Within our society, youth sport participation is continually growing and recent figures have shown that 90% of American children participate in at least one sport before they leave high school (Salva, 2004). Team sports have now become an important place for our youth as they become a learning context in which people are taught a number of important skills which are all motivated by the coach.  In this article we shall look at the different ways in which coaches interact with their players and the role which POWER plays within sport.

Teacher/Coach Power Use

To understand the coach athlete relationship it is extremely important to understand the role in which power plays within sport.  Often power is viewed in a negative light and most people believe that power relates to a coach being in control of a situation and not allowing any freedom for their players. Power has been defined as “an individual’s capacity to influence another person to do something he/she would not have done had he/she not been influenced” (Richmond and McCroskey, 1984, p 125). Most research regarding power has looked at the influence teachers have on their students and therefore much of the research will relate to the teaching context. Researchers argue that if a teacher cannot influence a classroom, then a teacher will not be able to enhance the learning of students. This can also relate to the communication of power within the athletic context. For example, a coach’s effectiveness is also directly linked to their ability to communicate their power over athletes. French and Raven (1959) developed the idea of power and argued that people will draw upon different types of power in different situations (coercive, reward, legitimate, referent and expert)

Coercive Power

This type of power relates to the expectation that a student will be punished if they fail to follow rules which are set by teachers. This type of power is dependent upon the students belief that the teacher will go through with the form of punishment. In relation to a coach, this type of power can relate to forms of punishment such as increased physical activity or verbal abuse.

Reward Power

This type of power relates to rewards which are obtained after a behaviour is performed. This type of coach reward power is seen as extremely important for athletes as it is highly valued by athletes (increased playing time). Other types of coach reward power can relate to positive feedback such as praising athletes.

Legitimate power

This type of power is associated with the position in which the coach or teacher may have. Legitimate power suggests that the person holding the position has the ability to make specific demands which are associated with the role of their position. Athletes are more likely to listen to what their coach has to say due to the nature of that position and when they begin to question this power it begins to weaken.

Referent power

This type of power refers to how teachers can connect with their students on an interpersonal level.  This type of power will come from the students as it depends on how much they can identify themselves with the teacher. This can be very different in a coaching situation as athletes spend much longer with their coaches and are more likely to have a closer interaction

Expert power

Expert power relates to the way in which students perceive the competence of their teachers. For example, if a teacher does not understand what they are teaching then their ability to control their students will be weakened. For coaches this can be determined by the amount of success they have had. A coach with little success is more likely to have weakened expert power.

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