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“When you’re that young, it doesn’t take a lot to be encouraged, or discouraged . . . they raised my game . . . they saw something in me I didn’t see in myself.” (Sir Ken Robinson, educationalist) 1

In my work as a psychologist and trainer in and around the medical and counselling fields, I notice quite a difference between praise and affirmation. Then more recently, when I started working in sport, I noticed the widespread use of praise, not just to acknowledge success, which seems natural enough, but as a motivational strategy or “sweetener” that presumably improves outcomes. Does it? I wasn’t so sure. Then I read James’ Vaughan’s article on how praise, and its withdrawal, affected his self-esteem and well-being as a young person, and undermined his creativity on the field. So I wondered about whether the use of affirmation in sport might have value. See what you think. Here’s an imaginary example:

A young player aged 15 in a tense match situation produces a long, low pass that dissects a defense and leads to the simplest of goals, an act of daring and creativity seemingly beyond his age. Imagine meeting him after the game, with a desire to focus on that wonderful pass and to encourage him to develop further. What might you say, and why? One of the most common coaching responses is to use praise:

Coach: “Well done, that was a cracking good pass that was” (Praise) Player: “Thanks coach” (smiles) Coach: “That’s one of the best I’ve seen you do. It will be good to see more of those…” Player: “Sure, thanks” Coach: “Have a good rest now and let’s see more of those passes next week, OK?”


Another choice you have is to use affirmation, and it might sound like this:

Coach: “That long pass, it seemed like you paused, and somehow saw this gap in their defence” (Affirmation) Player: “Yeah, it felt like time stood still” (smiles) Coach: “And in that moment you had the confidence just to go for the long pass” (affirmation) Player: “Yeah, I just acted on it” Coach: “It was your vision, and you trusted it” (affirmation) Player: “Yeah I want to trust it more next time…”

Affirming is when you acknowledge something inside the player that’s already there, which cannot be taken away, like shining a light on something positive that you’ve noticed. It’s something for them to notice too, take ownership of and be inspired by. If praise is a judgment you pass down, affirmation issomething you notice, an observation you share, about positive things in their performance, ability, attitude or behaviour that they can take ownership of and can feel proud about. 3 You show appreciation and understanding and look out for evidence of qualities that might inspire them; in football I imagine this might be things like flair, determination, seeing spaces and openings on the field – a long list of positive qualities that could help them to develop as both people and players.

Fuji's Sportif is its aluminium endurance bike range. It's got the typical endurance bike high ride position - but what else does it have up its sleeve?

Fuji’s roots go back to 1899 in Japan, although despite its name the modern company is actually US-based. It’s got a wide range of road, mountain and leisure bikes and recently launched a new version of its carbon Gran Fondo endurance bike. The Sportif range sits below this, with the 1.1D being its top model.

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The Fuji’s frame is aluminium alloy with a carbon fork with alloy steerer, a wide bottom bracket shell and lots of clearance for wider tyres. It’s got a shortish wheelbase and top tube and a longer head tube for a more upright riding position.

External cables help with maintenance if not aesthetics

Cabling is external – a boon for maintenance, although not as clean looking as the internal route which is currently more popular. There are rack and mudguard mounts, which are a benefit for commuting or load lugging.

The Fuji uses Shiamno’s 105 shifting and hydraulic disc brakes, although the levers are the higher spec 685s, which look neater and are also more comfortable to rest on and grip from the hoods than Shimano’s lower spec 505 model which is often used with 105 shifting. There’s a non-series Shimano RS500 compact chainset, which along with the 11-32 cassette gives a wide gear range.

>>> Is cycling the toughest sport?

RS500 chin set is a common swap-out even on much more expensive bikes

Finishing kit is from the Oval Concepts brand – the company has the same owner as Fuji – while the wheels and 28mm tyres bear the Vera logo.

With its short reach and high stack, the Fuji rides quite upright. This is great if you are not that flexible and makes for a comfortable ride, with more of your weight resting on the well-padded, well-shaped saddle. It does mean that you catch quite a lot of wind though and I could feel this when heading into a stiffish headwind.

>>> Endurance bike buyer’s guide

Shimano’s 685 levers look nice, are comfortable and work well

The 28mm tyres provide a lot of cushioning from road imperfections and allow you to run lower pressures. The good frame clearances mean that you can go even wider and I was able to fit 32mm cyclocross tyres and head up some bridlepaths too, with mud build-up never being an issue.


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Thanks for your help on this.

William M.K. Trochim is a Professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University. He has taught both the undergraduate and graduate required courses in applied social research methods since joining the faculty at Cornell in 1980. He received his Ph.D. in 1980 from the program in Methodology and Evaluation Research of the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University. His research interests include the theory and practice of research, conceptualization methods (including concept mapping and pattern matching), strategic and operational planning methods, performance management and measurement, and change management. He is the developer of The Concept System® and founder of Concept Systems Incorporated . He lives in Ithaca, New York and New York City.

This work, as is true for all significant efforts in life, is a collaborative achievement. I want to thank especially the students and friends who assisted and supported me in various ways over the years. I especially want to thank Dominic Cirillo who has labored tirelessly over several years on both the web and printed versions of the Knowledge Base and without whom I simply would not have survived. There are also the many graduate Teaching Assistants who helped make the transition to a web-based course and have contributed their efforts and insights to this work and the teaching of research methods. And, of course, I want to thank all of the students, both undergraduate and graduate, who participated in my courses over the years and used the Knowledge Base in its various incarnations. You have been both my challenge and inspiration.

Maintainng a website takes a lot of time and has some costs associated with it. Up until now I have been able to cover my costs out of my own pocket. Alas, I could not keep doing that forever. I apologize to those of you who are purists about this, but i have decided the only way I can continue to supply this content to anyone for free is to allow advertising on this website. I'll try to make it as discrete as possible. I hope you will understand!

For all of the students who in the end taught me so much more than I could have ever taught them. And to my daughter Nora who continues to provide the inspiration for my efforts.

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