“Motivation will almost always beat mere talent”

Norman Ralph Augustine

Motivation is a key subject for athletes, coaches and sporting organisations. In sport psychology, we attempt to define and measure the ‘right motivation’. The self-determination theory  is one such attempt to define the ‘right’ motivation, suggesting that more self-determined forms of motivation lead to positive outcomes in sport.

There is a wealth of articles devoted to the looking at the role coaches play in motivation. One focus is whether a coach is autonomy supportive or controlling (see Amorose, 2007). A coach is autonomy supportive when they offer opportunities for choice and decision making, provide rational and takes into consideration the athletes’ feelings and opinions (Mageau & Vallerand, 2003). In contrast, controlling coaches take more authoritarian approaches, using criticism and punishments to control athletes. Autonomy supportive coaching has been linked with positive outcomes such as, higher levels of self-determined motivation and objective performance (Gillet, Vallerand, Amoura, & Baldes, 2010). Whereas, controlling environments have been linked with no motivation, higher levels of dropout and lower levels of persistence (Pelletier, Fortier, Vallerand, & Brière, 2001). Despite the consistent link between autonomy supportive coaching and positive outcomes (Amorose, 2007), controlling coaching behaviour is still common throughout sport. To answer why controlling coaching is still prominent throughout sport, researchers have started to look at the wider context in which a coach operates.

Stebbings, Taylor and Spray (2011) found that a coach’s basic need satisfaction was linked with higher levels of well-being, which in turn led to more autonomy supportive behaviour. Stebbing et al’s (2011) findings suggest that promoting coach well-being through need satisfaction could promote more autonomy supportive behaviour. The organisation that the coach is apart of could play a big role in this. Below are a number of suggestions based on the works of Stebbings, Allen and Shaw. These recommendations could be used by organisations to promote basic need satisfaction in their coaches and in turn promote more coach autonomy supportive behaviour.

Recommendations to Organisations

  • Trust your coaches to work independently. Allow your coaches’ to run the team, drills, match days and training how they want, giving them a sense of independence.
  • Allow your coaches to coach. Take on the administration bits associated with running the teams, allowing your coaches to do what they’ve been training to do.
  • Treat each coach as an individual. Every coach comes to your organisation with different needs. Some are juggling families, some jobs and some education. Make sure you take the time to get to know your coaches so that you can provide effective resources to support them. For example, it could be providing someone to babysit their children while they coach the session. It could be connecting a coach with other coaches so that if they cannot coach due to other commitments then they know familiar coaches they can ask.
  • Collaborate with you coaches. Give them feedback and allow them to give you feedback.
  • Find opportunities and support for formal training. Allow your coaches to keep on learning throughout the time they are involved. This will give them a greater sense of competence.
  • Create mentoring systems. This allows them to connect and share with other coaches giving them a greater sense of relatedness to the organisation.

To conclude, coaches play a significant role through their behaviour in creating a motivational climate. However researchers should continue to look at the wider context in which coaches operate. The above article has presented a number of recommendations that may promote autonomy supportive behaviours through basic need satisfaction. However, more research needs to be conducted before any clear cut recommendations can be made.

ReferencesShow all

Allen, J.B., & Shaw, S. (2009). Women coaches’ perceptions of their sport organizations’ social environment: Supporting coaches’ psychological needs? The Sport Psychologist, 23, 346–366. Retrieved from http://journals.humankinetics.com/tsp

Amorose, A. J. (2007). Coaching effectiveness: Exploring the relationship between coaching behaviour and motivation from a self-determination theory perspective. In N. Chatzisarantis & M.S. Hagger (Eds.), Self-determination in sport and exercise (pp. 209-227). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Gillet, N., Vallerand, R. J., Amoura, S., & Baldes, B. (2010). Influence of coaches’ autonomy support on athletes’ motivation and sport performance: A test of the hierarchical model of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 11, 115-161.

Mageau, G. A., & Vallerand, R. J. (2003). The coach-athlete relationship: a motivational model. Journal of Sports Sciences, 21, 883 - 904.

Pelletier, L. G., Fortier, M. S., Vallerand, R. J., & Brière, N. M. (2001). Associations among perceived autonomy support, forms of self-regulation, and persistence: A prospective study. Motivation and Emotion, 25(4), 279 – 306.

Stebbings, J., Taylor, I. M., & Spray, C. M. (2011). Antecedents of perceived coach autonomy supportive and controlling behaviours: Coach psychological need satisfaction and well-being. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology. 33. 255 – 272.

Stebbings, J., Taylor, I. M., Spray, C. M., & Ntoumanis, N. (2012). Antecedents of Perceived Coach Interpersonal Behaviors: The coaching environment and coach psychological well- and ill-being. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 34, 481-502.

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