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Do you have expectations about the ability of your individual participants?

Ever notice how many of your expectations become a reality?

In many cases, this is due to your intelligence of your sport and fitness knowledge. However, research continues to demonstrate that a leader”™s (i.e. coach or instructor) expectation of his/her followers (i.e. athlete or fitness participant) influence performance.

The phenomena is called the self-fulfilling prophecy. For indoor cycle classes, the premise is that an instructor initiates the following series of events that ultimately cause his/her expectations to be fulfilled:

1) The instructor develops an expectation about a participant”™s ability and performance

2) The instructor”™s expectations influence his/her treatment of the participant.

3) The instructor”™s treatment affects the participant”™s self-concept and motivation in class

4) The participant”™s ability and performance conforms to the instructor”™s expectations.

Ask yourself how you develop expectations for your participants. Do you take information from their socioeconomic status, racial or ethnic group, gender, or style of dress? What about their scores on a fitness or skills tests, the participant”™s past performance achievements, or other instructor”™s opinions of them? Maybe you examine your participant”™s psychological characteristics including their level of anxiety in class or enjoyment for exercise to determine whether or not you like them.

If you develop expectations the first time you see a participant in class, and do not allow those expectations to change, you may be susceptible to the self-fulfilling prophecy. To give your participants the best opportunity to reach their peak performance, you must be flexible with your expectations.

When it comes to instructor-participant interactions, it is common for the participants, perceived as being fit or having high ability, to receive different treatment than their classmates, perceived as being unfit or having lower ability.

Do you interact with certain participants more than others? Does the quality and quantity of instruction and feedback vary depending on your expectations for each participant? Don”™t be fooled, your participants know if you interact with them less than you do with the other cyclists.

Call to Action: Reflect on the expectations you develop for your participants and how they may be influencing the way you treat your cyclists in class. You can also ask a trusted participant or instructor, who has taken your class, to assess whether or not there is a pattern in your instruction. If you conclude that you may be contributed to the self-fulfilling prophecy, do your best to eliminate or modify your expectations for each participant. If you conclude that you are not contributing to the self-fulfilling prophecy, pat yourself on the back for a job well done and keep up the great instructing!

Believe and Achieve,
Dr. Haley

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Dr. Haley
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