Athletic Insight - The Online Journal of Sport Psychology

The Impact of a Coaching Intervention on the
Coach-Athlete Dyad and Athlete Sport Experience

Lindsey C. Blom
Ball State University

Jack C. Watson II, & Nina Spadaro
West Virginia University








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Evaluation models are being developed to comprehensively evaluate coaching effectiveness (Gilbert & Trudel, 1999; Mallett & Côté, 2006), but few researchers have empirically validated coaching intervention programs. The purpose of the current study was to examine the impact of a coaching intervention on athletes’ satisfaction, enjoyment, self-confidence, and intrateam attraction and their perceptions of their coaches’ socio-emotional behaviors following Mallett and Côté’s (2006) evaluation model. Nine boys’ high school soccer coaches and their respective teams were randomly placed in a control, feedback, or educational group. Using 3 (treatment) x 2 (time) MANOVAs, significant interactions were found for the coach-athlete relationship subscales and psychosocial variables. Post-hoc tests revealed significant results for caring coaching behaviors and athlete self-confidence over time as well as a significant improvement over time for athlete intrateam attraction.


       Over 60% of the coaching science literature has been published within the past 15 years (Gilbert & Trudel, 2004). Researchers are learning increasingly more about the field and the influence that coaches have on their athletes, as about 20% of this literature has focused specifically on the coach-athlete relationship (Gilbert & Trudel, 2004). Researchers now understand that coaches occupy a central and critical position in the athletic setting with many possible “spill-over” effects into other areas of athletes’ lives (Jones, Armour, & Potrac, 2003; Reinboth, Duda, & Ntoumanis, 2004; Smoll & Smith, 1981). Furthermore, researchers have identified that if framed appropriately, coaches can use their interactions to influence athletes’ involvement, skill development, and enjoyment in a positive manner (Alfermann, Lee, & Würth, 2005; Barnett, Smoll, & Smith, 1992; Jowett & Cramer, 2010; Liukkonen, 1999).

       Coach-athlete interactions have been shown to influence athletes’ perceptions of their sport satisfaction and enjoyment (Blanchard, Amiot, Perraualt, Vallerand, & Provencher, 2009; Smith & Smoll, 1997; Smith, Smoll, & Curtis, 1978). Athlete satisfaction is crucial for performance and self-determined behaviors and highly influenced by the perceived behaviors of the coach (Chelladurai & Saleh, 1978; Rieke, Hammermeister, & Chase, 2008). Athletes’ satisfaction levels have been correlated with supportive behaviors, training and instruction, and positive feedback from coaches (Blanchard et al., 2009; Reinboth et al., 2004; Riemer & Chelladurai, 1995; Weiss & Friedrichs, 1986). Athletes’ sport enjoyment is also influenced by the nature of the coach-athlete relationship, with up to 58% explained by athletes’ perceptions of the quality of the relationship (Martin, Dale, & Jackson, 2001).

       Research also supports the idea that intrateam attraction (i.e., team members liking one another) and athlete self-confidence can be influenced by the coach-athlete dyad (Smith & Smoll, 1997; Smoll & Smith, 1993). Descriptive research has shown a relationship between perceived coaching behaviors and group cohesion/intrateam attraction in high school and college athletes (Gardner, Shields, Bredemeier, & Bostrom, 1996; Turman, 2003; Westre & Weiss, 1991). Black and Weiss (1992) found that young athletes who believed that their coaches offered positive feedback, perceived themselves as more highly motivated and confident. Allen and Howe (1998) found that athletes’ perceptions of encouraging coaching behaviors were predictive of athletes’ levels of competence motivation, which was correlated with positive performance effects.

Improving the Coach-Athlete Relationship

       Given the strong influence between coaching and athlete enjoyment, sport involvement, skill development, performance, motivation and attraction discussed above, and existing evidence that the relationship between athletes and their coaches are often in need of improvement (e.g., Haselwood et al., 2005; Lorimer & Jowett, 2010), it is clear that steps need to be taken to consistently make this relationship as strong as possible. If researchers are able to find ways to improve this relationship between coaches and athletes, it is reasonable to assume that athletes will not only play sports longer, but enjoy them more and play them at a higher level.

       One potential method to improve the coach-athlete relationship is through coaching education. Seefeldt (1996) stressed the importance of formal education and certification for coaches to increase the opportunity for children to experience positive outcomes in youth sports. Coaching education programs are being developed across the United States with common foundations focused around behavioral approaches to leadership and overt interactions between the coaches and players. It is important that these programs emphasize the importance of focusing on the individual athlete’s need, rather than using the same approach for all athletes. The use of a generic focus can be misleading for coaches for two main reasons. First, the recommended pattern of coaching behaviors is less clear for team sports than for individual sports because of contextual (i.e., number of athletes, number of positions/events) and situational (i.e., group oriented feedback vs individualized feedback, emphasis on cohesion, diversity of skill level) constraints that influence coaching behaviors and the resulting effectiveness (Alfermann et al., 2005). Therefore, a coaching education curriculum designed with a ‘catch all’ philosophy offers limited guidance to a team sport coach. Second, a ‘catch all’ approach to coaching education excludes teaching coaches about the socio-emotional (i.e., feelings of caring, support, and respect) and interpersonal aspects of the dyad. In understanding how to be effective in a dynamic environment, coaches need to know how to analyze and interpret individual player needs. Perhaps a more effective method for improving coach-athlete relationships would be to teach coaches how to identify and then address the relationship-oriented needs of their specific athletes (Jones et al., 2003; Jowett & Cockerill, 2003).

       Intervention programs that focus on the relationship competency of coaches are dearth; programs typically emphasize the task-oriented behaviors of coaches (Wylleman, 2000; Wylleman, De Knop, Vanden Auweele, & Sloore, 1997). One of the few examples of a coaching education program that has been empirically validated and incorporates training to improve the coach-athlete relationship is the Coaching Effectiveness Training program (CET; Smith, Smoll, & Hunt, 1977; Smoll & Smith, 1993). In this program, coaches learn how to effectively communicate with their players and provide a positive sport environment to maximize learning and athletic potential, and it has been found to lead to increases in athlete enjoyment, desire to continue participation, and social cohesion (Smith & Smoll, 1997; Smoll & Smith, 1993). While Smith and Smoll empirically validated a coaching intervention, they are alone in this attempt and in their intervention focused on the one-way interactions, the coach toward the athlete, rather than the bi-directional relationship.

       Researchers have incorporated athlete to coach communication in interventions, but only as a coaching technique, not part of a coach evaluation process. For example, Chambers and Vickers (2006) designed an intervention that involved teaching swimming coaches how to effectively give bandwidth feedback (i.e., giving knowledge of results feedback when performance is outside preset criterion of accuracy) and encouraged coaches to use questioning to promote interaction with their athletes and increase performance. Athletes in the treatment group not only had long-term performance gains, but also reported improved communication and more positive interactions with their coach when compared to the athletes in the control group. While the athletes shared their perceptions, the bi-directional relationship was not the emphasis of the program. Little emphasis has really been placed on the bi-directional relationship of the coach-athlete dyad, with the exception of a few qualitative studies (i.e., Jowett & Cockerill, 2003; Mallett & Côté, 2006).

       However, relationship training has been researched with business managers (e.g., Thayne, 2000) as well as in the healthcare field (e.g., Kroth & Keeler, 2009). Researchers suggest that managers underestimate the impact of caring behaviors (Kroth & Keeler, 2009) and the importance of developing, cultivating, and maintaining effective relationships with subordinates (Garman, Fitz, & Fraser, 2006). In another study with executives in a public health agency, researchers found that leadership training led to increases in workplace well-being, reduced depression and stress, and increases in self-confidence (Grant, Cutayne, & Burton, 2009). Consultant relationship competencies and interpersonal style have also been shown to predict the promotion to partner, as individuals who developed mutual trust, fostered collaboration, and promoted openness with others were more likely to be promoted (Stumpf, 2009).

Evaluating Coach Education/Intervention Programs

       Less than 3% of the coaching science research has a coaching assessment component (Gilbert & Trudel, 2004); however, from studies such as those mentioned above, researchers are beginning to develop a “best practices” approach that can be used to evaluate coaching effectiveness and coaching education programs with methods other than examining win-loss records (Gilbert & Trudel, 1999; Mallett & Côté, 2006; Smith et al., 1977). Although not specifically an assessment model, Smith et al. (1977) were the first to develop a behavior evaluation method. The Coach Behavior Assessment System (CBAS) involves trained researchers systematically observing and recording coaches “actual” behaviors. This information can be helpful to coach improvement but does not offer much information about what the athletes prefer from their coaches.

       Gilbert and Trudel (1999) developed an actual coach evaluation model using stages III, IV, and V of Brinkerhoff’s (1987) Six Stage Model of Evaluation. To evaluate the effectiveness of an educational program, Gilbert and Trudel’s model includes evaluation of the delivery of the program (i.e., Stage III), the knowledge learned (i.e., Stage IV), and behavior change and retention of knowledge (i.e., Stage V). They used this model to examine one coach’s experience with the Canadian National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP), and found that the coach did not learn new knowledge or regularly use the ideas from the course in his coaching (Gilbert & Trudel, 1999). Through the application of their evaluation model, the researchers found that the evaluation was extremely thorough and offered valuable information, yet it was complex and time-consuming to utilize. More recently, another assessment model was created by Mallett and Côté (2006), which focuses on overall coach effectiveness. This three-step model is unique in that athlete feedback is used to evaluate coaches. Athlete feedback is also used to provide a report for coaches in the second step, and guides the individualized development in the third step. At present, only anecdotal evidence exists for this model.

       Of the few coaching education programs that have been evaluated, neither the educational component nor the evaluation method has focused on the bi-directional aspect of the coach-athlete relationship. Mallett and Côté’s (2006) evaluation model is practical, allows for individualized coach development, and utilizes a bi-directional model of examination on the front end of the evaluation. Furthermore, these researchers promote using an instrument that examines the socio-emotional aspects of coaching effectiveness, more than just pedagogical strategies. However, while the model includes seeking feedback from the athletes before the coach intervention occurs, it does not involve a follow-up assessment after feedback has been given to see if the athletes perceive a change in coaching behavior.

       The goal of the present study was to fill in the previously stated gaps and further the coaching science literature with regard to assessing coaches. More specifically, the purpose was to examine the impact of a coaching intervention on the psychosocial aspects of the athletes’ sport experience and their perceptions of their coaches’ socio-emotional behaviors following Mallett and Côté’s (2006) evaluation model. For this study, researchers examined the effectiveness of a pilot coaching intervention program called, “Progress and Success through Interaction Training and Feedback”, referred to as PASS IT Back. The program was utilized with high school soccer players and coaches and evaluated by measuring changes in players’ perceptions of satisfaction, enjoyment, self-confidence, and intrateam attraction. Further details regarding the nature of the educational program are provided in the Methods section.

       Several hypotheses were generated based on three treatment groups: control, feedback, and educational. First, it was hypothesized that players with coaches who received the PASS IT Back intervention (i.e., educational group) would report significant improvements in their perceived amount of socio-emotional behaviors (i.e., closed attitude, acceptance, assertiveness, criticizing, caring, and permissiveness) demonstrated by their coaches over time; whereas, the feedback and control groups would not show changes. Second, it was hypothesized that players in the educational group would also have significant increases in their perception of enjoyment, satisfaction, self-confidence, and intrateam attraction over time while the other two groups would not. The feedback group was not hypothesized to experience positive changes because the researchers did not believe that feedback alone was enough to change behavior.



       A total of 93 male varsity soccer players, representing nine Mid-Atlantic high schools, were randomly assigned in their intact teams to the three treatment groups: 1) control (4 teams, n=43), 2) feedback (3 teams, n=29), and 3) educational (i.e., feedback with intervention; 2 teams, n=21). One of the control teams was originally assigned to the educational group but had to be moved to the control group because of problems with obtaining consent and administering the SIRQ (Sport Interpersonal Relationships Questionnaire). The male athletes ranged in age from 14-18 years (M= 15.9, SD=1.3) and had spent an average of 2.5 years playing for the head coach (SD=1.2). To help control for gender differences, athletes’ coaching preferences and perceptions, as well as the style and philosophy of coaches, only male athletes and male coaches participated. The nine male coaches had an average age of 43.9 years (SD=10.8), had been the head coach of their current team for 9.7 years (SD=7.3), had been coaching soccer for 14.2 years (SD=7.9), and had been coaching in general for 17.9 years (SD=8.9). Because of the need to assess coach-player interpersonal relationships, coaches were required to have been in at least their second season with their current team.


       Demographic questionnaires. The coaches completed a demographic questionnaire that asked about age, number of seasons coaching soccer, number of seasons coaching the current team, number of seasons coaching any sport/team, stage of change for using a sport psychology consultant, and style of decision-making used most often with the current team evaluated on a continuum from ‘I solve problems myself’ to “I share the problems with my players and we make joint decisions.” The demographic questionnaire for the players included items regarding their age, grade in school, seasons playing for the current coach on the current team, and seasons on the varsity team.

       Athletes’ views of the coach-athlete interaction. Wylleman, De Knop, Vanden Auweele, Sloore, and De Martelaer (1995) developed the Sport Interpersonal Relationships Questionnaire (SIRQ) to help address the lack of research on the socio-emotional aspects of the coach-athlete dyad. The SIRQ has three versions, one for each of the three relationships in the athletic triangle: athlete-coach (SIRQ-AC), athlete-parent (SIRQ-AP), and parent-coach (SIRQ-PC). For the purposes of this study, the SIRQ-AC was used. Each SIRQ version consists of 80 items and addresses the bi-directional nature of the relationship. In other words, 40 questions address one direction of the relationship (i.e., athlete toward coach) and another 40 questions address the other direction of the relationship (i.e., coach toward athlete), all from the athlete’s point of view. It has six subscales, with three subscales addressing the athlete-toward-coach interactions and three addressing the coach-toward-athlete relationship. The athlete-toward-coach subscales include: closed attitude (i.e., how much the athlete perceives he behaves in a negative and detached manner toward the coach), acceptance (i.e., how much the athlete perceives he behaves in an attentive and trusting way toward the coach), and assertiveness (i.e., how much the athlete perceives he behaves assertively, freely expressing opinions to the coach). The subscales for the coach-toward-athlete relationship include: criticizing (i.e., how critical the athlete perceives the coach to be), caring (i.e., how invested and appreciative the athlete perceives the coach to be), and permissiveness (i.e., how lenient, tolerant, and easy going the athlete perceives the coach to be) behaviors. Higher scores for all subscales represent more of the named behavior. Athletes rated their perceptions on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (never) to 5 (always) addressing the perceptions of the coaches’ actual behaviors and how they wanted the coach to behave. For this study, the reliability coefficients for the subscales were assessed on the pretest of perceived behaviors and were as follows: closed attitude, α = .83; acceptance, α = .81 (after item #6 was removed); assertiveness, α = .72; criticizing, α = .65; caring, α = .86; and permissiveness, α = .43. The reliability coefficient for the permissiveness scale was below acceptable, and upon further investigation, removing any of the nine items did very little to increase the Cronbach’s alpha. However, the Cronbach’s alpha was .61 for the posttest of perceived behaviors.

       Psychosocial variables. To monitor change in players’ attitudes in this study, the researchers created multiple items based on the CET (Smith et al., 1978) program. Twelve questions using a 6-point Likert-type scale were used to assess athletes’ sport enjoyment, satisfaction, self-confidence, and intrateam attraction. A thirteenth question was included for the posttest survey- “How satisfied are you with your playing time this season?” In order to assess level of enjoyment, participants answered questions about their enjoyment of the sport they play and their enjoyment in playing for their coach; the Cronbach’s alpha for the pretest was .56. Part of Riemer and Chelladurai’s (1998) Athlete Satisfaction Questionnaire (ASQ) was also used in this study. The dimension of satisfaction that is most relevant to the way satisfaction was defined in this study is personal treatment, or “satisfaction with those coaching behaviors that directly affect the individual, yet indirectly affect team development” (Riemer & Chelladurai, 1998, p. 141). In the ASQ, there are five questions relating to this dimension, which have been demonstrated to be an independent subscale; these five questions were used in this study; the Cronbach’s alpha for the pretest was .90. Self-confidence was based on participants’ perceptions of their confidence in their own performance and of their coaches’ and teammates’ views of their skill level; the Cronbach’s alpha for the pretest was .75. Intrateam attraction was measured through two questions about how well teammates got along and how much they liked their teammates; the Cronbach’s alpha for the pretest was .80.


       The lead author provided the feedback to coaches and conducted the educational sessions. At the time of the intervention, this researcher had completed her course work in sport and exercise psychology at the doctoral level and a master’s degree in counseling. She had approximately eight years of coaching experience and a coaching license earned through the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. While it is not the purpose of this manuscript to delve into the topic of qualification for coach educators, the authors do note that the current intervention is designed to be conducted by someone who has an advanced sport psychology and/or sport pedagogy background.

       The intervention was two-fold, with the first part of the intervention given to coaches in both the feedback and educational groups. Within two weeks of the pre-test data collection sessions, the first author met with each coach to discuss feedback sheets (i.e., summary reports of their team’s scores) about their players’ perceptions and preferences. A feedback sheet was developed for each of the six SIRQ-AC subscales and included the team mean and frequency of individual scores with an accompanying bar graph, as well as the subscale definition and sample questions. The session contained a 15-20-minute verbal explanation of how to interpret the results and a request to make behavioral changes based on this feedback. The request for behavioral changes is an additional component that furthers Mallett and Coté’s (2006) second step. More specifically, coaches were asked to identify three to four of the SIRQ behavioral categories that were most important and set a season long goal for each regarding improved behavior. (The researcher used this information to design the personalized educational sessions. See information below.) With this step, the author provided information about setting goals that were specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, set in positive terms, and time-based.

       To encourage behavior change and self-awareness, self-monitoring procedures were also initiated, which consisted of the coaches setting weekly goals about behavioral changes and evaluating their daily frequency of adapting new behaviors. Coaches were provided four more self-monitoring forms; one form to be completed at the beginning of each week of the intervention. The form included sections for the weekly goal, evaluation of the previous week’s goal, and charting of the frequency of the highlighted behavior. Coaches were sent weekly reminders about completing these forms.

       The second phase of the intervention was only given to coaches in the educational group. These coaches received a weekly, individualized 20-25 minute educational session where they were provided with practical tips about how to change their coaching behaviors derived from the theory behind Nakamura’s (1996) positive coaching, the One-Minute Manager philosophy (Blanchard & Lorber, 1984), Transactional Analysis (Campos, 2001), and assertiveness training. Specifically, material was developed for each subscale. For the behaviors that were coach-to-athlete, coaches were taught the following: 1) active listening and how to show emotional affiliation (Nakamura, 1996) for the caring subscale; 2) effective teaching principles, how to give positive feedback, and resetting and redirecting behavior (Blanchard & Lorber, 1984) for the criticizing subscale; and 3) how to effectively use autocratic and democratic decision-making styles, send firm and clear messages, and provide structure (Nakamura, 1996) for the permissiveness scale. To address athlete-to-coach behaviors, coaches were taught: 1) how to build rapport and trust with athletes (Nakamura, 1996; Schinke, 2001; Smith & Smoll, 1997) for the closed attitude subscale; 2) how to send messages of acceptance (Nakamura, 1996) and imago training (a process of communication demonstrating mirroring, validating, and empathizing with another person’s experience) (Schinke, 2001) for the acceptance subscale; and 3) how to encourage athletes to speak from their “adult” mind frame (Campos, 2001) and be assertive in a positive, productive way (Greenberg, 1990) for the assertiveness subscale.


       Prior to contacting coaches, Institutional Review Board approval was granted. Eleven head coaches were contacted, and nine coaches agreed to participate. The first author informed all participants that the purpose of the study was to examine relationships between coaches and athletes at the beginning and end of the season. Coaches were informed that if selected for one of the intervention groups, they would be asked to participate in weekly sessions, complete self-monitoring forms, and an interview at the end of the study. Coaches and players were given the appropriate forms (i.e., coach consent, parent consent, and player assent) and a post-project pizza party incentive was discussed; all nine coaches also completed the demographic survey at this time. Interested participants returned the forms within one week.

       Four weeks into the season, athletes completed a demographic questionnaire, the SIRQ-AC, and the psychosocial variable surveys. Pretest assessments were conducted at this time in the season to allow players to develop relationships with their coaches as recommended by Mallett and Côté (2006). Ensuring confidentiality was crucial to gaining accurate information; therefore, the first author administered all questionnaires without the coaches present, and code numbers, not names, were used to identify players.

       Coaches in the control group did not participate in any additional sessions. Within two weeks of the pretest assessment, coaches in the educational and feedback groups met with the first author to receive the feedback sheets, set goals, and self-monitoring form. Following this initial follow-up meeting, coaches in the educational group also met with the first author for four weekly educational sessions. At the completion of the study, all coaches in the feedback and educational groups participated in semi-structured interviews about their experiences with the coaching intervention program.

       Approximately six weeks after the pretest data were collected, the posttest data were collected using the same procedures. Pizza was given to players before they completed the post-test questionnaires.


       Eight of the nine coaches reported to be in the pre-contemplation stage of change at the beginning of the season. As for their decision-making style, the responses varied because this item proved to be unclear for the coaches. Several coaches made more than one mark on the continuum and several wrote that “it depends on the situation,” so this item was not used in any analyses.

       For the exploration of the changes in athlete perceptions of socio-emotional coaching behaviors over time, a 3 x 2 multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was performed on five of the six subscales of the SIRQ-AC: closed attitude, acceptance, assertiveness, caring, and criticizing. The permissiveness subscale was not including in any analyses because of the low reliability scores. Independent variables were treatment group (i.e., control, feedback, and educational) and time (i.e., pre- and post-intervention). SPSS was used for the analyses, with an alpha level of p <. 05. The total sample size for analyses was reduced from 103 to 90 with the deletion of thirteen cases due to missing data. Means and standard deviations are displayed for each group at the pretest and post test in table 1.

Table 1 Feature

       With the selection of Pillai’s Trace because of unequal group sizes, the interaction of time by treatment was found to be significant, P = .212, F(12, 166) = 2.354, p < .05, η2 = .145, indicating the scales as a set showed that the treatment conditions produced a differential change across time. Main effects were found for treatment (Pillai’s Trace = .312, F (12, 166) = 2.555, p < .05, η2 = .156) and time (Pillai’s Trace = .277, F (6, 82) = 5.237, p < .05, η2 = .277). As a post hoc, repeated measures ANOVA were run separately for each scale, and an interaction for time by treatment was found for caring behaviors, (F (2, 87) = 3.509, p < .05, η2 = .075). Athletes in the educational group perceived a significant increase in these behaviors compared to the other two groups (see Table 1).

       For the exploration of the changes in psychosocial variable scores, a 3 x 2 MANOVA, with an alpha level of .05, was performed on three of the four dependent variables: satisfaction, self-confidence and intrateam attraction. Enjoyment was excluded from analyses because of the low Cronbach’s alpha level. The data was based on 96 participants. Means and standard deviations are displayed for each group at the pretest and post test in table 2.

Table 2 Feature

       The interaction of time by treatment indicated significance (Pillai’s Trace = .212, F (8, 182) = 2.696, p < .05, η2 = .106), indicating the scales as set showed indications the treatment conditions produced a differential change across time. A main effect was found for time (Pillai’s Trace = .129, F (6, 82) = 3.318, p < .05, η2 = .129). For post-hoc analysis, repeated measures ANOVA revealed two interactions. Self-confidence scores significantly increased from the pretest to the posttest for the educational group (F (2, 93) = 2.437, p < .05, η2 = .118), and intrateam attraction scores increased for the educational group over time (F (2, 93) = 1.727, p < .05, η2 = .063).

Coach Interviews

       Coaches in the feedback and educational groups participated in semi-structured phone interviews at the completion of the study. These interviews served two main purposes: a manipulation and compliance check and feedback for modification of the program. The qualitative results that were received from the coaches give insight into the level of motivation to change behaviors, the effectiveness of the various components of the program, and the perceptions that coaches had about the training. Research has shown that it is difficult to get coaches to participate in generalized educational sessions (“Majority of high,” 1996).

       Before the interview started, the coaches were encouraged to be honest with their responses so the researcher could obtain accurate and helpful information. Eighty percent (n = 3) of the coaches in the feedback and educational groups reported a strong willingness to make changes, and all of the coaches could recall the actions that they took to make changes. The changes that the coaches tried to make involved trying to “listen to them (the players) more,” “encourage the players to get more involved in decision-making,” and “talk with all of the kids (daily).” Both coaches in the educational group said that they were “definitely willing” to make changes and rated themselves as 6/7 out of 10 on willingness. These coaches tried to modify their behaviors so they would “have personal contact with the shy players,” or “realize that it was not just about coaching soccer, but more about interacting with the players.” Coaches did not report insight as to how their behavior changes affected their players.

       Self-monitoring forms were added as a component because they have been shown to be an effective way for coaches to increase their self-awareness of their coaching behaviors and understand the antecedents and consequences of their actions (Smoll & Smith, 1998); thus it increases the chance for behavior change. Coaches stated that by completing the forms, they were held more accountable and thought more about their goals. Comments received from both groups included “They helped me to set goals and think about things;” “They made me more aware- I would try to live up to my goals;” “They made me think and made me accountable;” and “It helped me to think about it, and it only took a few minutes.”

       In summary, coaches reported that the self-monitoring sheets, the feedback from the players, and the educational sessions were very helpful. Coaches indicated that no one told them how to coach, that they had a choice in what their selected goals and subscales were, and that they received specific information in relation to their specific team.


       Mallett and Côté’s (2006) developed a three-step method of evaluating coaches that incorporates athlete feedback and individual guidance for further coach development. The authors of the current study used this method to examine the impact of a coaching intervention, the PASS IT Back program, on athletes’ satisfaction, enjoyment, self-confidence, and intrateam attraction and their perceptions of their coaches’ socio-emotional behaviors. For the first step of the process, athletes evaluated the socio-emotional interactions they have with their coaches as well as their preferences for these interactions. The second step involved a trained professional sharing the feedback from the athletes’ \with the coaches. For the coaches in the educational group, they completed the third step of the evaluation model, which involved receiving individualized education about how to improve the interactions and relationships with their athletes. In order to evaluate the intervention and incorporate a bi-directional approach, a fourth step was added in which athletes reevaluated their coaches and reported their level of satisfaction, enjoyment, self-confidence, and intrateam attraction. While the current study is not without limitations, results did indicate that positive changes occurred for the athletes in the educational group, as the athletes reported increases in their coaches caring behaviors and improved feelings of self-confidence and intrateam attraction when compared to the feedback and control groups. Feedback alone did not demonstrate to be enough to change athletes’ perceptions of their coaches’ behaviors or improve their sport experience.

       These findings are congruent with past coaching education research (e.g., Blanchard et al., 2009; Jowett & Chaundy, 2004; Smith & Smoll, 1997; Smoll & Smith, 1993), indicating that the coach-athlete relationship has been found to have direct effects on the sport experience and helps to keep athletes participating in sport. The relationship quality that athletes have with their coaches may even be more influential than the parent-child relationship regarding some aspects of the sport experience (Jowett & Cramer, 2010). More specifically, coaches who use a supportive interpersonal style have been found to positively influence their athletes’ feelings of self-determination, positive emotions, and sport satisfaction (Blanchard et al., 2009); these findings are congruent with the results of the current as athletes perceived an increase in caring behaviors from coaches who were trained, which resulted in increases in positive psychosocial experiences.

       Additionally, past research on high school athletes’ perceptions of their coaches’ behaviors throughout the season have often shown decreases in positive feedback, maintenance in social support, and increases in autocratic behaviors towards the end of the season, which are the opposite behaviors that the athletes prefer (Turman, 2003). In the current study, when an intervention was applied with the coach, the athletes reported increases in caring behaviors from their coach, resulting in increased feelings of intrateam attraction and self-confidence throughout the season, creating less of discrepancy between what the athletes perceived from their coaches and what they preferred. Furthermore, Turman (2003) found that socially supportive behaviors need to be maintained throughout the season in order to have satisfied athletes who are performing well. The athletes in the feedback and control groups in this study reported similar negative perceptions of the coach-athlete interaction throughout the season that Turman found with other high school athletes. Additionally these groups perceived minimal changes in their coaches’ behaviors from the beginning to the end of the season while the educational group revealed more positive perceptions of the coach-athlete interaction as the season progressed.

       Leadership training in sport has not been evaluated regularly; Smith et al. (1977) were one of the first to do so with their CET program. Like their program, the current program emphasized a positive coaching philosophy and encouraged self-awareness through self-monitoring forms. More specifically, the PASS IT Back program was designed to teach coaches how to improve socio-emotional aspects of their coaching behaviors by tailoring the program for the individual coach and team and training coaches throughout the season. Both programs resulted in increases in the psychosocial experience of the athletes. These findings are also similar to the results on relationship training for business managers, where educational sessions have been found to be effective at promoting trust, increasing empathy, and improving communication among managers (Grant et al., 2009; Thayne, 2000).

       While significant findings were identified with three variables, there are a variety of possible explanations for the non-significant results, which may include the sample, the length of the intervention, and psychometric limitations of the SIRQ-AC. With the sample, one possible explanation could have been the use of a small sample and the inclusion of team sport athletes. Future intervention work could be completed with individual sports or smaller team sports so that even stronger individualized interventions can be created (Alfermann et al., 2005). Furthermore, the length of this intervention was only five weeks, so coaches may have needed more time to understand how to address their players’ perceptions and preferences and make behavioral changes. Averaging scores of participants or participant self-selection (unsatisfied participants may have dropped out before the varsity level) could have also influenced the results (Wylleman, De Knop, Sloore, Vanden Auweele, & Ewing, 2003). Additionally there were some limitations with the SIRQ-AC. The English version of the SIRQ-AC has not been used extensively and could be revised to more accurately reflect American culture and lay language, and the SIRQ-AC has 80 questions, which took the participants between 20-35 minutes to complete. The survey length could result in participant boredom; therefore, decreasing the accuracy of the participants’ responses.

       To further the research on the effectiveness of the PASS IT Back program, researchers may want to also take into account the previously mentioned limitations and consider exploring additional variables. Because of the literature noting that team dynamics and relationships may be affected by the team’s record, winning percentage could be recorded and used as a mitigating variable. Another variable to explore would be the coaches’ stage of change. Researchers may be able to appropriately match the intervention with the coaches’ stage and then adjust the length and type of intervention to increase the chance that the new behaviors may in fact become habitual.

       Because there is no single model for understanding coaching effectiveness (Gilbert & Trudel, 1999), it is challenging to measure coach education/intervention program effectiveness. Furthermore, the uniqueness of the team and coach relationship, the age and gender of the athletes, the type of sport, the competitive level, and the coaches’ backgrounds all appear to influence the effectiveness of the coach (Gilbert & Trudel, 1999), which makes individualized coaching models very important. While a larger sample pool may have been helpful in finding more significant findings, this study furthers the literature in coaching science by providing initial support for the use of gathering athlete feedback in the education and evaluation process. Furthermore, this preliminary study offers support for more research on using an individualized approach to train coaches on how to relate better to their players rather than using general recommendations that may not take the specific needs of the team into consideration, supporting other researchers’ recommendations (e.g., Jones et al., 2003; Mallett & Côté, 2006).


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