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This study explored coaches’ responses to stress, the perceived effects of stress, and the coping strategies coaches employed. Transcribed interviews with 12 world class coaches, based in the UK, were inductively content analyzed. A range of themes emerged describing coaches’ responses to stressors and the effects of stress. Specifically, coaches discussed psychological reactions, and suggested that their negative responses to stress could be projected onto their athletes.While structuring and planning was reported as a coping strategy, coaches described a limited use of psychological skills and tended to avoid stressors that provoked strain responses in efforts to manage stress. Results suggest that coaches should be aware of how they respond to stressors and the influence their responses might have on their athletes. Sport psychologists should help coaches to identify and develop the psychological skills and strategies required to cope with the demands of world class coaching.
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Journal of Applied Sport Psychology
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Stress and Coping: A Study of World Class Coaches
Peter Olusogaa; Joanne Butta; Ian Maynarda; Kate Haysb
a Sheffield Hallam University, b English Institute of Sport,
Online publication date: 19 July 2010
To cite this Article Olusoga, Peter , Butt, Joanne , Maynard, Ian and Hays, Kate(2010) 'Stress and Coping: A Study of
World Class Coaches', Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 22: 3, 274 — 293
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/10413201003760968
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DOI: 10.1080/10413201003760968
Stress and Coping: A Study of World Class Coaches
Sheffield Hallam University
English Institute of Sport
This study explored coaches’ responses to stress, the perceived effects of stress, and the coping
strategies coaches employed. Transcribed interviews with 12 world class coaches, based in
the UK, were inductively content analyzed. A range of themes emerged describing coaches’
responses to stressors and the effects of stress. Specifically, coaches discussed psychological
reactions, and suggested that their negative responses to stress could be projected onto their
athletes. While structuring and planning was reported as a coping strategy, coaches described a
limited use of psychological skills and tended to avoid stressors that provoked strain responses
in efforts to manage stress. Results suggest that coaches should be aware of how they respond
to stressors and the influence their responses might have on their athletes. Sport psychologists
should help coaches to identify and develop the psychological skills and strategies required to
cope with the demands of world class coaching.
This paper presents the second in a series of studies examining stress within the unique
culture of world class sports coaching. Study 1 (Olusoga, Butt, Hays, & Maynard, 2009)
identified a wide range of demands (i.e., stressors) that coaches encounter in a world class
coaching environment. As identified by this first study, the stressors described by coaches can
often be experienced in combination rather than as separate demands that occur one at a time.
For example, athletes underperforming in competition, a lack of coach control, and pressure
from a governing body to produce results, might all be experienced simultaneously against
a backdrop of poor team management and conflict between staff. From a transactional stress
perspective (Lazarus & Launier, 1978), these demands are part of a dynamic and complex stress
process. Stress responses (i.e., strain) result from a perceived imbalance between environmental
demands and an individual’s coping resources and, as such, the responses to a combination
of stressors, and the coping efforts of coaches, are likely to be complex. Indeed, coping is
defined as “constantly changing cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage specific external
and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person”
(Lazarus & Folkman, 1984, p. 141), thus further demonstrating the inherent complexity of the
stress process (Fletcher, Hanton, & Mellalieu, 2006).
Received 3 July 2009; accepted 9 March 2010.
Address correspondence to Peter Olusoga, Centre for Sport and Exercise Science, Collegiate Hall,
Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, S10 2BP, UK. E-mail:
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According to UK Sport, coaching is a critical element of the high performance system and
plays a central role in ensuring the ongoing success of athletes. In 2004, UK Sport began
investing £1 million per year into an Elite Coach program with the aim of producing 60 elite
British coaches by 2012. This substantial investment highlights the importance attached to
producing and developing world class coaches in the United Kingdom. This growing im-
portance afforded to coaching is reflected in an increase in the amount of sport psychology
research dedicated to the topic (e.g., Erickson, Cˆ
e, & Fraser-Thomas, 2007; Frey, 2007; Levy,
Nicholls, Marchant, & Polman, 2009; Olusoga et al., 2009; Thelwell, Weston, Greenlees, &
Hutchings, 2008a; 2008b). For example, the importance of the relationship between coach
and athlete has been commented upon by a number of authors (e.g., Baker, Yardley, & Cˆ
2003; Lyle, 1999), and coaches have been identified as having a significant impact on athletes’
satisfaction and performance accomplishments (Jowett & Cockerill, 2003). While it is clear
coaches have not been entirely ignored from a research perspective, it is only relatively recently
that they have been considered performers in their own right (c.f., Gould, Guinan, Greenleaf,
& Chung, 2002). Olusoga et al. (2009) and Thelwell et al. (2008b) have both explored the
stressors experienced by elite coaches in the UK. Although similar stressors relating to ath-
letes (e.g., coachability, professionalism) and coaches (competition preparation), as well as
organizational issues (e.g., conflict, administration) were reported in both studies, there is still
a need to further understand the impact of stressors. However, while elite athletes’ experiences
of stress continues to receive significant research attention (e.g., Kristiansen & Roberts, 2009;
McKay, Niven, Lavallee, & White, 2008; Mellalieu, Neil, Hanton, & Fletcher, 2009; Weston,
Thelwell, Bond, & Hutchings, 2009), studies of coaching stress have only recently become
more prolific.
To date, research that has investigated coaches’ responses to stress has provided some
insight into the relationships between stress and coaches’ health, and this line of research has
typically concentrated on burnout (see Goodger, Gorley, Lavallee, & Harwood, 2007, for a
review). For example, it has been well documented that burnout, “a syndrome of emotional
exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment” (Maslach & Jackson
1986, p. 1), is a possible response to chronic stress or a persistent imbalance between demands
and coping resources (Smith, 1986). Although sociological (Coakley, 1992) and commitment-
based (Schmidt & Stein, 1991) explanations for burnout have been posited, Smith’s stress-based
explanation was central to studies of coach burnout (e.g., Kelley, 1994; Kelley & Gill, 1993).
Indeed, Kelley and Gill (1993) found support for Smith’s cognitive-affective model of stress,
with their results indicating that perceived stress was positively related to burnout. While
the research into stress responses, and indeed the impact of stress, has primarily focused on
burnout, other, more immediate stress responses have been under researched. Furthermore,
coaches have reported several positive responses and effects of stress, including heightened
awareness, energizing effects, and increased motivation (Frey, 2007). Taken together, these
findings, and those of previous research, suggest that coaches’ responses to stressors can
certainly vary and, thus, require greater research attention.
While it is important to note that individuals can respond to stressors in a positive manner,
negative responses are reported more often (c.f., Frey, 2007). In a study of collegiate coaches
in the United States, Frey (2007) reported that several factors, such as wanting more free time,
consistent losing, and interference with family life, might result in them being more likely to
withdraw from the profession altogether. Moreover, coaches felt that their moods, emotions,
thoughts, and behaviors could be negatively affected by stressors, and that these responses to
stressors could have a negative impact upon their athletes. McCann (1997) suggested that it
was easy for athletes to recognize when their coaches were experiencing strain, and that this
might have a detrimental influence on athletes’ confidence. Based on the extant literature, it is
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clear that stressors can have a negative impact, not only on the coaches encountering them but
also, indirectly, on their athletes. Nicholls and Polman (2007) suggested that performers must
be able to cope with stressors to perform well and “to make sport a satisfying experience”
(p. 11). Although referring to athletes, this observation certainly applies to coaches too. Yet, as
identified by Frey (2007), the ways in which coaches manage stress is still relatively unknown.
In studies with athlete populations, an inability to effectively cope with stressors has
been linked to reduced quality of performance (Lazarus, 2000) and withdrawal from sport
(Smith, 1986), and there is no reason to suggest that the same outcomes would not extend
to coaching populations. It is therefore increasingly important to develop our understanding
of coaches’ coping strategies. To address this, Levy et al. (2009), conducted a longitudinal
study examining organizational stressors, coping strategies, and coping effectiveness with an
elite coach. Administration (18.9% of all stressors reported), overload (12.9%) and athletes
(8.6%) were the most frequent stressors cited and diary entries revealed 70 coping strategies
used over a 28-day period. While this study attempted to explore the coach’s perceptions of
coping effectiveness, the ways in which the coach responded to stressors and the perceived
effects of stress, were not explored. In a recent qualitative investigation, Thelwell et al. (2008a)
explored the use of psychological skills in 13 elite-level coaches from the UK, finding that
coaches employed goal-setting, imagery, self-talk, and relaxation skills across a range of
situations. While Thelwell et al. demonstrated that world class coaches appear to use a variety
of psychological skills, albeit in a somewhat limited fashion, the specific strategies used to
cope with the demands of coaching within the unique culture of world class sport still warrant
further investigation.
While stress research has focused on identifying the vast array of stressors encountered by
elite performers, little research has explored coaches’ responses to stress and the perceived
effects of stress. Instead, studies have tended to highlight the frequency with which various
stressors are encountered. While emotional responses such as anxiety and anger are common
(Lazarus, 2006), stress responses are not necessarily negative in tone or outcome. To date,
although studies have explored the coping strategies of athletes (c.f. Nicholls & Polman,
2007), coping research with coaching populations has been less prolific. Frey (2007) explored
the coping strategies of collegiate level coaches, and Levy et al. (2009) explored coping and
coping effectiveness of one elite coach over a 28-day period. Although the first study in this
series identified the stressors encountered by world class coaches, an exploration of coaches’
responses to stress, the effects of stress as perceived by these coaches, and the coping strategies
they use is vital in developing our understanding of their overall stress experiences. Therefore,
the purpose of the present study was twofold; first, to investigate the responses and effects of
stress for world class UK sports coaches, and second, to explore the coping strategies used by
these coaches attempting to manage stress.
With institutional ethics approval, 12 sports coaches (6 men, 6 women) aged between 36
and 64 years (47.3 ±7.6 years) participated voluntarily in the study. Coaches represented
eight sports (diving, sailing, swimming, bowls, equestrianism, field hockey, lacrosse, and table
tennis) and had between 6 and 22 years (14.5 ±5.5 years) experience coaching at a world
class level. Coaches were purposefully selected (Patton, 2002) from a variety of sports to
ensure that a wide range of sporting organizations was represented. As part of the selection
criteria, coaches were considered world class if they had coached at an Olympic games,
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world championships, world cup, and/or Commonwealth games. At the time of interview,
seven coaches were in preparation for the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing, one was in
preparation for their world championships, one coach had just returned from a world cup,
and two coaches were in the middle of a four-year world cup cycle. Due to the constraints
associated with accessing a world class coaching sample, the data for the present study, and
a previous publication (Olusoga et al., 2009) were collected in one interview. However, two
themed interview guides delineated the aims of each separate study.
Coaches were contacted via email and invited to participate in the study. Participants
were assured that their comments would remain anonymous and that the interview data
would be treated confidentially. An initial interview guide was pilot-tested with three coaches
(2 male, 1 female) from three sports (swimming, field hockey, and basketball). This process
allowed the principal investigator to ensure that the questions asked were unambiguous and
the structure of the interview was clear. Feedback on the pilot interviews was provided by
an experienced qualitative researcher who listened to the audio recordings and reviewed the
transcripts. Several minor changes were subsequently made to the interview guide to enhance
clarity. All interviews were conducted by the principal investigator who had extensive ex-
perience with interview-based research. In addition, the interviewer had more than 10 years
of coaching experience which helped in establishing rapport with participants. As the inter-
viewer was an experienced coach, a bracketing interview served to minimize the chance that
any biases and preconceptions he may have had regarding coaches’ stressful experiences could
influence the subsequent interviews and his interpretations of the coaches’ comments (Ely,
1991; Patton, 2002).
Interview Guide
Based on the existing stress literature (e.g., Frey, 2007; Thelwell et al., 2008b), use of a
semi-structured interview guide1ensured each participant was asked the same set of major
questions (Gould, Finch, & Jackson, 1993). Specifically, following introductory questions
designed to facilitate recall and encourage descriptive talking (Patton, 2002), the interview
guide focused on four broad categories: responses to stressors, perceived effects of stress,
coping strategies, and positive experiences of stress. However, as participants were encouraged
to elaborate during the interview, the interviewer was free to explore issues unique to each
coach’s experiences in greater depth as they arose (Patton, 2002).
Data Analysis
Interviews were approximately 60 minutes in length (53 ±13.6), and each was tape recorded
and transcribed verbatim by the first author. To ensure data trustworthiness, transcripts of each
interview were content analyzed by three researchers, using procedures recommended by Miles
and Huberman (1994) and used within sport psychology research by several authors (e.g., Ed-
wards, Hardy, Kingston, & Gould, 2002). Two researchers individually coded raw-data themes
(i.e., quotes or paraphrased quotes representing a meaningful point or thought) characterizing
each coach’s responses to the interview questions (Cˆ
e, Salmela, Baria, & Russel, 1993).
The raw-data themes were then organized into groups of like responses and common themes
of greater generality, resulting in the emergence of lower- and higher-order themes. The two
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researchers reached consensus through discussion over a 4-week period. Disagreements be-
tween the researchers resulted in transcripts being re-read and further discussion taking place
until consensus was reached (Sparkes, 1998). Triangular consensus was reached at each stage
of analysis. Specifically, a third researcher was given a random selection of raw-data responses
(30%) and asked to categorize them into their lower- and higher-order themes. This researcher
categorized 90% of the quotes into their lower-order themes and 93% into their higher-order
themes. Consensus was reached on all themes through further meetings with the research
The results are presented in two sections: The data pertaining to responses and effects of
stress are presented first, followed by coaches’ coping strategies.
Responses and Effects of Stress
Twenty-five raw-data themes were identified from the interview transcripts, each represent-
ing a distinct response to stress. These were organized into the following three higher-order
themes: psychological responses, behavioral responses, and physical responses. Analysis of
the transcripts also resulted in 52 raw-data themes representing coaches’ perceived effects of
stress being identified. These were organized into nine lower-order themes and, subsequently,
into the following three higher-order themes: negative effects on the coach, effects on athletes,
and positive effects. All higher-order themes representing responses and effects of stress are
discussed in detail below and presented in Figure 1, with the number of coaches reporting each
raw-data theme in parentheses. In addition, the numbers of coaches cited in each lower- and
higher-order theme are included. Furthermore, to allow the reader to gain an understanding of
the context of the data, the findings are presented using thick descriptive quotes (McKenna &
Mutrie, 2003).
Psychological Responses
This higher-order theme encapsulated responses from all twelve coaches who described
their psychological responses to stress. This theme consisted of three lower-order themes:
emotional responses (e.g., anger, frustration, upset), negative cognitions (e.g., self-doubts,
negative decision making), and reduced confidence. One of the most cited lower-order themes
to emerge was emotional responses. In this theme, coaches discussed a range of emotions
experienced in response to stressors, the most common being anger. Coaches also discussed
feeling frustrated and annoyed, and, as one coach explained, it was common to experience a
full range of emotions:
We had a staff meeting straight after that match, you know, everybody called into the office,
and my blood was boiling. I mean, I was frustrated, I was kinda upset, disappointed, angry at
the player, you know, all these emotions.
Behavioral Responses
As well as psychological responses, six coaches described several behavioral responses to
the stressors they encountered while coaching. Coaches referred to behaviors such as pacing,
“looking at my watch repeatedly,” and breaking down in tears. In addition, four coaches felt
their body language became demonstratively more negative. As one coach explained, “the
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Anger (6)
Frustration (3)
Upset (2)
Self Doubts (5)
Sleepless nights (3)
Worry (3)
Mistrust /Lack of faith in the system
More negative in decision making
Pressure building in head
Mentally fatigued
Social comparison
Constantly chasing my tail
Lack of confidence (5) Confidence
Increased heart rate
Physically sick/chest and stomach pains/physical illness
Hands shaking
Physically tired
Body language (4)
Tone of voice is sharper and rate of speech increases
Pacing/walking in circles
Broke down in tears (at disqualification of athlete)
Looking at watch repeatedly
Raw-data themes Lower-order Higher-order
Demotivation with work and family
Easy to be short with people
Ignoring people you consider irrelevant
Not happy at home
Can avoid certain individuals
Not listening to performance dire ctor in meeting
Upsetting people around me
Losing temper with support staff
Bitter feelings
with others
Negative Effects
on the Coach
Depression (3)
Emotionally fatigued (3)
Feeling isolated
Felt bad about life
Feeling homesick
You feel like you're drowning
Difficult to b e guilt free
Negative affect
Questioning my own motivation (3)
Reduced enjoyment (2)
Wishing it was over
Didn't recommit to coach straight away
Wanted to give up coaching
Losing motivation
Go more quiet (2)
Feeling the need to withdraw
Becoming more introspective (close down)
Think a lot more
With drawal
Figure 1. Responses and effects of stress reported by World class, UK sports coaches.
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Raw-data themes Lower-order Higher-order
Not getting the best out of athletes
Instruction to the athlete can get lost (reduced communication)
Can be more negative with athletes
Anger directed at athletes
Relationship with athletes became less flexible
Less effective or no intervention
Getting too directive in coaching
Standard of work dropped
Short with athletes
Less time for feedback
Less contact time with athletes
towards athletes
Athletes get angry/annoyed
Athletes lose confidence
Affects athlete performance
Athletes might wonder if the coach's stress is down to them
Effects on
Effects on
More determined to succeed
Made me more determined
Pushed to the limit where you say to hell with it
Leads you to analyze situations and make decisions (2)
Helps to fit the work in/more productive
Leads to discussion, clarity and decision-making
Concentrates the mind (2)
Makes me sharper/more effective
More alert to different people/what's going on
Helps to focus preparation
More thoughtful
Increased focus
Figure 1. (Continued)
minute I seem angry, agitated, or actually negative, that would be a big sign. I’m not very good
at being negative. ...I’d say the body language would have shown.
Physical Responses
This higher-order theme, consisting of five raw-data themes, described how coaches were
physically affected by the stress they were experiencing. Four coaches reported somatic symp-
toms such as increased heart rate and feeling physically sick. As one coach described, “I would
say that if you had a heart rate monitor on me as [the athletes] compete, I would probably be
up around 200.”
Negative Effects on the Coach
Eleven of the coaches described the negative effects that they perceived stress had on
them. Specifically, in this theme, coaches described what amounted to longer-term effects
of stress, as opposed to the more immediate responses outlined in the previous theme of
psychological responses. Twenty-six raw-data themes were organized into the following four
lower-order themes: negative affect (e.g., depression, emotional fatigue), decreased motivation
(e.g., wishing it was over, wanting to give up coaching), relationships with others (e.g.,
avoiding certain people, easy to be short with people), and withdrawal (e.g., becoming more
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introspective, becoming quieter). The most cited lower-order theme was negative affect in
which coaches described how they became depressed, emotionally fatigued, and “felt bad
about life” because of their experiences of stress. As one coach explained:
I found it very difficult to cope and I ended up a bit depressed really a. ... That was really
tough. It was very hard for friends at home to understand that I needed to talk to someone.
That was a very tough time.
Decreased motivation was another lower-order theme that emerged. In this theme, one
coach recalled “wishing it was over” when coaching at a particular event, while several
coaches indicated that they questioned their motivation to continue coaching because of the
stressors they experienced. As one coach stated, “I still loved [names sport], I still felt I had a
lot to give within that role, but one year of doing it like that [family unhappy with time spent
away from home], I wasn’t coping with it.” In another lower-order theme, relationships with
others, several coaches suggested that relationships outside work could suffer. For example,
one coach discussed feeling de-motivated at work and with their family as a result of stress,
while another reported that, “even when you’re at home ... knowing the situation in the job,
it was probably the worst six to twelve months of my life.
Effects on Athletes
Seven coaches perceived their responses to stressors influenced their athletes, as evidenced
by the responses in this higher-order theme. Fifteen raw-data themes were organized into
two lower-order themes: behavior towards athletes (e.g., anger directed at athletes, less con-
tact time with athletes, less time for feedback) and effects on athletes (e.g., athletes losing
confidence, athletes getting angry/annoyed, athletes’ performances affected). The lower-order
theme, behavior towards athletes, characterized how coaches felt their behavior changed when
they were experiencing stress. For example, coaches discussed becoming “too directive” when
coaching and being “short with athletes.” In explaining how such changes in behavior influ-
enced athletes, one coach suggested that he was not getting the best out of his athletes and that
instructions to athletes might get lost. One coach described how he felt his athletes suffered
as his own standard of work dropped:
I wasn’t watching for the things I needed to watch for. ... It wasn’t a conscious thing that I
didn’t wanna work, it was just that I knew I wasn’t as concentrated ... and I wasn’t producing
as good work as I would normally.
Positive Effects
Although coaches mainly discussed negative responses to stress, 7 of the 12 coaches
interviewed felt that in certain situations, stress could result in positive responses. Specifically,
11 raw-data themes were identified and categorized into three lower-order themes: increased
focus (e.g., concentrates the mind, helps focus preparation, “more alert to what’s going on”),
productivity (e.g., leads to discussion, clarity and decision-making), and determination (e.g.,
more determined to succeed). One coach described becoming more determined to succeed
when experiencing stress as “being pushed to that sort of limit when you say, ‘ah to hell with
it, of course I can do it,’ and then you’re away.” Importantly, coaches described the reflection
needed to see stress in a positive light. This reflection was explained by one coach, who said:
You learn from the stress, yeah ...if you can cope with it, learn from it and move on. ...Ijust
think it’s in the environment and it’s an essential part of the environment because I think it’s
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where most of our learning curves actually take place. ...And I think sometimes the coaches
that actually get there in the end are the ones that get knocked down and get back up again.
Coping With Stress
Ninety-eight raw-data themes representing distinct coping strategies were identified and
organized into 19 lower-order themes. These were then organized into the following nine
higher-order themes: structuring and planning, psychological skills, support, distraction, ex-
perience and learning, approach to coaching, maintaining positive coach-athlete relationships,
avoidance, and confrontation. These higher-order themes are discussed in detail below. All
themes are presented in Figure 2.
Structuring and Planning
As a way of coping with the stressors associated with a world class coaching environment,
detailed structuring and advanced planning were reported by 10 of the 12 coaches. Specifically,
this higher-order theme consisted of four lower-order themes in which coaches reported
strategies involving planning (e.g., using time productively, allowing enough time so you’re
not rushing), communication (e.g., identifying roles and responsibilities early, detailed needs
analysis with athletes), effective time management (e.g., multi-tasking, dealing with tasks
straight away), and taking scheduled time off from coaching (e.g., holidays, taking time off
after championships). In the lower-order theme of planning, coaches described how they would
plan for competitions (pre-game strategies) and for specific situations that might arise. Indeed,
as one coach explained, planning in advance was a way of avoiding situations that coaches
knew would be stressful:
I’m just sort of getting the hang of it now ... organizing my life a bit better, a bit more in
advance. I did turn round to my [spouse] in the beginning and say, “oh, I’m going away next
week for two weeks.” So you could see how that would upset someone. ...So now it’s all done
a bit more in advance.
Communication also emerged as a lower-order theme. Coaches suggested that communi-
cation with athletes and other staff was a strategy for coping with stressors. Again, rather
than coping with stress as it occurred, several coaches explained that identifying roles and
responsibilities early, and having clear boundaries and rules, were ways in which they reduced
the potential for stressors to result in strain and negative responses. One coach explained how
“telling players exactly what’s expected of them” was a coping strategy for her.
Psychological Skills
Ten of the 12 coaches interviewed discussed using some form of psychological skills to help
them cope with the stress of coaching. Specifically, 14 raw-data themes were categorized into
four lower-order themes: rationalization (e.g., not taking it too seriously, trying to view stress
as a learning experience), self-talk (e.g., reminders of motivation, self-affirmations), proactive
behaviors (e.g., masking stress, controlling the controllables), and relaxation (visualization).
Pro-active behaviors comprised raw-data themes relating to coaches’ active psychological
efforts to cope with stress. One coach explained that keeping an emergency diary was a
proactive form of coping that worked for her, as it allowed her to “get everything off [her]
chest without a reaction.” Two coaches suggested that they would “mask” or hide their stress
from their athletes so that the athletes would remain unaffected by the coaches’ stress, while
another explained how projecting an air of confidence was a coping strategy they used: “You
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Raw-data themes Lower-order Higher-order
semeht semeht
Organization and planning in advance (3)
Planning for competitions (pre-game strategy)
Preparing for specif ic situations
Yearly plan done 3 months before the season
Think ahead about how to deal with stress
Use time productively (plan what you're going to say)
Allow enough time so that you're not rushing
Checkpoints to know I'm on the right track
Make mental list and start blitzing it
Building in breaks to the coaching day
Time management (multi-tasking)
Don't overstretch myself
Being organized
Dealing with asks straight away
Tick as many boxes as possible (admin)
Have to push the agenda
Holidays when I get the chance
Taking time off to unwind after world championships
time off
Structuring &
Identify roles and responsibilities early
Meetings with parents and athletes to work out strategy
Boundaries/rules made clear
Detailed needs analysis with each athlete
Telling athletes exactly what's expected of them
Self-talk (3)
Reminders of motivation (2)
Self-affirmations (2)
Reminders of previous accomplishments
Rationalization/put into perspective (6)
Trying to view stress as a learning experience
Not taking it too seriously/humour (2)
Love the job and stress is part of it
Masking or hiding stress from athletes (2)
Controlling the controllables (2)
Acting as if in control at all times
Project and air of conf idence
Keeping an emergency diary
Visualization to relax
Figure 2. Coping strategies employed by World class, UK sports coaches.
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Personal experience as captain
Using experiences as an athlete to help athletes deal with their
Experience as
an athlete
Drawing on previous experience
Don't have to get stressed because I've been doing it so long
Already had success which takes a lot of the stress away
Experience as a
and Learning
Self improvement - going on courses/readin g etc (2)
Education - increasing knowledge (NLP)
Reading journal ar ticles (education)
Taking lessons from other successful spor ts teams
Raw-data themes Lower-order Higher-order
semeht semeht
Group of people to support you (5)
Using other coaches to help with coaching duties
Keeping an honest and open relationship with the management
Teamwork is vital
Having a loyal management team
Work related
Speaking to experienced coaches/people I trust (3)
Working closely with the team psychologist
Talking to significant others with knowledge of the sport
Seeking information about how to get the big things done/
decisions made
Spending quality time with family (2)
Talking with friends
Talking to significant others outside the sport
Social support
Advice from
Time on my own (5)
Watching trashy television (2)
Reading (2)
Glass of wine and a cigar (2)
Having a beer now and again (2)
Drinking too much alcohol
Cooking at night - being able to enjoy spare time
Enjoying my days off (lunch with friends)
Going for a walk
Listen to music
Drink loads of coffee
Take a shower
Taking exercise (4)
Go running on my own
Playing golf
Figure 2. (Continued)
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Stepping back and starting again instead of forcing it (correcting
Not getting caught up in the moment
Not getting too involved as a coach
Tak in g a s tep
Changing a training session
More directive in coaching
Approach to
Consistency in approach
Stepping away from potentially stressful situations (4)
Avoiding sexist situations (not going to the bar to socialize)
Taking a step back/avoiding confrontations (2)
Dismiss it and pretend its not there
Cocoon myself into a bubble/cut people out of the loop if
Looking at things from the athlete's point of view (2)
See role as 100% there for the athlete
Mutual respect and a good relationship with athletes
Always make time for the athletes
Getting to know the athletes
Have an understanding with the athletes
Maintaining positive coach-athlete relationships
Positive Coach-
Confronting issues head on (2)
Having a go at the athletes
Being short with people
Challenging points of sexism
Letting people know what I think of them
Raw-data themes Lower-order Higher-order
Figure 2. (Continued)
put on this false sort of impression because you have to. You learn to project this confident
image. ... You’ve gotta be the person who knows what they’re doing, who’s in control, and
who’s making the decisions.
Nine coaches described support from several different sources, which they used to cope
with stress. Specifically, three lower-order themes characterized these sources of support:
work-related support (e.g., group of people to support you, using other coaches to help with
coaching duties), advice from others (e.g., speaking to experiences coaches, working with the
team psychologist), and social support (e.g., spending quality time with family, talking with
friends). One of the most cited lower-order themes was work-related support. Five raw-data
themes comprised this lower-order theme, in which coaches explained how having a group of
people to support them and keeping an honest and open relationship with the management
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team helped them to cope. One coach suggested that “it’s more than likely that you’ve got a
couple of good management people with you that you kind of bounce [stress] off by discussing
it and that’s a way of relieving it.” In the lower-order theme of social support, one coach
explained the importance of friendships outside the sporting arena, stating that she “would
never have those critical friends in the environment,” and that she looked for support from “a
close friend who played the sport but is not involved in the environment anymore.”
Sixteen raw-data themes constituted this higher-order theme in which eight coaches de-
scribed how engaging in activities away from the stressful environment could help them to
cope with the demands of coaching. These responses were organized into two lower-order
themes: off-task activities (e.g., time on my own, having a glass of wine and a cigar, going
for a walk) and exercise (e.g., going running, playing golf). Eight of the twelve coaches in-
terviewed mentioned that off-task activities, such as “having a beer now and again,” watching
television, reading, and “enjoying lunch with friends,” helped them to cope with stress. As one
coach commented:
I do give myself down periods. ... I do try to take an evening a week where I sit down and I
have a nice glass of wine and I smoke a cigar and I let my brain not think about anything ...
then I do feel that I am better for it.
Other coaches discussed habits such as drinking coffee or taking a shower as being a
comforting distraction and a coping strategy for them. Having time on their own also appeared
to help coaches cope with the demands of the job. As one coach stated, “I find it useful to have
space for myself. ... I like to get a quarter of an hour, 20 minutes to myself at some point
during the day, just to put things back into order.
Experience and Learning
Nine raw-data themes related to how coaches used their personal experience, and sought
out new experiences, to help them cope with the demands of coaching. Specifically, responses
from seven coaches were categorized into three lower-order themes: continued professional
development (e.g., self-improvement, reading journal articles), experience as an athlete (e.g.,
personal experience as captain, using experience to help athletes deal with their stress), and
experience as a coach (e.g., previous success takes a lot of the stress away). Within the
lower-order theme of continued professional development, coaches indicated that as well as
drawing on previous experience, they continually tried to develop their coaching abilities
and knowledge base, and cited this as something that helped them to cope with the demands
associated with a world class coaching environment. One coach suggested that he “took lessons
from other successful sports teams” that would help him when faced with stressful situations,
while another utilized a variety of sources to improve his abilities:
I would read a lot of books from sports people, a lot of religious books, a lot of business books,
management books. ... You get the chance to be in contact with other sports and they have a
lot of courses that you can go on. ... So I probably have been to every course that there has
been. And, you know, you always learn something.
Approach to Coaching
Seven raw-data themes reflected an adaptable approach to coaching, which six coaches
described as a way of coping with stress. These responses were grouped into three lower-order
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themes: taking a step back (e.g., not getting caught up in the moment, delegation), flexibility
(e.g., changing a training session, being more directive in coaching), and consistency (e.g.,
consistency in approach). Four raw-data themes comprised the most cited lower-order theme in
which coaches indicated that taking a step back from stressful situations was a coping strategy
they employed. One coach suggested that delegating tasks was a way to cope with coaching
stress, while another discussed not getting too involved as a coach:
You see some athletes whose coaches get up with them in the morning, go to the gym, spend
a whole day with them, really know them. ... And you can see a coach whose more hands
on getting more stressed when [the athletes] don’t do well, because they’re so much more
involved. ...We’re a bit more stand-offish.
Maintaining Positive Coach-Athlete Relationships
Developing and maintaining a positive relationship with their athletes was cited by eight
coaches as a strategy for coping with stressors. Seven raw-data themes were grouped into this
higher-order theme, with coaches stating that having mutual respect and a good relationship
with athletes, and having an understanding with the athletes, helped to effectively manage
their stress:
I look upon my role as being there 100% for that athlete. If that athlete asks me to run half way
round the world to get a glass of water and back again, that would be my job. If they ask me to
lick their toes, that would be my job. Whatever it would take to get that athlete to perform in
In this higher-order theme, five raw-data themes reflected seven coaches’ tendencies to avoid
stressful situations. For example, one coach explained how, in stressful situations involving
colleagues or athletes, “once it gets past a certain point where I think that’s it, we’re not gonna
make any headway now, I’m quite happy to just stop and come back later.
Five raw-data themes constituted this final higher-order theme. Specifically, five coaches
suggested that confronting the stressor or displaying confrontational behaviors were strategies
that they used to cope with stressors. Two coaches explained that confronting issues “head on”
was a useful coping strategy for them, but might be difficult for young coaches:
I confronted him head on and we’re really good friends because he actually appreciated my
directness and honesty. It’s real easy for me to do that now, but maybe 10 years ago, I wasn’t
able to go up to this person and confront them because, I think even as a young coach learning,
confrontation was a bit scary.
While coaches clearly play an important role in the performance and satisfaction of athletes,
they have several additional roles to fill. Sports coaching, particularly at the world class level, is
a fundamentally stressful occupation (Gould et al., 2002), yet coaches working within an elite
performance environment are only just beginning to receive the research attention and support
they ought to have. As the second in a series of studies examining the stress experiences of
world class sports coaches in the UK, the purpose of this study was to investigate the responses
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and effects of stress for world class UK sports coaches, as well as the coping strategies used
by these coaches in their attempts to manage stress.
The psychological, behavioral, and physical responses to stress described by the world class
coaches in this study were similar to responses that have been described by collegiate level
coaches (e.g., becoming tense, fidgety, or agitated; Frey, 2007). However, in discussing the
effects of stress, the findings go beyond other studies that have explored stress in coaching.
Specifically, while coaches of collegiate athletes have reported the effects of their stress
responses on athletes (Frey, 2007), the coaches in the present study also described the ways
in which stress negatively affected their own thoughts, behaviors and emotions. Emotional
and mental fatigue and a sense of reduced enjoyment were described by several coaches, and,
importantly, 6 of the coaches interviewed felt they were losing or questioning their motivation
to continue in the job. Indeed, the effects of stress described were comparable to symptoms of
burnout previously described in the literature (e.g., Schaufeli & Buunk, 2003). These findings
lend support to stress-based explanations of burnout (Smith, 1986), and as Kosa (1990) asserts,
withdrawal from coaching as a result of burnout has severe implications for the development
of expertise in coaching. While no statistical measures of burnout were taken in the present
study, the findings do suggest that burnout resulting from stress might well be a feature of
world class sports coaching.
Despite the importance of a positive coach-athlete relationship for athlete performance
(Jowett & Cockerill, 2003), over half of the coaches in the present study perceived that their
stress responses could have a negative impact on their athletes. Specifically, coaches reported
that as part of their own responses to stress, their standard of work dropped, they would
fail to get the best out of their athletes, and that in general, the quality of communication
between themselves and their athletes would suffer. Moreover, coaches felt that their athletes’
confidence and performances would also be damaged or hindered as a result. Consistent with
previous research in which Olympic athletes have reported that coaches’ inability to handle
pressure situations and avoid distractions were factors that influenced their performances
(Gould, Guinan, Greenleaf, Medbery, & Peterson, 1999), it was apparent in the present study
that coaches are acutely aware that the changes in their behavior during times of stress, such
as changes in their body language and tone of voice, are potential sources of strain for their
athletes. These findings are particularly important when considering that effective verbal and
non-verbal communication is considered the most important aspect of coaching (LaVoi, 2007).
These situation-specific behavior changes in coaches, and the different ways in which athletes
are affected, warrant further investigation. As such, future research should explore the effects
of coaches’ stress responses on athletes’ subsequent behaviors and performances, as well as
athletes’ perceptions of their relationships with their coaches.
Lazarus (2000) observed that stress is, more often than not, associated with negative
responses. While this association does not necessarily fit within a transactional approach
to the study of stress, one possible explanation for its perpetuation is that alleviating these
negative responses is a major concern for sport psychology practitioners. Despite the focus on
negative responses, coaches in the present study did discuss experiences of stress that, upon
reflection, they perceived to have positive consequences (e.g., an increase in productivity or
increased motivation to succeed). However, coaches felt that experiencing stress was generally
negative at the time, and that only after a period of reflection could stressful experiences be
viewed as positive. Given these findings, in addition to developing coaches’ use of effective
coping strategies, sport psychology practitioners should encourage coaches to reflect upon
events that cause significant strain.
While coaches discussed a variety of responses to stress, they also reported a wide range
of strategies used to cope with the varying demands of world class coaching. The findings
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supported a process approach to coping (Nicholls & Polman, 2007), as coaches in the present
study often reported using multiple coping strategies to cope with stressors. Although the
present study did not attempt to fit coach data into existing coping frameworks (e.g., Anshel,
Williams & Hodge, 1997; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984), strategies that could be described as
emotion- and problem-focused were discussed by coaches. The most cited higher-order theme
to emerge from the interview data (Structuring and Planning) reflected coaches’ abilities to
plan ahead and organize as a method of coping with stress. Coaches seemed to be aware, from
previous experience, of situations that could potentially result in negative stress responses and
therefore took steps to reduce the potential for these situations to have negative outcomes.
Similarly to problem-focused strategies identified by athletes (Gould et al., 1993), coaches’
attempted to plan and manage their time to cope with stressors that they experienced. Additional
problem-focused strategies described by coaches included attending coaching courses and
reading coaching and professional practice journals (i.e., continued professional development).
Furthermore, coaches described taking lessons from other successful sports teams and learning
from their own experiences as coaches (and as athletes) to help them cope with the demands of
coaching. Taken together, these findings certainly have implications for coach education and
development, highlighting areas, such as effective structuring and planning, in which younger,
developing coaches might benefit from the guidance of successful, experienced coaches.
While it is encouraging that the majority of these experienced coaches seemed to use
problem-focused coping strategies, they tended to describe these strategies as responses to
situations that they appraised as having the potential to cause strain, rather than as strategies to
cope with stressors “in the moment.” Indeed, 8 of the 12 coaches identified distraction as a way
of coping. However, while 5 coaches discussed using exercise as a way to cope with stress,
the larger of the lower-order themes reflected coaches’ desire to engage in off-task activities
to reduce strain. Specifically, coaches described “taking a step back” from potentially stressful
situations as a coping strategy. Despite coaches’ propensity to avoid stressors, 10 of the 12
coaches also reported some use of psychological skills in their efforts to manage their stress
(e.g., rationalization and self-talk). However, only one coach in the present study reported using
relaxation techniques. This might be, in part, due to the competition environment not affording
coaches the time or space to utilize “portable” psychological skills (e.g., breathing techniques
for relaxation, centering). Consequently, rather than using these skills at the time, coaches
appeared to rely on extensive planning to cope with stress and reduce strain. As coaches’
inability to handle pressure situations has been reported by athletes as a significant influence on
their performance (Gould et al., 1999), a more detailed exploration of the psychological skills
that coaches use in the competition environment is required. Furthermore, from an applied
perspective, sport psychologists might be able to assist coaches with developing appropriate
mental skills that can be used during competition, “in the moment.”
It would appear, based on the findings of this study, that coaches operating in the unique
culture of world class sport require more support to successfully cope with the demands
associated with such an environment. Gould et al. (1999) suggested that coaches need psy-
chological support and to work closely with a sport psychologist, yet in the first study of this
series (Olusoga et al., 2009), one of the coaches stated, “there’s nothing there really to back
up the coaches when the coaches need someone to talk to. ... I think sometimes, the coaches
are forgotten.” As evidenced in the present study, coaches’ loss of motivation and confidence,
and the burnout symptoms they experienced, might be attributable to them being ill-equipped
to deal with the demands of coaching elite athletes in a pressured environment. Indeed, the
coaches’ widespread use of avoidance and limited use of psychological skills suggest that they
might benefit from developing their coping skills. While it seems clear that the coach-athlete
relationship is stressful for both parties (Frey, 2007), it is also clear that coaches place a high
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level of importance on that relationship. Specifically, coaches felt that maintaining a positive
relationship with their athletes helped them to cope with the stress of coaching. Although
previous research has identified that the credibility, enthusiasm, and knowledge of Olympic-
level coaches is critical to their athletes’ success (Gould et al., 1999), and their feelings of
sport confidence (Hays, Maynard, Thomas, & Bawden, 2007), future research should attempt
to explore this complex coach-athlete relationship from the coach’s perspective. Investigating
methods of facilitating this relationship would be beneficial in aiding coaches and athletes’
understanding of one another in a high-pressure environment.
Strengths and Limitations
As the second in a series of studies investigating world class coaches’ experiences of stress,
this study used in-depth interviews to allow a detailed exploration of coaches’ responses to
stress, the effects of stress, and the coping strategies they employ. The study built on previous
research, and findings revealed that as well as having an impact upon their athletes’ experiences,
stressors can have a negative and somewhat longer-term effect on coaches’ own personal lives
and relationships. Furthermore, although recent research suggests that elite coaches do employ
psychological skills (Thelwell et al., 2008a), the findings of the present study suggested that
coaches’ use of such skills to cope with stressors was limited, despite their attempts to use a
vast array of coping strategies to cope with the stressors they encountered. It was felt that the
small sample size was offset by the participants’ vast wealth of experience in a world class
coaching environment (a mean average of over 14 years). Furthermore, to ensure as broad a
range of experiences as possible was explored, the sample included male and female coaches
and was purposefully taken from a broad range of team and individual sports. Although there
has been a recent increase in the study of elite coaches in the UK, by focusing on world class
coaches of international level performers, the present study also extended previous literature
which has predominantly focused upon collegiate and high-school coaches in North America.
Moreover, by examining the ways in which coaches responded to stressors (and the perceived
effects for them and their athletes), as well as the coping strategies they used to manage stress,
this study explored coaches’ stress experiences beyond an identification and classification of
stressors they encounter in their coaching roles.
A potentially limiting factor was the timing of the data collection (i.e., the cycle of competi-
tion the coach was in at the time of interview). It is possible that whether coaches had recently
returned from a major competition or were in a preparation phase might have influenced their
reporting of stress responses. Therefore, future research might consider coaching stress with
reference to specific phases of the competitive cycle (e.g., preparing for Olympic competition,
returning from a world cup). Furthermore, although the present study has given an insight
into the ways in which coaches generally respond to and attempt to cope with stressors,
specific responses and coping strategies were not linked with specific stressors that coaches
experienced. Although previous research has reported the frequency of stressors that coaches
encounter (e.g., Thelwell et al., 2008b), exploring the precise impact of specific organizational
and competitive stressors on coaches would be a fruitful area for future research. This would
certainly be in keeping with recent stress research conducted with athlete populations (Weston
et al., 2009). However, as coaches have described experiencing multiple stressors occurring in
combination (Olusoga et al., 2009), it is important to note that it may not be a straightforward
task to link specific responses and coping strategies to specific stressors that coaches encounter.
Conclusions and Future Research
The purpose of this study was to explore world class sports coaches’ experiences of stress
by investigating the responses and effects of stress for world class UK sports coaches and
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the coping strategies they use. Findings indicated that coaches responded to stressors in a
number of diverse ways. For example, coaches described experiencing symptoms of burnout
in response to stressors, as well as immediate physical and emotional responses and longer-
term effects on their social lives and relationships. Importantly, coaches also perceived that
their responses to stress had direct and indirect effects on their athletes. Further exploration
of the psychological skills used by coaches in the competition environment is warranted.
While the present study also endeavored to explore the vast array of coping strategies used
by world class coaches, we did not attempt to explore coaches’ perceptions of whether or not
their coping attempts were effective. While Levy et al. (2009) explored coaches’ perceptions
of coping effectiveness using self-report measures, this is still an area which requires further
attention if appropriate coping interventions are to be implemented with coaches.
However, the findings of this study do suggest that sport psychology practitioners should
work closely with coaches to help them develop the skills and strategies needed to cope with
the demands of world class coaching. This could have important implications, not only for the
performance and satisfaction of the coaches’ athletes, but also for the coaches’ relationships
outside sport. Findings also suggest that successful, experienced coaches might be a valuable
source from which younger, developing coaches could draw support and guidance during their
development. There seems to be a clear need for sport psychology practitioners and coach
education programs to guide coaches towards developing the psychological attributes needed
to be successful in a world class coaching environment. Future research is required, however,
to determine precisely what successful coaches, and indeed their athletes, feel these important
attributes might be.
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... The coaches experienced frustration, upset, anger, and disappointment: ' … my blood was boiling. I mean, I was frustrated, I was kinda upset, disappointed, angry at the player' (an elite coach in the UK, * Olusoga et al., 2010). Coaches often found negatively valenced emotions a challenge to control: ...
... Coping strategies such as alcohol use and abuse, taking a holiday, and ceasing engagement were often used to escape stressors: 'once it gets past a certain point where I think that's it, we're not gonna make any headway now, I'm quite happy to just stop and come back later' (world class coach, *Olusoga et al., 2010). Coaches, particularly those from elite, Olympic, and international level, often isolated themselves from stressors they were experiencing in an effort to cope: I went away to France for two weeks where there was absolutely nothing, turned my phone off … I just needed to get away from the environment and have some time off because I just found that coaching and the demands were getting too much (a woman voluntary coach from *Potts et al., 2019). ...
... You can learn from the stress, yeah … if you can cope with it, learn from it and move on … I think it's just the environment and it's an essential part of the environment because I think it's where most of our learning curves actually take place (world class coach, *Olusoga et al., 2010). ...
Approximately 200,000 coaches cease coaching each year in the United Kingdom alone. The reasons for this dropout are not fully understood, but they could be linked to the stressful nature of coaching and the potential for this to impede health and psychological well-being (PWB). The aim of this meta-synthesis is to systematically search for and draw together the qualitative research evidence on coaches’ experiences of stressors, primary appraisals, emotions, coping, and PWB. Using a rigorous and systematic search protocol, 11 studies were identified, assessed for research quality, and synthesized thematically to generate new insight. The findings highlight the plethora of stressors that coaches can experience, the impact of coaches’ appraisals on PWB, and the coping families that coaches can use to foster adaptation. In doing so, the meta-synthesis deepens our understanding of coaches’ stress transactions and their experiences of PWB. There is a significant lack of qualitative research evidence on coaches’ appraisals and PWB. Qualitative and or longitudinal research is warranted to develop knowledge in these areas. Such research should be used to develop interventions that are applicable to different coaching populations (e.g. working parents and part-time coaches) to help minimize stressors, facilitate positive appraisals and emotions, and foster PWB.
... In addition, researchers (e.g. Olusoga et al. 2010) have explored both the physical (e.g. increased heart rate, shaking hands), psychological (e.g. ...
... Pilot interviews have been used in previous sport psychology literature (e.g. Olusoga et al. 2010;Barker and Winter 2014) because they offer an opportunity to enhance the clarity and fluidity of the interview guide (Gratton and Jones 2004). The pilot interviews allowed us to assess whether the interview guide was applicable in achieving the aim of the study, to ensure that the questions could be understood, and to make amendments to the interview guide before the main phase of data collection commenced. ...
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Research attention has been directed toward coaches’ stressor experiences, yet less is known about the role of stress appraisals and psychological well-being (PWB). Considering the links between PWB, mental health, and retention in the coaching profession, this study will explore primary appraisals and PWB among sports coaches. Guided by our constructivist paradigm that underpinned our relativist ontology and subjectivist epistemology, we conducted theoretically informed semi-structured interviews with six coaches (five men and one woman) who represented both team and individual sports. We analysed data thematically using an abductive approach and constructed 10 composite vignettes that describe a powerful and shared account of the coaches’ lived experiences. The vignettes offer insight to the coaches’ primary appraisals and the impact of stress transactions on PWB. For example, benefit appraisals had a positive impact on environmental mastery and self-acceptance, threat appraisals had a negative impact on autonomy and environmental mastery, and harm/loss appraisals are shown to influence health. Based on these findings, we propose several impactful recommendations for researchers, practitioners, and National Governing Bodies (NGBs). For example, we recommend that practitioners working with coaches should foster positive working relationships with athletes to support coaches’ PWB. Further, we encourage NGBs to work closely with coaches and practitioners to promote safe and favourable working environments, increasing coaches’ autonomy, and maximise flexible working conditions.
... Fletcher et al. 2012;Olusoga et al. 2009) and in certain situations, can even lead to coaches quitting sport (e.g. Olusoga et al. 2010). Furthermore, conflict can have a negative impact on team dynamics, with conflict between coaches and athletes creating intra-team rivalry and power struggles (e.g. ...
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The purpose of this article is to gain greater understanding of interpersonal conflict between managers and players within an elite team sport environment. We consider conflict from multiple perspectives, and disseminate findings in an accessible way to encourage those involved in team sport to engage with the material. Through the adoption of a narrative inquiry approach, autobiographical extracts recalling incidences of conflict from a manager (Sir Alex Ferguson) and certain key players (e.g. David Beckham) have been analysed using reflexive thematic analysis, with finding presented through the mean of ethnodrama scenes. Such scenes were developed as a dialogue between Ferguson and his players, to illustrate the episodes of conflict through the eyes of both the players and Ferguson, with creative non-fiction techniques used to further bring the script to life. These scripts reflect the differences in the interpretation of the same conflict situations and allow the reader to reflect on the determinants of these conflicts, and the resulting consequences. It is hoped that the ethnodrama enhances further understanding of leader-athlete conflict in elite sport, through illustrating examples of conflict from different perspectives. In addition, the findings provide a stimulus for those working in sports teams to reflect on their own experiences of conflict and consider how such conflict might be prevented or managed.
... All participants were coaching junior or senior players supported through their nation's performance pathway at the time of interview. All participants met at least two of the following criteria regarding coaching expertise: [39][40][41][42] achieved the highest level of coaching qualification within their country, had a minimum of ten years coaching experience, were employed by a national governing body, had coached at a minimum of one senior event (for example, Grand Slam tournament, Davis or Billie Jean King Cup). Additional information regarding participant characteristics is presented in Table 1. ...
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Research demonstrates the benefits of a more contemporary, ecological-dynamics led approach in sport coaching; however, traditional methods of practice design persist. Few studies have explored the intentions of performance tennis coaches as they design practice. This study explored performance tennis coach philosophies and approaches to practice design. Interviews took place with ten high performance coaches who worked within a national tennis performance network. A thematic analysis revealed that coach approaches to practice design were informed by 1) their experiential knowledge and 2) their beliefs regarding player development. Coaches emerged as learners, who developed their knowledge through unmediated, informal learning opportunities, for example reflective practice and ‘on the job' experience. Six coaches had played tennis professionally, valuing this as a learning experience that informed their own practice. Three common beliefs regarding player development emerged between participants: repeatable players, performing under pressure, and individualised practice. These beliefs formed practice design principles, which translated into a uniform implementation of drills (serial, blocked, repeated patterns of play) and the intuitive inclusion of representative practice designs and constraints manipulation. The findings from this study suggest that, although performance tennis coaches are aware of contemporary approaches to practice design, a traditional, information-processing approach to skill development dominates their design of practice tasks. This study documents approaches to practice design in elite tennis and contributes to a growing body of pedagogical research in performance sport.
... The trait perspective suggests that individuals cope with stressors in a somewhat consistent manner (e.g., Voight, 2009). Research that adopts a state perspective, however, is more common in sport psychology (e.g., Olusoga et al., 2010), is more closely aligned to transactional conceptualizations of stress, and emphasizes the ways in which coping changes according to the context. ...
... Researchers investigating coach stress have explored individual components of the stress process, including the nature and categorization of stressors experienced (e.g., Olusoga et al., 2009;Thelwell et al., 2008), coping strategies employed (e.g., Thelwell et al., 2010), responses to stressors (e.g., Olusoga et al., 2010), and the situational properties and appraisals of stressors (e.g., Didymus, 2017). Collectively, this research has indicated that coaches: (a) experience a range of stressors emanating from performance-, organizational-, and personal-derived sources that are underpinned by a range of situational properties (e.g., ambiguity, event uncertainty, and imminence); (b) appraise stressors as threatening or challenging more than as beneficial or harmful/losses; (c) employ a range of coping strategies (e.g., increasing effort, seeking advice) to manage stressors; and (d) experience a range of mental (e.g., negative cognitions and emotions), behavioral (e.g., sharper tone of voice), and physical responses (e.g., increased heart rate) to stressors, suggested to negatively affect the coaching environment and their athletes (see Norris et al., 2017). ...
The stress experiences and their impact upon the daily lives and mental well-being of English Premier League professional (soccer) football coaches were explored using an in-depth qualitative design. Eight participants were interviewed using a semi-structured approach with thematic and causal network analysis revealing that (a) a range of contextually dependent demands were experienced and interpreted in relation to their situational properties; (b) many demands were appraised and emotionally responded to in a negative manner; (c) a range of coping strategies were adopted to cope with stress experiences, with many reported as ineffective; and (d) stress experiences often led to negative implications for their daily lives and eudaimonic and hedonic well-being. Positive adaptations to some demands experienced were reported and augmented perceptions of mental well-being. The findings of this study make a novel and significant contribution to understanding the interrelationships between the principal components of the stress process and the prospective links between stress and mental well-being.
Research on social support with sports coaches is limited, yet the benefits of social support on performance and well-being within other occupations have been widely reported. This study explored sports coaches’ social support resources over a six-week period to understand how social support resources may alleviate stressors. Longitudinal data were collected from women ( n = 6) and male ( n = 4) sports coaches ( M age = 35.2, SD = 13.0 years, M experience = 13.5, SD = 9.7 years) using three semi-structured interviews over a six-week training and competition period. Interview data were analysed using abductive thematic analysis. Coaches used all four types of social support resources over the six-week period. Informational support for advice, ideas, and feedback on training sessions, new job roles, and player development was used most regularly across the different time points. Coaches also reported that they perceived social support resources may alleviate stressors through stress-buffering and main-effects Social support resources (e.g. esteem) might be more important for buffering the effects of stressors and others (e.g. emotional) may be more important for the main-effects. Given the pertinence of social support resources for performance and psychological well-being, applied interventions should aim to educate coaches on ways to develop a social support network that provides all types of social support resources to help cope more effectively with stressors. Moreover, interventions should aim to alter coaches’ perceptions of potential stressors as less of a threat and more of a challenge to alleviate the prospective negative influences of stressors.
Although previous studies have uncovered various factors to understand sport coaches’ life, the role of positive emotions toward coaching experience and their impacts on behavioral and psychological outcomes remain unknown. As such, the purpose of this study was to examine the influence of sport coaches’ positive emotions on their work satisfaction and task performance and further measure the factors that would facilitate the understanding of sport coaches’ well-being. A total of 519 responses were collected from sport coaches in Singapore. Results showed that all the hypothesized relationships were significant, highlighting work satisfaction to play a mediating role in the relationship between positive emotions and task performance and between positive emotions and well-being. The findings of this study contribute to the advancement of the theoretical knowledge on the role of positive emotions in the context of sport management and provide valuable practical implications for sport organizations.
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PHilippine Social Science Journal Volume 4 Number 2 April-June 2021 Issue
This chapter introduces the leadership efficacy model applied to sports coaching. It is proposed in the model that leadership efficacy depends on the congruence between the conceptual cycle of leadership and the practical cycle of leadership and also by considering the leadership styles assumed by coaches and the moderating influence of the antecedent factors of leadership. This chapter discusses how these three elements of the model (leadership cycles, leadership styles, and the antecedent factors of leadership) apply to sports coaches and concur to explain their efficacy in leading athletes and teams. The model includes four hypotheses (congruence of leadership cycles, optimal leadership profile, favourability of conditions for leadership, and optimized congruence hypothesis of leadership) that will be presented according empirical finding about leadership and sports coaching. The final part of the chapter presents some practical implications of the model to the work of coaches.
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Most explanations of burnout among young athletes identify chronic, excessive stress as the cause. Strategies for preventing burnout emphasize techniques that help athletes control stress and adjust to the conditions of sport participation. However, informal interviews with 15 adolescent athletes identified as cases of burnout suggest that the roots of burnout are grounded in the social organization of high performance sport; these roots are tied to identity and control issues. The model developed in this paper conceptualizes burnout as a social problem grounded in forms of social organization that constrain identity development during adolescence and prevent young athletes from having meaningful control over their lives. This model is intended as an alternative to more widely used stress-based models of burnout. Recommendations for preventing burnout call for changes in the social organization of high performance sport, changes in the way sport experiences are integrated into the lives of young athletes,...
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This chapter provides a review of current issues in organizational stress in competitive sport. Two main areas are addressed: (a) conceptual and operational considerations, culminating in definitions of stress-related constructs, and (b) theoretical relationships among stress, emotions and performance, based on a meta-model outlining key processes, moderators and consequences. As the chapter progresses, attention focuses on the practical implications and research directions emanating from the literature review.
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The current study examined whether, where, when, and for what purposes coaches use psychological skills. A total of 13 elite-level coaches completed a structured interview using open-ended questions to examine their use of self-talk, imagery, relaxation, and goal-setting skills. Data were analyzed via deductive content analysis and indicated self-talk and imagery to be cited more frequently than relaxation and goal setting throughout the interviews. In addition, some purposes for using each skill were specific to training or competition across each time frame (before, during, and after), whereas there were several purposes consistent across each environment. Although the findings suggest that coaches employ psychological skills, it is imperative that they become aware of what skills they require and what skills they possess if they are to maximize their use across their wide-ranging coaching roles.
Research has demonstrated that coaches experience stress because of the nature of their job and that stress can affect their physical and mental well-being (Richman, 1992; Wang & Ramsey, 1998). The purpose of the present study was to better understand coaches' experiences with stress, the perceived effects of stress on their coaching performance, and their coping strategies. A semistructured interview approach was used with 10 NCAA Division I male and female head coaches. The five major themes that characterized the coaches' experiences were contextual/conditional factors, sources of stress, responses and effects of stress, managing stress, and sources of enjoyment. The results are discussed in relation to Smith's (1986) cognitive-affective model of stress. Opportunities for future research are suggested, and implications for practitioners who want to help coaches manage the stress of their profession are offered.
The purpose of this study was to ascertain the extent to which athletes used similar coping strategies in response to various acute stressors as a function of culture and gender. College students from the southeast U.S. (N = 296, M age = 20.7 yrs) and from New South Wales, Australia (N = 337, M age = 20.6 yrs) who were currently competing at various levels of sport participated in the study. Males included 53% and 38% of the U.S. and Australian samples, respectively, while females comprised 47% and 62% of these samples, respectively. The inventory was comprised of 134 items in which subjects indicated their «usual» response to each of seven acute stressors commonly experienced during the contest. A multiple discriminant analysis was conducted using all 134 items for the four country-gender groups. Differentiation between groups was significant and accounted for 95% of the total dispersion. All pairwise comparisons between groups were also significant. The first function was characterised by gender differences in stressors involving a cheating opponent, experiencing pain, and a «bad» call by the referee/umpire. The second function tended to reflect differences between countries for these same acute same stressors, and for an additional acute stressor called «opponent's performance». Results highlighting cultural differences are presented.
Evaluating the quality of qualitative inquiry has begun to intrigue researchers in sport psychology. Consequently, this has raised important questions regarding the criteria for judging this emerging form of inquiry. With the intent to stimulate methodological debate, this paper explores prevailing notions of validity in qualitative sport psychology by focusing on how various scholars have framed this term. The prevailing parallel perspective of validity is discussed, as are specific problems associated with this view. In contrast, recent attempts to reconceptualize validity in relation to particular forms of qualitative inquiry are considered. The socially constructed nature of validity and the multiplicity of meanings associated with this term are presented according to a diversification perspective. More radical calls to renounce validity and seek alternative criteria for judging qualitative inquiry are also discussed. In closing, the ongoing problem of criteria and its implications for research in sport psychology are considered.
The purpose of the present review was to provide an up-to-date summary of the burnout-in-sport literature. The last published reviews were in 1989 (Fender) and 1990 (Dale & Weinberg). In order to appreciate the status of current knowledge and understanding and to identify potential future directions, the authors conducted a synthesis of published work using a systematic-review methodology. Findings comprised 3 sections: sample characteristics, correlates, and research designs and data collection. A total of 58 published studies were assessed, most of which focused on athletes (n = 27) and coaches (n = 23). Correlates were grouped into psychological, demographic, and situational factors and were summarized as positively, negatively, indeterminate, and nonassociated with burnout. Self-report measures and cross-sectional designs have dominated research. The authors conclude by summarizing the key findings in the literature and highlighting the gaps that could be filled by future research.