Monday, November 1, 2010

Families Together & Active

      The goal of the local parks and recreation department is to engage families in more exercise activities, and in order to do so I have been asked to put together a program to give families more options for physical activity and exercise. My focus will be on improving participants’ performance and increase positive attitudes toward physical activity for all members of the family. In order to do this, we want to give families the opportunity to engage in activities they enjoy while spending time together. The social aspect of exercise and performance play a big role in the outcome. There are three main types of social influence that have and affect on performance. Social facilitation deals with the influence of the presents of others on performance; social reinforcement occurs through evaluative comments and actions; and modeling is how we learn through observation (Gill & Williams, 2008).
      According to R. B. Zajonc's (1965) drive theory of social facilitation, the mere presence of others increases arousal and, thereby, the frequency of dominant responses. Our focus needs to be on increasing arousal for activity and exercise so that we have an improvement not only on performance, but also on their experience. In doing this, we need to create activities which are fun for families to participate in; perhaps even something they have never done before. Some of these activities will include rock climbing, water volleyball, kick boxing, and racquetball. We want to incorporate activities which families can work together to be successful while learning the values of teamwork and communication. Both of those qualities are important for families outside the exercise setting as well. Once the families have had the opportunity to learn and develop skills in different areas of physical activity, they will have the opportunity to compete against other families for prizes. For example, we would put together a water volleyball tournament to be held on a Saturday and families can come and compete, and also cheer on other families they have gotten to know throughout this experience.
      Social reinforcement consists of positive and negative evaluative comments and actions, such as verbal praise, criticism, and body language (Gill and Williams, 2008). Therefore, we need to teach and encourage families to give off the right kind of reinforcement toward their family members to enhance performance and their overall experience. This is especially important with children. Whether this is the child’s first experience with exercise, or they have been doing it for years, correct reinforcement is valuable. Although there is now a considerable literature on the effects of different social reinforcement procedures upon learning in children, it is not easy to discover if positive or negative reinforcement is more beneficial (Wright, 1968). However, in this program, positive reinforcement will be the primary focus. Parents and recreation personnel need to make sure they are using frequent and intense forms of reinforcement in order to positively affect the child’s performance.
      When teaching an activity to someone for the first time, many instructors will use modeling. Typically, a learner who is learning a new motor skill is provided with instructions about the correct movement pattern. That is, the instructions usually refer to the coordination of the performer's body movements (Wulf et al., 1998). According to Bandura’s (1986) social-cognitive theory, when we observe others we form a cognitive representation of the action that serves as a reference of correctness. When working with families, and especially children, the recreation staff needs to make sure they are not giving too off too much information too fast. We need to make sure the families are retaining the information we are trying to teach them. For example, when teaching the family about the sport of racquetball, we will start with simple instruction such as how to hold the racket and hit the ball forward. We will gradually move into the rules of the game, but want to make sure we don’t move too quickly, or too slowly.
      Our final focus of the program will focus on values. Fredricks & Eccles (2004) talk about four ways values can be evaluated; utility values focus on how useful it is to the child’s goals, intrinsic values focus on the enjoyment the child experiences, attainment values focus on how important the activity is to the child, and cost refers to the negative consequences of the experience. Obviously we want to do our best to keep the families from experiencing anything negative.
      Families cooperating together in exercise will make it fun and enjoyable for them, as well as have positive affects on their health. Keeping the family atmosphere throughout the program will increase family values. Keeping the parents involved in teaching and working with their kids will also be a part of the growing family dynamic. The more children perceive that their parents value sport participation the more likely they are to perceive themselves as competent, value their own sport participation more, and actually participate, even if it is something they have never done before (Gill and Williams, 2008). Hopefully the families involved in this program will enjoy learning new skills, meet other families with similar goals, and achieve even more than they expected.


Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Fedricks, J.A., & Eccles, J.S. (2004). Parental influences on youth involvement in sports. In. M.R. Weiss (Ed.), Developmental sport and exercise psychology: A lifespan perspective (pp. 145-164). Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Wright, D. (1968). Social reinforcement and maze learning in children. Child Development, 39(1), 177-183.

Wulf, G., Hoess, M., & Prinz, W. (1998). Instructions for motor learning: Differential effects of internal versus external focus of attention. Journal of Motor Behavior, 30(2), 169-179.

Zajonc, R. B. (1965). Social facilitation: A solution is suggested for an old social psychological problem. Science, 149, 269-274.

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