Mastering Player Motivation: The Disrupt-Then-Reframe Technique

Coach explaining the disrupt-then-reframe technique to soccer players.

In the challenging realm of sports coaching, the ability to communicate and persuade stands out as paramount. Consequently, the ‘disrupt-then-reframe’ technique emerges as an intriguing tactic for coaches to explore. In this blog, we’ll dive deep into this method and illustrate its application with real-world examples.

Read more: Mastering Player Motivation: The Disrupt-Then-Reframe Technique

The Essence of Player Motivation in Coaching

Coaches continuously seek innovative ways to inspire their players and staff. Amid the plethora of available courses and insights, the disrupt-then-reframe technique beckons with its unique approach. To truly understand its essence, let’s commence with a tangible example.

Unraveling the Verheijen Conditioning Method

Many coaches are disciples of the Verheijen conditioning method, a structured approach to building fitness in soccer. This regimen encompasses a mix of match simulations and diverse sprint exercises. However, some players occasionally find the endurance drills challenging, prompting them to inquire about the remaining duration. So, how can a coach respond to maintain their motivation? This is where the disrupt-then-reframe strategy can shine.

Origins of the Disrupt-Then-Reframe Approach

In the late 90s, psychologists Davis and Knowles pioneered the disrupt-then-reframe technique. They theorized that introducing an unexpected element in a typical scenario can pave the way for more convincing subsequent suggestions. Since the brain often operates on autopilot, especially when anticipating certain information, any deviation from this anticipation demands cognitive processing. During this brief cognitive distraction, the mind becomes more susceptible to a compelling conclusion. This final persuasive message tends to resonate, prompting the desired behavior.

Practical Implementation: A Real-world Experiment

To validate their theory, the researchers embarked on a field experiment, selling postcards door-to-door. They tested different sales pitches to measure the technique’s efficacy. In one variation, they first disrupted expectations by stating, “They cost 300 cents”, quickly reframed with, “That’s 3 euros”, and then concluded with, “What a bargain!”. Their findings? The disrupt-then-reframe pitch resulted in 70% sales, while other pitches lagged at 25-35%. The odd statement “300 cents” demanded cognitive processing, with the subsequent “bargain” message proving influential.

An Intriguing Case from Tabula Rasa

Another striking illustration is sourced from a Tabula Rasa blog. In a compelling video (Watch here), smokers are disrupted by a child asking for a lighter—a highly unexpected request. This disarms them, making the ensuing plea to quit smoking even more potent. In some instances, the smokers themselves articulated anti-smoking sentiments moments earlier!

Bringing It Back to the Pitch

Reflecting upon the article’s onset and the players querying about the drill’s duration, with the newfound knowledge, one might say: “Just 300 seconds left. That’s merely 6 minutes. Give it all you’ve got!”. While not universally effective, it’s a refreshing approach worth exploring.

The disrupt-then-reframe technique, rooted in cognitive psychology, offers coaches a novel avenue to motivate and influence. As with all strategies, experimentation and adaptation are key, but the potential rewards are undeniable.


Davis, B.P., & Knowles, E.S. (1999). A Disrupt-Then-Reframe Technique of Social Influence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 192-199. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top