Conference Paper (unpublished)

Coach Created Talent Development Motivational Climate: Implications for approaches to learning and talent development



Macdonald S & Allen J (2019) Coach Created Talent Development Motivational Climate: Implications for approaches to learning and talent development., 04.09.2019-05.09.2019.

The purpose of this presentation is to describe a study of the coach-created talent development motivational climate in Canoe Slalom in the United Kingdom. The findings will then be used to explore the implications for the debate around approaches to learning and talent development. Specifically considering behaviourist vs humanist philosophies of athlete learning, the findings challenge the notion that behaviouristic approaches should be replaced with humanistic ones. The purpose of the research was to examine the motivational climate using achievement goal theory (Nicholls, 1989), self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000) and transformational leadership (Bass & Riggio, 2006). Participants were talent pathway coaches (N=6) and their athletes (N=24). A multidimensional, mixed methods approach examined participants’ perceptions of the motivational climate, transformational leadership behaviours, coaching practices, and coaching philosophies. Data were collected through questionnaires, interviews, and systematic observation. A summary of the coaching climate, practices, and philosophy was developed for each coach based on the perspectives of the athletes, coach, and observer. These were then compared and commonalities and differences amongst the coach-created climates were identified. The coaches created a motivationally adaptive (structured, relatedness supportive, individually-focused, task-involved) talent development motivational climate. However, the coaches varied in the extent to which the climate was autonomy supportive and intellectually stimulating. Analysis of the coaching climates using a learning continuums framework revealed two distinct forms of climate: behaviourist/structure and humanistic/agency approaches (Nelson & Colquhoun, 2013). The findings show both commonalities and differences in the coach-created climate which have not previously been identified. Second, the findings demonstrate the complementary nature of the three approaches (AGT, SDT, TL) employed to analyse the talent development climate and the additional insight that can be gained from employing multiple theories. Third, analysis of coaching practice, from a learning perspective, provided an explanation for why different yet still ‘productive’ talent development motivational climates were created. This is in contrast to talent development environment research which generally suggests that coaches consider that athletes’ autonomy as critical to successful talent development. (eg Martindale et al, 2007; Mills et al 2014) Fourth, an important finding from this study was the congruency between the coaches’ personal coaching philosophy of athlete learning and their coaching practice in relation to the climate (Barnson, 2014; Lara-Bercial & Mallett, 2016). Current academic discussion on learning theories, questions the use of behaviouristic approaches in favour of humanistic ones. Presenting our findings will provide some challenge to that notion. What then might this mean for coaches and coach developers?

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Dr Justine Allen
Dr Justine Allen

Senior Lecturer, Sport

Mr Stephen Macdonald
Mr Stephen Macdonald

Lecturer in Coaching and Leadership, Sport

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