Coach Behaviors and Leadership
This is an excerpt from Social Psychology in Sport-2nd Edition by Louise Davis,Richard Keegan & Sophia Jowett.
By Sophia Jowett, PhD, and Luke Felton, PhD
As Mageau and Vallerand (2003) highlighted, coaches can make a significant difference in athletes’ satisfaction, motivation, and performance, and the relationship coaches and athletes develop is instrumental in achieving these outcomes. The researchers postulated that coaches’ autonomy-supportive behaviors can play a crucial role in athletes’ motivation. Athletes’ motivation is instrumental to sporting success, and thus coaches who place value on self-initiation, as well as encourage choice, independent problem solving, and participation in decision making, are more likely to develop self-determined and by extension responsible and accountable athletes. Using Bartholomew and colleagues’ (2010) psychometric tool for assessing autonomy and controlling coach behaviors, Lafrenière and colleagues (2011) found that coaches’ autonomy behaviors were positively linked to good-quality coach–athlete relationships; it is thus possible that athletes who rate the coach–athlete relationship as more optimal do so because they feel respected and understood by autonomy-supportive coaches. Correspondingly, Felton and Jowett (2013) found that athletes who perceived better coach–athlete relationships were more likely to perceive their coaches as more autonomy supportive and as such providing them with choice, independence, and a framework to work within.
Jowett and colleagues (2017), employing the Coaching Behaviour Scale for Sport (Côté et al., 1999), found that athletes who perceived better relationships with their coaches reported a more positive coaching approach—athletes’ closeness and commitment were consistently linked with coach behaviors that promoted planning and goal setting as well as physical development, technical skill development, and competition strategy development. It was concluded that coaches’ behaviors may be influenced by the quality of the coach–athlete relationship and that it pays dividends for athletes to consciously try to develop better relationships with their coaches, because better relationships may provide the stimulus for coaches to work harder and better with them.
The potential synergies between coach leadership behaviors and the quality of the coach–athlete relationship have started to emerge (see Jowett & Arthur, 2019 for a review). Research has examined the links between leadership behaviors and relationship quality (e.g., Gosai, Jowett, and Nascimento-Júnior, 2023; Hampson & Jowett, 2012; Vella et al., 2013). Overall, this research highlights that a combination of coach transformational leadership behaviors (e.g., articulating vision, individualized support, intellectual stimulation) and coach–athlete relationship quality predicts important outcomes—for instance, developmental experiences such as personal, social, and cognitive skills, as well as goal setting and initiative (Vella et al., 2013) and collective efficacy (Hampson & Jowett, 2012).
More recently, Gosai, Jowett, and Nascimento-Júnior (2021) found that perceived coach transformational leadership behaviors predicted athletes’ perceptions of both relationship quality with their respective coaches and the team’s psychological safety. Zhao and Jowett (2022) found that certain coach transformational leadership behaviors, such as articulating a vision, providing an appropriate model, and providing intellectual stimulation, were linked highly to good-quality relationships, especially closeness, whereas coaches’ high-performance expectations were linked highly with commitment. Interestingly, individualized support was linked negatively with commitment. This is an interesting finding and resonates with research (e.g., Brummelman et al., 2017) showing that too much encouragement, praise, or reinforcement can damage an individual’s esteem—and more so female athletes’ esteem because they receive more encouragement and reinforcement than their male counterparts (Gosai, Jowett, & Rhind, 2021).More Excerpts From Social Psychology in Sport 2nd Edition
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