. This class was the following day so I asked them to make a list of the behaviors they didn't like below each student's name. Then we went over each item, added an = sign next to each, and came up with behaviors they'd like instead (what a helpful tool this is! Thanks for teaching it.) These became tag points. I gave them taggers and we decided on tictacs for primary reinforcers. They then split up the kids so that each of us would have two to tag. I was really nervous about this as in the past I'd only tagged when working one-on-one with a student plus I didn't know these kids, but we decided to approach this as a learning experience - which it certainly was!

Only two kids showed up - two were on a camping trip and the other two, twins, were at an appointment with their mom. The boy who showed up had only one 'negative' behavior on his list: "he hates to move," so his tag point was "adventure try." The girl who attended had several behaviors on her list: "launches herself," "unsafe," "interrupts," "loud voice." We did not come up for tag points for unsafe and body launching, but "raise hand to talk" and "level 3 voice" were tag points.

The teacher did a beautiful job of describing TAGteach and tag points. The girl was tagged for raising her hand and darn, it didn't feel right to not tag the boy who was sitting listening, so he was tagged for 'eyes on teacher.' This was a good way to deal with a possible inequity, where the child who has behavior issues gets lots of tags, while the child sitting quietly gets none. After explaining and demonstrating tag, the teacher asked the kids what they wanted to do. The boy was tagged for suggesting setting up an obstacle course (the kid who hates to move!), and he and the girl brainstormed ideas. The girl got lots of tags for "level 3 voice" and together and under their direction, we set up a challenging 10-part course involving pillows, swings, hammocks, a squeeze cow that shoots balls, a target, and a slide. WOW! The boy demonstrated the route first, which involved lots of moving! Tag points for the girl that addressed safety became obvious during this activity: "feet first," "ask adult for help," "warn when starting," "wait until B has finished." At the end of the hour, the boy reached into his pocket, pulled out a large handful of tictacs, looked up and me and said, "Look at all the tags I got!"

There were no behavior problems during this class, and after the kids left the staff was incredibly excited about the effectiveness of TAGteach! I pointed out the 'rules' list on the wall and suggested they change it (it was called Rules and involved lots of 'NO…."). Staff immediately took it down and replaced it with a list called TAG POINTS!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Seven Things a Behavior Analyst Learned from a Chicken

By Mary Lynch Barbera PhD, RN, BCBA-D

Excerpted with permission from

Why Did I Go to Chicken Camp?

Why did I go to chicken camp? Like chickens, many of the children I work with including my 15- year-old son with autism, do not understand complex human language. Since becoming certified as a Level 1 TAGteacher in 2010 and after reading “Reaching the Animal Mind” by Karen Pryor around the same time, I have become convinced that the key for me to become a better Behavior Analyst was to learn more about animal training.

What Did I Learn at Chicken Camp?

  1. When teaching people, it is important not to jam too much information in every minute. During chicken camp we took a 10-minute break every 50 minutes. When we took our first 2 breaks (50 minutes after we got started and then another one hour later), I was thinking that these constant breaks were excessive. By the afternoon of the first day though I became to appreciate the frequent breaks, which led to excellent networking, a relaxed training environment, and happy “campers.”

  2. Reinforce early, not late. This is especially important for new/difficult behaviors. When we were first teaching our chicken to peck the red chip, for example, we were instructed by Terry to click as soon as her beak was going toward/almost touching the chip. I applied this in the past week when I was working with a 3-year-old client. We were having a difficult time “pairing up” the intensive teaching table so as soon as he started to approach/walk toward the table, I directed the therapist to turn on the iPad video. In the past, I might have waited until he was sitting to reinforce and we wouldn’t have been as successful.

  3. Don’t assume you know what the extraneous variables are to which the chicken or child may be responding. Since returning from chicken camp, I feel that I am much more aware how difficult it is to evoke target behaviors and reinforce immediately since we work in uncontrolled settings with multiple variables operating at all times.

  4. If you suddenly are not getting target behavior, the animal may need to rest, may be full, or may need to lay an egg. As a nurse and a behavior analyst, I am keenly aware that most of the kids we work with sometimes have physiological issues in addition to autism, which can be a factor.

  5. Short sessions are best to keep everyone on his or her toes. In addition to the humans taking breaks every hour, we also were careful not to overwork the chickens. With the chickens, we targeted a behavior for 30-60 seconds at a time, then picked up our chicken and re-grouped. We only repeated the short intervals for about 10 minutes then the chickens were put back in their cages for a drink and a rest. The chickens were not the only ones who needed a break every 30-60 seconds, since the instructors needed time to analyze what went right/wrong and to plan for the next interval.

  6. Don’t over-prompt by physically trying to move the chicken or by “luring” or “baiting” the chicken to do the task. For instance, to get the chicken to go around a cone, don’t put the food out so the chicken just moves for the food. Instead, reinforce head or leg movements in the right direction with a click (indicating the behavior was correct) followed by a food treat. In general, children with autism are physically prompted and “lured” too often. Since camp, I’m more aware that reinforcing successful approximations is a much better way to go!

  7. If the chicken is making repeated errors, the skill is too high and/or the reinforcement is too low. If the chicken/child is stuck on a program, he or she doesn’t have the prerequisite skills or you haven’t figured out how to teach the skills he/she needs. If you are not getting the target behavior, increase the reinforcement, reduce the field size, give a better prompt, or somehow look to make the task easier. Once the chicken/child is successful, you can ramp up from there. The idea that the chicken/student/child/trainee is never wrong was heavily reinforced during our 2-day chicken camp. If they don’t “get it” you are not “teaching/training” them correctly.
Watch this video of chicken training in action!

Click here to read the full article

For more information about chicken camp, visit

Mary Lynch Barbera is the author of The Verbal Behavior Approach. Available from Amazon in print and Kindle formats.