Carroll M & Allen J (2019) Antecedents of Autonomy-Supportive and Controlling Coaching Behaviours in Youth Sport. Cluster for Research into Coaching - 5th International Conference, Worcester, England, 04.09.2019-05.09.2019. https://www.worcester.ac.uk/about/academic-schools/school-of-sport-and-exercise-science/sport-and-exercise-science-research/cric-2019.aspx
Background. A plethora of sports coaching research highlights the significant impact, both positive and negative, that coaches can have on athletes’ motivation, performance, well-being, continued participation, and other outcomes (e.g., anxiety, burnout, enjoyment, life skills development) (e.g. Amorose & Anderson-Butcher, 2007; Cronin & Allen, 2015). Research from a self-determination theory (SDT) (Deci & Ryan, 2002) perspective demonstrates that autonomy-supportive coaching behaviours lead to motivationally adaptive outcomes whilst controlling coaching behaviours lead to more maladaptive outcomes for athletes (Amorose & Anderson-Butcher, 2015). Little, however, is known about why coaches adopt these interpersonal styles (Matosic, Ntoumanis, & Quested, 2016). Developing a better understanding of why coaches behave as they do is critical for explaining their behaviours and informing coach development interventions to support adaptive behaviour change in coaches (Occhino, Mallett, Rynne, & Carlisle, 2014). Ultimately, this research will contribute to ensuring that all athletes thrive through their engagement in sports rather than suffer as a result of potentially preventable actions of coaches.
Aim. The purpose of this paper was to qualitatively explore the features of the three antecedents of autonomy-supportive and controlling coaching proposed in the motivational model of the coach-athlete relationship (Mageau & Vallerand, 2003) so as to develop a more in-depth understanding of their processes.
Method. Recreational level youth football and swimming coaches (N = 12) participated in semi-structured interviews which were thematically analysed. A maximum variation sampling strategy was adopted.
Results. The findings revealed how factors associated with the coaches’ personal orientation (significant others, learning experiences), perceptions of athletes’ behaviour and motivation (lacking self-determined motivation), and the coaching context (athlete age, athlete familiarity, group size, time, athlete gender) influenced their autonomy supportive and controlling behaviours. More specifically, for these coaches, being raised by a controlling parent and experiencing controlling coaching as an athlete encouraged them to develop a more controlling personal orientation and value controlling coaching behaviours. In contrast, experiencing autonomy-supportive coaching as an athlete, taking part in SDT grounded coach education programs, and engaging in reflective practice encouraged the coaches to develop a more autonomy-supportive personal orientation and value autonomy-supportive coaching behaviours. Furthermore, the coaches reported that they were more autonomy-supportive and less controlling with older athletes, familiar athletes, female athletes, smaller groups of athletes, and in longer sessions. The coaches also made judgements about athletes’ self-determined motivation and this influenced how they behaved. However, the response was different for the coaches, some became more controlling and others became more autonomy supportive.
Implications. This paper increases both our understanding of social-environmental conditions that facilitate or inhibit autonomy-supportive coaching (i.e., the barriers and enablers to translating theory into practice), and awareness regarding the complexity of the coach-focused elements of the coach-athlete motivational sequence. It also offers insight into how coaches might be assisted at both the individual and organisational level in creating more autonomy-supportive environments for their athletes, and identifies possible avenues for further research in this area. Consequently, the findings are of potential use to sports coaching academics and practitioners, and also heads of sports clubs and organisations.