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Using Vignettes to Analyse Potential Influences of Effective Strength and Conditioning Coaching on Athlete Development

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This study explored which strength and conditioning (S&C) coaching behaviors and characteristics are perceived as effective by elite athletes and how these influence the athletes. A secondary aim was to consider the development and usefulness of vignettes to elicit new knowledge. Ten elite athletes reflected on scenarios presented in vignettes. Resulting themes were divided into the processes and factors influencing athletes and how the athletes are affected. The athletes considered these themes effective because the coach had built an environment of trust and respect. How coaches might influence athletes were divided into cognitive influences and behavioral influences. The results are discussed in light of current sport coaching literature, and the way vignettes enhance the richness of the data collection is reflected on. Practically, the results suggest that S&C coaches can build trust and respect to influence athletes' development through effective instruction, communication, and motivation.
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Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 1
Using vignettes to analyse potential influences of effective strength and conditioning
coaching on athlete development
Christoph Szedlak
University of Southampton
Matthew J Smith
University of Chichester
Melissa C Day
University of Chichester
Bettina Callary
Cape Breton University
Author Note
Christoph Szedlak, Department of Sport and Wellbeing, University of Southampton
Matthew J. Smith, Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences University of
Chichester
Melissa D. Day, Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Chichester
Bettina Callary, Department of Community Studies, Sport and Physical Activity
Leadership (Coaching) Cape Breton University P.O.Box 5300, 1250 Grand Lake Road,
Sydney, Nova Scotia, B1P 6L2, Canada
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Christoph Szedlak,
Department of Sport and Wellbeing, University of Southampton, Student Services, Sports
Training & Performance Centre, Wide Lane Sports Grounds, Eastleigh, Southampton, SO50
5PE
Contact: c.szedlak@soton.ac.uk
Abstract
This study aimed to understand which strength and conditioning (S&C) coaching behaviours
and characteristics are perceived as effective by elite athletes and how these influence the
athlete. A secondary aim was to consider the development and usefulness of vignettes to
elicit new knowledge. Ten elite athletes reflected on scenarios presented in the vignettes.
Resulting themes were divided into ‘the process and factors’ influencing, and ‘how’ the
athletes are impacted. Themes were considered effective because of an environment of trust
and respect. How coaches might influence the athlete were divided into: i) cognitive
influences and ii) behavioural influences. The results are discussed in light of current sports
coaching literature. Furthermore, we discuss the way the vignettes enhance the richness of the
data collected. Practically, the results suggest that S&C coaches develop trust and respect to
influence athlete’s development through effective instruction, communication and motivation.
Keywords: coaching, trust and respect, vignette development, athletes’ self-regulation,
athletes’ motivation
Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 3
Introduction
Elite athletic performance is predominantly measured by achieving success at major
competitions such as the Olympic Games and World and European Championships.
Medalling at these competitions is often a key performance indicator for National Governing
Bodies (NGB) and can be directly linked to the individual athletes’ funding (DCMS &
SportEngland, 2012; UKSport, 2014). While performance is multi-faceted, the level of
strength and conditioning (S&C) is one of the key contributors to an athlete’s development
and performance (Brink, Nederhof, Visscher, Schmikli & Lemmink, 2010; Newton &
Kraemer, 1994). S&C coaching can have many positive impacts on the athlete, including
helping reduce the risk of injury and maximising the athlete’s physiological potential (Kontor,
1989; NSCA, 2015; UKSCA, 2015). A recent survey conducted by the United Kingdom
Strength and Conditioning Association (UKSCA) assessed the “State of the Nation”
regarding S&C coaching. The results highlighted an increasing level of employment and
qualifications held by S&C coaches. The majority of coaches surveyed were employed by
either professional clubs, NGBs (directly or through the English Institute of Sport) or
universities. In addition to holding either S&C accreditation and/or a graduate university
degree, they had also obtained post-graduate qualifications (i.e., an MSc or PhD). These
results indicate S&C coaches have a considerable scientific knowledge when working with
athletes, which has a positive impact on the contribution that they make to athlete
development and preparation for sport-specific performance (UKSCA, 2016). In summary,
the S&C coaching role within elite sport has been given an increased level of importance in
the last few years.
Given the suggested importance credited to S&C, it is imperative to gain an
understanding about the effective behaviours of S&C coaches and the influence these
behaviours may have on the athlete. At present, research considering the effectiveness of
S&C coaching in the elite sport environment has concentrated on technical areas such as
physiological processes (Ahtiainen et al., 2011) and bodily responses to exercise (Greer,
White, Arguello & Haymes, 2011). As a result of this focus on physical elements of
performance, the coaching process within S&C has been characterised by a transactional or
instructional coaching style, with coaches principally implementing corrective actions to
impact the athlete’s physical development (Rowold, 2006). However, an emerging body of
research-based knowledge suggests that effective S&C coaching incorporates social,
psychological and emotional elements or higher order behaviours, such as trust, respect and
motivation, that look beyond this technical aspect (Magnusen, 2010; Massey et al., 2002).
Tod, Bond and Lavallee (2012) provided initial evidence that behaviours and
characteristics other than effective instruction, such as trust, respect, self-confidence and
motivation, are effective within S&C coaching. Tod and his colleagues found that by
developing good rapport and trust with the athlete, S&C coaching becomes less prescriptive
and more athlete-centred. More recently, Szedlak, Smith, Day and Greenlees (2015)
identified effective behaviours and characteristics of S&C coaches as perceived by athletes.
The study results revealed three general themes of effective S&C coaching behaviours and
characteristics: relationship, coaches’ actions, and coaches’ values, which included
psychosocial characteristics such as trust, respect and authenticity. Key findings from
Szedlak et al.’s study included the emphasis the athlete ascribes to psychosocial behaviours
of the coach that develop and enhance their relationship, which supports previous research of
the effectiveness of the coach-athlete relationship (Jowett & Poczwardowski, 2007).
Despite the emerging knowledge on effective qualities of S&C coaches, methods used
in such research limited participants to describe the qualities possessed by their S&C coaches,
rather than examining the relational coaching process with their coach. Thus, our knowledge
is somewhat restricted to what S&C coaches currently do, rather than how they might be
Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 5
most effective. Psychosocial and cultural interactions are essential elements in the S&C
coaching process (Radcliffe, Comfort & Fawcett, 2013; Szedlak et al., 2015). To analyse
interpersonal constructions, researchers should consider appropriate methods that enable the
participants to make sense of their experiences of being coached (Papathomas, 2016). Thus,
providing athletes with stories of effective S&C coaching allows them to relate to and
identify with the narratives and as a result examine the how and why of their own experiences.
One method for engaging participants in such stories is through the use of imagined
scenarios and discussions in vignettes. Vignettes present a hypothetical scenario, framed
within a story for the participant to read and respond to (Braun & Clarke, 2013). In order to
construct these scenarios, vignettes can be generated from a variety of sources including
previous research findings (Perrier, Smith & Latimer-Cheung, 2015), working together with
peer professionals in the relevant field (Gearity, Callary & Fulmer, 2013; Harden, 1999), or
based on real-life case histories (Rahman, 1996). The use of vignettes provides a valuable
way to initiate and extend discussions around an issue or story by means of introducing
personal experience. The use of vignettes depicting behaviours and characteristics provides
an alternative method to traditional interviewing, allowing and prompting the participant to
draw on their own and others’ experiences and stories (Barter & Renold, 2000; Hazel, 1995).
Thus, vignettes have the ability to extend interview discussions, resulting in new, untapped,
richer data of the participants’ judgments, meanings and evaluations in response to the
vignettes and to their own stories (Jenkins, Bloor, Fischer, Berney & Neale, 2010).
Previous research outside of sport has demonstrated the value of using vignettes as a
novel method of data collection, especially with regards to prompting participants to talk
about their own experiences, while enabling them to control when and if they wanted to
disclose those experiences (Hughes, 1998). Similarly, Barter and Renold (2000) noted that
responding to a vignette is less intrusive than direct questioning. Surprisingly, limited
consideration has been given to the application of the vignette method within the sports
coaching environment. Perrier et al. (2015) utilised vignettes to understand how the mentors
of peer athletes responded to their mentees' attitudes, and the subsequent impact towards the
mentees engagement in sport. The vignettes added flexibility for the mentors to reflect on
scenarios that they had not come across whilst being reminded of similar personal
experiences, resulting in richer depth of data. Perrier et al.’s study highlights the potential
value provided by vignettes in prompting several participants’ consideration of the same
scenario. In summary, vignettes have the ability to elicit rich data, with participants each
responding to the same stories concerning both psychological and sociological issues, thus
providing a framework from which participants have control over what they want to say and
how they want to say it (Hughes & Huby, 2002). We therefore propose that such an approach
would assist in illuminating the effectiveness of S&C coaches’ behaviours and characteristics
and their likely influence on athletes’ development. In summary, this study has two specific
aims. First, we aimed to understand which S&C coaching behaviours and characteristics are
perceived as effective by elite athletes and how these behaviours and characteristics influence
the athlete. Second, we aimed to demonstrate the development and usefulness of vignettes to
elicit new knowledge.
Method
Theoretical Background and Approach
The study was grounded in a constructivist paradigm, in which reality is socially
constructed and knowledge cannot be theory free or exist independently of people (Smith &
Sparkes, 2009). Thus, using this paradigm, this study can understand different, diverse
experiences and perceptions of elite athletes and their relationship with their S&C coach. In
line with a constructivist paradigm, a narrative inquiry was used to investigate the research
aims (Smith & Sparkes, 2009). Narrative psychology views people as story tellers,
Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 7
constructing knowledge and realities through stories (Bruner, 1986; McLeod, 1997; Smith,
2010). As stories operate within relationship, such as that between an athlete and his or her
coach, the responses to the stories shared by others are equally as important as the stories
they may tell themselves (Frank, 2007, 2010; Smith & Sparkes, 2009). The narratives or
vignettes in the current study were stories based on previous research that participants read
and responded to. Thus, the vignettes helped the participant to initiate and analyse their own
experiences and gave participants the ability to share their own stories. Therefore, the aim of
the narrative approach was not to arrive at accurate predictions of the participants’ behaviour
but instead to achieve insight into the participants’ constructive framework and perceptual
process such as what they perceive to be effective coaching practise, their perception of the
possible influence thereof and how they came to that conclusion. Given its focus on storied
lives and relationships, narrative inquiry is commensurate with research examining the
relationship between a coach and an athlete.
In addition, narratives or vignettes are used to study potentially sensitive issues
(Barter & Renold, 2000). To be eligible for elite sports funding, the athletes in the current
study needed to engage and adhere to the NGB’s development programme, which includes
S&C support. The athletes can respond to hypothetical scenarios in vignettes, which is less
intrusive than directly being asked about their experiences and allows the participants to
respond to potentially sensitive issues in the vignettes, without having to disclose specific and
personal issues relating to their own experiences. Thus, the vignettes give participants more
freedom in responding to the hypothetical situations, which supports Hughes & Huby's (2002)
contention that responding to vignettes decreases the likelihood of receiving socially
desirable answers. For example, participants' responses can focus more fully on the
psychosocial aspect of effective S&C coaching, demonstrating how participants are not
inhibited about discussing relational aspects.
Recently, the focus of UKSport has shifted to establishing a positive coaching culture
to ensure the welfare of elite athletes rather than winning medals at all cost. NGB’s such as
GB cycling are currently subject to independent reviews focusing on how to improve their
focus on athletes' welfare (UKSport, 2017). This shift has heightened sensitivity of
examining internal coaching processes (UKSport, 2015). Prior to undertaking this research,
the lead author had several meetings with the sports science departments of the NGB’s,
discussing possible ways of reducing any risk of negative publicity throughout the interview
process. As a result, a less direct and intrusive approach, using vignettes, was agreed upon.
Vignette Development
Our study aims to develop a plausible, authentic and transparent vignette. The use of
vignettes in research is based on the key assumption that “narrative representations of
emotional events can be treated as functionally comparable to the corresponding real-life
encounters” (Parkinson & Manstead, 1993, p. 296). Consequently, vignettes are likely to be
most productive when the situation described appears real and conceivable to the participants
(Barter & Renold, 2000). Barter and Renold (2000) suggest that the discrepancy between a
vignette and the social reality is the most frequently cited theoretical limitation of using
vignettes. Consequently, the closer the vignette’s depiction of an actual and plausible
scenario, the smaller the gap between belief and potential action (Jenkins et al., 2010). The
following section outlines how we applied the criteria set out by Barter and Renold (1999),
Braun and Clarke (2013) and Smith, Tomasone, Latimer-Cheung & Martin-Ginis (2015) to
ensure rich rigor in developing an authentic vignette.
Firstly, a single vignette was scripted using a continuous narrative developmental
approach (Hughes, 1998), that consisted of a story unfolding through a series of fixed stages
where participants were invited to comment on each stage as the story progressed (Jenkins et
al., 2010). This vignette included five stages of common scenarios: S&C review sessions,
Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 9
physical testing, stretching, cool down and techniques session. A continuous narrative has the
ability to keep the participant interested as each stage of the vignette builds upon previous
events, thus contextual material need not to be supplied for each scenario (Hughes, 1998). To
enhance authenticity, a novel approach was utilised to ground the vignette in previous
research (Perrier et al., 2015; Smith et al., 2015). To create each stage, participant quotations
from previous research were used to provide a real-life flavour to the vignette (Callary,
Werthner & Trudel, 2012; Douglas & Carless, 2008; Rathwell, Callary & Young, 2015).
Thus, the current study is a direct progression from previous research into effective
behaviours and characteristics in S&C coaches, where Szedlak et al. (2015) interviewed eight
elite athletes regarding their perceptions of effective behaviours and characteristics of S&C
coaches. Szedlak and colleagues identified three main themes consisting of 11 sub-themes. In
this vignette, participant quotations taken directly from Szedlak et al.’s findings were used to
represent these individual sub-themes (see Appendix A for included quotations, sub-themes
and complete vignette), with quotations principally included in the dialogue between coaches
and athletes in the vignettes.
To further enhance the authenticity of the vignettes, we constructed the vignette
stages around actual scenarios in a common setting experienced at a NGB squad training
camp. Thus, each stage focuses on common scenarios such as testing sessions and technique
sessions. The gender of the main character and the sport of the vignette was changed to match
the gender and sport of the individual athlete reading and being interviewed about the
vignette. Further, to provide efficient enough context and to minimise the risk of disengaging
the participant, the stages of the vignettes are short, not exceeding 300 words (Barter &
Renold, 2000) and utilise dialogue (Smith et al., 2015).
Finally, to enhance the vignette’s transparency, each vignette followed one character.
That central character spoke to others, who responded as part of the vignette. The plurality of
character voices may better enable the reader to resonate with the story and encourage more
detailed responses to the vignette as different ways of being and acting may be opened (Frank,
2010; Parsons & Lavery, 2012). In line with Barter and Reynold’s (1999) suggestion that
more than three changes in a story line of a vignette could be confusing to the reader, every
individual stage included no more than two actual quotes depicting sub-themes, identified by
Szedlak et al. (2015), of specific coach characteristics or behaviours. Further, the
themes/quotations were mapped regarding best fit towards the different S&C scenarios
chosen for each stage by consulting peer S&C coaches (Harden, 1999; Kalafat & Gagliano,
1996).
Enhancing Rigor
We also used an audit trail to ensure rigor in the process of developing a vignette that
highly resonates with the participants. First, an elite S&C coach with extensive coaching
experience, who was not part of the previous process, acted as a critical friend (Smith &
McGannon, 2017) throughout the vignette development process. The critical friend
frequently reviewed and questioned the characterisation, the dialogue and the plot to help in
the creation of a plausible vignette where the sub-themes are well represented (Brewer &
Sparkes, 2011). For example, the critical friend suggested that a personal conversation during
a workout is highly unlikely, but is realistic during the cool down. Thus, the scenario was
altered to include the conversation during the cool down. Second, the first author kept a
reflective diary, which helped to inform the development of the authenticity of the vignette.
The first author reflected on how the participants engaged with the story and what specific
wording needed further explanations. One example of a change made was in altering wording
relating to individual sports, as the first author realised that for example, a canoeist would
refer to an on-water session as ‘paddling’ whereas a sailor refers to it as ‘sailing’. Although
Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 11
subtle in nature, this extra effort to increase the level of plausibility and authenticity in
vignette research should not to be neglected.
The following is an example of Stage 2 of the vignette presented to a female sailor.
Actual quotes, in italics, represent three themes identified by Szedlak et al., (2015) to be
effective in S&C coaching. These themes are: i) confidence, ii) high performance
expectations, iii) belief in the athlete.
Emma started the cool down and stretch, when another friend, Pete, an experienced
sailor part of the performance group, came to join her. They started to talk about the
day’s event and how the sailing went. As they continued Pete asked her what her
schedule was for the next day. Emma replied, “Oh we have got fitness testing in the
morning, I’m not looking forward to it.” Pete responded, “I quite like it, this morning
during my testing Rob was like (i) one more, one more and he kept going. I ended up
with 36 press ups, it was as if he knew how strong I was.Emma replied “Wow, yeah,
(ii) I guess the whole can-do attitude that he has and that he will not let us fail makes
the session bearable.“ Emma paused and added “(iii) I guess he really believes in me
and my ability.” They finished off the stretching and hurried to get some dinner.
Participants
Participants were 10 elite, international level university athletes (Male=4; Female=6),
who had a mean age of 24.6 years (SD=3.1), had an average of 10 years of experience in their
sport (SD=2.3) and an average of 5 years of experience at an elite level (SD=2.5). The sample
included a current multiple Olympic medallist, three World Champions and a member of an
America’s Cup sailing team. Individual sports were represented by two single-handed sailors,
one kayaker and one cyclist. Team sports included four double-handed sailors and two sailors
representing match racing.
Participants were purposefully selected from a university sports scholarship
programme. In keeping with the guidelines for purposive sampling as outlined by
Polkinghorne (2005), athletes were selected who fit the following five criteria; i) each athlete
had an accredited S&C coach (ASCC), with the coach holding a MSc in sport science, as
outlined by the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme to be working with elite athletes
(Taylor, 2016); ii) each athlete had a coach with a minimum of three years full-time coaching
experience; iii) each athlete worked with the coach for a minimum of one year, two times per
week; and iv) each athlete received government funding to support their training and had
previously represented their country. Lastly, participants’ ability to engage with the story
might be enhanced if they have personal experience of the situation described. To meet this
criterion, we ensured that every athlete had experienced a NGB squad camp as described in
the vignettes. The athletes worked with six different S&C coaches, five male and one female,
with an average age of 31 years (SD=2.3). These criteria ensured that the S&C coaches were
actively engaged in coaching for a considerable amount of time (mean experience = 10 years;
SD=1.2).
Procedure and Analysis
Following institutional ethical approval, interviews were held at a setting agreed to by
the participant. All participants chose a quiet location within their own training environment,
to ensure minimal disturbances or distractions, allowing them to feel relaxed and comfortable
talking during the interview. To ensure confidentiality, it was explained to the participants
that data would not be attributed to them and that names mentioned during the interview
process would be omitted from the transcribed data. Interviews lasted between 45 - 60
minutes (Mminutes = 54). The interviews began with some general questions that aimed to
develop rapport and familiarise the participant with the interview process. For example, the
initial questions included “Tell me how you started and what you consider to be your biggest
Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 13
achievements in your sport?”, and “Tell me about your preparation for your sport, including
S&C?” Following this, the participants were invited to read the first stage of the vignette.
After each stage of the vignette, participants were asked to discuss their perceptions of the
coach’s behaviours and possible influences and whether they agreed or disagreed with the
athletes’ perceptions of the coach’s behaviours presented in the vignettes. Open ended
questions were used to encourage the participants to share their own stories as similar or
dissimilar to the experiences of the character in the vignette (Braun & Clarke, 2013).
Questions included “How do you think the athlete is feeling towards his/her S&C coach?”,
“How would you feel and what would you think?”, “Have you been in a situation like this
before and can you share that story?”, and “How did your S&C coaches’ behaviours or
characteristics influence you in this experience?”
Thus, the questions following each vignette stage aimed to illuminate how
participants thought the character in the story would feel and behave and how they
themselves might feel and respond if presented with a similar scenario with their S&C coach
(Braun & Clarke, 2013). Additionally, the questions aimed to allow maximum freedom for
participants to draw on their own experiences using their own terminology, to identify
coaching behaviours and characteristics that have influenced their development. The
interview concluded with open-ended, closing and summary questions, prompting the
participant to add additional comments by questioning, “Did you imagine anything else when
you were reading the story?” and “Could you identify with the characters and, if so, why?”
Follow up questions or probes such as “What do you mean by this?” and “Could you
elaborate on this?” were used to clarify and correct misunderstanding as well as to elaborate
and expand on the coaches effective behaviour and outcomes (Sparkes & Smith, 2014).
During each interview, a whiteboard was used as a visual aid to assist the participant in
recognising and listing qualities already discussed. For example, the key points from
participants’ responses to the vignettes were recorded on the whiteboard, and this allowed
participants to revisit points made, and thus encouraging further explanation and detail from
the participants.
Data from the first or preceding interviews were analysed before conducting the next.
This process was repeated and participants were recruited until saturation was achieved. Data
saturation is attained when there are no more emergent patterns in the data, at which point
completing further interviews does not add any new information (Hennink, Hutter & Bailey,
2010; O'Reilly & Parker, 2012). To aid in this endeavour, the primary researcher used a
reflective journal throughout the data collection and analysis process. This process of critical
self-reflection aimed to enhance transparency (Ortlipp, 2008), and impacted the data
collection and analysis in various ways. Comments made in the reflective journal resulted in
small amendments to the individual vignettes and to the key questions asked throughout the
stages. For example, after the interview with the first participant, the setting of the context
and description of the main character in stage three was revised and additional questions
focusing on possible influences on the athletes were considered. Furthermore, entries in the
journal were routinely presented and discussed with the critical friend.
All the interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using a thematic content
analysis of the participants’ narratives (Ewick & Silbey, 2003). To gain content familiarity,
the interview transcripts were read several times. Next, narrative units were identified. The
narrative unit or story refers to a brief, bounded segment of the interview text consisting of a
plot connecting characters and events sequentially over time (Smith & Sparkes, 2009).
Following the six-phase procedure outlined by Braun and Clarke (2006), each narrative unit
was initially coded and categorised representing particular effective behaviours,
characteristics of the coach and/or influence. Next, the codes were collapsed into potential
themes. The themes were reviewed against transcripts and the entire data set and combined
Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 15
into larger themes. At this point the authors returned to the literature on effective coaching
behaviours and characteristics and amended each theme title to reflect the literature, thereby
providing connections with established work in order to reduce confusion regarding
terminology in the sports coaching literature (Szedlak et al., 2015). The aim at this stage was
not to change the meaning or categorisation from the inductive themes but simply to ensure
terminology was consistent with the existing literature. Additionally, an experienced
qualitative researcher was used throughout the data analysis as a critical friend, who
encouraged reflection and considerations of alternative interpretations on the themes analysed
(Brewer & Sparkes, 2011; Smith & McGannon, 2017). Overall, 56 units formed the themes,
resulting in 10 sub-themes, and establishing three broad themes.
Results
When exploring athletes’ perceptions of S&C coaches’ effective behaviours and influences,
the results revealed that “trust and respect” of the S&C coach were major salient aspects
overarching what characteristics and coaching behaviours influence the athletes and how
these influence: i) athletescognition and affect and ii) athletes’ behaviour. Figure 1
highlights the overarching emphasis athletes place on trust and respect for the S&C coach.
Moreover, it emphasises how psychosocial behaviours and characteristics of the S&C coach
operate through such an environment resulting in positive impacts on the athlete.
Figure 1. Process of how S&C coach characteristics and behaviours are perceived to
influence athlete outcome
trust & respect
for coach
Coaches’ characteristics
caring
knowledgeable
understands role
Athletes’ cognitions and affect
motivation & confidence
enjoyment & gratitude
Athletes’ behaviours
extra effort
self-regulation
Coaches’ behaviours
commits
motivates
prepares & communicates
Process and factors influencing the athlete
Trust and respect. In response to the vignette, participants highlighted that trust, or
the confidence that they place in their S&C coach, and respect, or the feeling of high regards
and admiration of their S&C coach are fundamental. Stories told by participants emphasised
the importance of trust and respect with their S&C coach, which is at the centre of the process
and seen to be the most important element in having a positive impact. Without trust and
respect the behaviours and characteristics of the S&C coach would have limited or no
beneficial influence on the athlete. These terms were used inseparably by the participants
Seeing that [the character in the vignette] trusts and respects him, if it would be me I
would be happy to take my time to ask if I did not understand something. I would not
be afraid of making mistakes. I would be relaxed. If it would be someone I trust and
respect I would be happy to take my time and perfect my technique and not be rushed
(…). It is pretty applicable for the S&C coach I currently work with. I trust him as
much as I know that he knows what he is talking about. (Participant #1)
Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 17
Another response clearly demonstrated how essential trust and respect is to the athlete’s
engagement with the session and the programme.
For me, I have to trust and respect the [S&C] coach I am working with, otherwise the
session would be quite stressful and I would probably find a good excuse to stay at
home and start to make up my own programme. (Participant #9)
One participant revealed that when these fundamental components of trust and respect are not
present, other effective characteristic such as tailoring the session to the individual would
have little influence.
I don't think I ever had any respect for the S&C coach, because I don't think I knew
him well enough because my squad was always quite a big squad. I never really
thought I would take the programme on, because it was never that tailored to myself
and it was very general (...). However, if he would concentrate on me personally, the
programme would become important to me. And I would want it well in advance to
prepare. If that would not be communicated to me and I only get the programme at the
session, I would probably start losing trust in him. (Participant #2)
Participants constantly reiterated that trust and respect were vital aspects of effective
coaching and talked about how S&C coaches’ characteristics could initiate such trust and
respect, but also how S&C coaches’ effective behaviours maintain and add to this
relationship. Thus, the results depict what coaching characteristics and behaviours influence
the trust and respect that athletes perceive between themselves and their S&C coach.
Coaches’ characteristics. This theme depicts stories told by the by the participants
describing how certain characteristics of the S&C coach influence the trust and respect
athletes have for their S&C coach, and in turn, lead to a positive impact on athlete outcomes.
Coach is caring. The results suggest how the qualities of the S&C coach, such as
being caring and sensitive as well as focusing on the individual, play an important role in
creating trust and respect between the S&C coach and the athlete.
I felt like she cared about us as a whole, rather than just making us train hard. And she
would ask about how university was going and if my training was ever impacting my
education then she would make sure education came first. I really liked that because it
seemed like she had all my best interests at heart. I could trust her a lot and had a lot
of respect for her (…). She was almost like a friend. (Participant #10)
The caring nature of the S&C coach, which included giving the athlete choice and respecting
them as an individual by being aware of their feelings, emotions and physical condition,
created trust in resulting coaching decisions, as one participant explained:
He really cared about me personally. For example, if I was feeling a little bit low, or I
did not sleep well, he would still try to find a way to make the most of that session,
but first he would set me aside and ask what the problem was and give me the option
of training that day or not. I guess, giving me that choice really showed me he cared
and made me trust in his decisions. When he did adjust the programme or aim for that
session, he knew how to get the best out of me at that time and the session was always
worthwhile. (Participant #3)
Coach is knowledgeable. Results further revealed that the S&C coaches’ scientific
knowledge, as well as the ability to instruct and demonstrate that knowledge were considered
by athletes to be effective characteristics of the S&C coach. Scientific knowledge helps the
S&C coach to gain respect from the athlete, and build trust in what is prescribed.
Interestingly, athletes linked these characteristics as operating within the boundary of trust
between the athlete and the S&C coach.
Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 19
My S&C coach has studied physiology at University and has the relevant
qualifications and many years of experience as a coach. He has the knowledge to
explain to me clearly and help me understand the theory behind what I am doing and
that helps me to trust him and convinces or motivates me to do [the programme].
(Participant #6)
Coach understands role. The participants emphasised that it was important for the
S&C coach to be able to clearly comprehend his coaching role by understanding the athletes
sporting aims and ambition. S&C is supplementary and although it contributes to athletic
performance, the degree of influences depends on the individual sport (Kontor, 1989). One
athlete highlighted the necessity of the ability to understand the embedded role of S&C
within the multifaceted technical and sports science support by responding to stage three of
the vignette, where the S&C coach changes his session in favour of an actual sport session.
His response demonstrated his respect for a S&C coach who could understand where his
coaching fit in the full picture of the athlete’s training regimen.
If that was me I would be immensely grateful that my S&C coach could appreciate
the priorities or my actual goal which is not S&C it is sailing, so that is kind of the
overriding thing. The fact that he can appreciate this and understand that the day is
favourable for sailing, optimising this by moving the session is a great thing.
(Participant #8)
Coaches’ behaviours. This theme explores the process of how effective coaching
behaviours positively contribute to the trust and respect between the S&C coach and as a
result positively influence the athlete.
Coach commits. The results revealed that trust and respect of the S&C coach is
essential for a long-term commitment of the athlete to the programme as trust creates safety
and security within the relationship.
If I feel really happy and I really trust you, then I would like to work with you until I
retire, whereas if I am not too sure or uncertain or even unhappy, I would look for
another [S&C] coach. So, the trust within the relationship is important and related to
the long-term factors (…), but having a [S&C] coach I can trust and respect would
make me feel very honoured to give 100%. I would feel safe. (Participant #5)
Additionally, one participant emphasised how the S&C coach’s commitment maintained his
trust and respect in the S&C coach and as a result helped him to adhere to the S&C
programme even though the initial impact of the programme could have been perceived as
counterproductive.
When I got a new programme [my back] would flare up for half a day and if there was
anything that was too bad we would take it out but anything that was just a little bit
sore we knew we could keep in and we were able to build a good idea of what was
good and what wasn’t in the end (...). Trusting him in that just helped me to continue
with the programme and in the end the results were great. (Participant #3)
Hence, it appears to be important for S&C coaches to build a relationship with their athletes
in order to get trust and respect from the athletes, not simply to expect such trust on the basis
of being a knowledgeable S&C coach.
Coach motivates. The results demonstrated that the S&C coach’s ability to motivate
and inspire confidence is effective in adding to the trust in the relationship and the set
programme. Athletes perceived that their S&C coaches who have high performance
expectations and at the same time believe that the athletes can achieve those expectations
helped to motivate the athletes to persevere. However, it should be noted that the
effectiveness of these characteristics and behaviours are dependent on the S&C coaches’
knowledge of the athlete, the relationship that is built, and ultimately, the current level of
Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 21
trust the athlete has in the S&C coach. This is illustrated by one participant’s story related to
stage 2 of the vignette describing a fitness test session.
I think the best example is with the aerobic tests I have to do. My S&C coach has got
my fitness test scores since I was about 12 years old. So, he knows what I should and
should not be capable of. He sets us very good goals beforehand and during the test he
will be shouting at us which really motivates me. The goals are tailored for me,
reasonable goals that I should be able to achieve, but not what he would expect the
ultimate sailor to achieve, just what I personally can do. He encourages you and is
positive before and during the test. (Participant #8)
Additionally, if there is no possibility created for the athlete to trust and respect the S&C
coach, effective coaching characteristics such as being a good motivator might be of little use.
It is really important to get some motivation from your coach when you are getting to
the end of what you think you can do, especially if you trust the [S&C] coach and he
knows that you can do more. I guess that works a lot better if you have been working
together for quite a long time because you would believe him a bit more. When
someone who hasn’t really seen you train comes up to you and says, “You can just do
more” you would think, “You’ve got no basis for that. How would you know I can do
more?” (Participant #4)
Coach prepares and communicates. Lastly, athletes perceived that the S&C coach’s
abilities to communicate and plan effectively were important for them. Again, the participants
suggested that effective communication and planning cannot be separated from the relational
element of trust and respect. One participant suggested that effective planning and
communication helped build or increase reciprocal trust and respect between the athlete and
S&C coach as it demonstrated the value the coach has for the relationship.
Getting a detailed plan beforehand makes you feel good (…). So the fact that your
[S&C] coach appreciates that and has also invested an equivalent amount of effort to
make sure you know what is going to be happening that day is really important and
makes me trust him a lot more. (Participant #7)
Another participant’s response illustrated the effect of neglecting effective planning and
communication.
(…) my S&C coach won’t tell me what I am going to do until the very last minute.
He does not have the habit to plan ahead he just gives me a rough idea but he does not
make it into an action plan. He also likes to change things depending on his mood and
this is something I am not very comfortable with. So I can’t be prepared both mentally
and physically to give 100% for every session, when I do not know what to expect.
(Participant #9)
How this influences the athlete?
Athletes’ cognition and affect. In this theme the participants’ stories illustrate how
the combination of sub-themes relating to what coaching characteristics and behaviours
influences trust and respect impact the cognitive and affective responses of the participant.
Motivation and confidence. Results demonstrated a positive effect of trust and
respect on the athletes’ intrinsic motivation coupled with an enhancement of self-confidence.
If you are quite trusting you are going to be more willing. You might come across to
people as being more motivated. I had a lot of confidence in the training I was doing,
I was really driven to absolutely maximise it. As soon as I saw that my S&C Coach
put in so much effort it puts on a little bit of pressure to do it from your side as well. I
was massively motivated to get the maximum out of every session because I had
complete trust. (Participant #9)
Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 23
It was the S&C coach’s caring attitude, in which the athlete could see that he was putting
effort into the training, that drove this athlete to feel motivated to excel and confident to
achieve results. Further, the S&C coach’s knowledge and ability to instruct helped to
motivate the athlete.
The fact that he broke down the technique session and went through every exercise
step by step explaining how it relates to my sport, and the fact that I trust him so much,
motivates me to put in 110% effort into the session, rather than thinking “why am I
doing this? This is a rubbish exercise and not applicable to help my sailing
performance.” (Participant #1)
Enjoyment and gratitude. The participants’ responses to the S&C coach’s ability to
motivate and be positive resulted in an increase in athletes’ enjoyment and a decrease in
anxiety. Furthermore, when the S&C coach acted in the athletes’ best interests by
understanding his/her role as an S&C coach within the broader training environment of the
athlete, the athlete felt gratitude towards the coach.
(…) I really appreciate the fact that my S&C coach understands what he can
contribute and how he best can do that, for example by making the training session
more fun in an effective efficient way, I am always a lot happier in myself and I train
a lot more. (Participant #3)
One athlete elaborated how the attitude of his S&C coach positively affected his mental
approach towards a difficult S&C session.
(…)I think given the positive attitude of the S&C coach, it tends to release
apprehension of the fact that you are doing a test. If you have a positive [S&C] coach
who is always speaking to you positively, it promotes relaxation and it just does not
make me so anxious about difficult sessions. Ultimately, it is just very motivating and
reassuring. (Participant #10)
Athletes’ behaviour. The last theme refers to participant stories highlighting the
effect of athletes’ trust and respect for their S&C coach on the athletes’ behaviour.
Extra effort. The participants described how the S&C coachs ability to motivate
them encouraged them to work harder. They also spoke of how the relationship that they had
built with the S&C coach, in terms of the trust and respect they have for their S&C coach,
gave them impetus to produce extra effort during their sessions.
(…) but because I trust and respect the [S&C] coach I want to impress him. The
coach’s presence makes me want to do well for me and for the coach. It is motivating
and the [S&C] coach’s positive comments will give me something extra, at least it
gives me a little bit more patience and extra strength to give it another try instead of
giving up. (Participant #5)
The S&C coach’s detailed plans and the communication of those plans, linked to the athletes
respect for the S&C coach and those plans, increased the athletes’ adherence to the session
and promoted independent training. One participant recalled his feelings towards the effort
and focus his S&C coach displayed.
It motivates you because you are given a very detailed session plan. She makes you
want to go to the gym. I just don't want to let my coach down as I can see how much
effort she has put into this relationship. So, I just want to push myself a little bit more.
(Participant #6)
Clearly, the motivation that the S&C coach promoted, the positive atmosphere, and the effort
shown through detailed individual plans, helped the relationship grow and influenced the
athletes to put more effort into their training.
Self-regulatory processes. Lastly, the S&C coach’s ability to prepare and
communicate enhanced the athletes’ self-regulatory behaviours. Self-regulation is defined as
self-generated thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are planned, monitored adapted based
Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 25
on performance feedback to achieve a specific goal (Cleary & Zimmerman, 2001). In
response to the trust in their S&C coach’s plans and programme, the participants engaged in
various actions such as ensuring the correct nutrition is applied, preparing themselves for the
session (i.e. making sure the correct clothes are packed), and researching unknown exercises
prior to sessions.
I will make sure I wear the right clothes and also bring the right drinks, sports drink. I
would prepare my diet well in advance for that specific training. So, for example if it
is an endurance session it is different from a strength training. As diet can really affect
you performance I have to prepare this well in advance, probably two or three days
before. My kit, however, I will prepare the night before. (Participant #7)
The athlete elaborated on the detailed plan that he trusted would be implemented that week,
would help him to prepare.
Having a detailed programme is great, I can read through it, because I can read
through the programme on Sunday night and go through every day of the week and I
can make sure when I slot things in, set goals for the session and I can look at some of
the exercises I am not sure of. So, last night I was getting the programme for this
week and I was like “what is this? What’s that?” so I just went on the Internet and
looked at some videos and thought “Oh that is what it is.(Participant #4)
Overall, the results highlight the process through which coaching characteristics and
behaviours influence the athletes’ trust and respect for their S&C coach, and how athletes
perceive this process impacts on their cognitions, affect, and behaviours. The findings
demonstrate the complexity of how effective S&C coach characteristics and behaviours work
together to positively influence the athletes’ development and performance.
Discussion
The aims of this study were to understand which behaviours and characteristics of
S&C coaches are effective and the resultant influences on the athletes, and to demonstrate the
development and usefulness of vignettes to elicit new knowledge. To our knowledge, no
previous study has explored how effective S&C coaching behaviours and characteristics
influence elite athletes and there is limited research in the sports coaching literature
considering how vignettes can effectively be used and further developed to enrich
participants’ responses. This study is novel because the development of the vignette included
actual quotes, thus increasing authenticity, which resulted in a greater depth of data
characterised by every participant introducing their own experiences. As such, this study
added to the coaching literature as well as advancing methodological approaches in various
ways discussed below.
First, participants identified the importance of coach behaviours that develop trust and
respect between themselves and the coach. This trust was seen to be either affective or
cognitive. Affective or relational trust, developed by the mutual exhibition of care and
concern, was demonstrated by participants describing their coach as being a close friend, and
being sensitive, concerned and focused on the personal needs of their athletes in and outside
the sporting context. These findings support previous research highlighting relational trust as
essential in creating an effective relationship between the coach and athlete (Jowett &
Poczwardowski, 2007). Furthermore, cognitive trust, or the confidence the participant places
in ability and qualifications, was demonstrated by participants emphasising the importance of
the S&C coach’s applied knowledge and experience (Mayer, Davis & Schoorman, 1995).
Our findings reinforce that athlete-centred interpersonal relationships based on mutual trust,
cognitive and affective, contribute to the athletes’ development by facilitating self-
actualisation or the ‘the best you can be’ (f.ex.,Greenleaf, Gould & Dieffenbach, 2001;
Rogers, 2012).
Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 27
Our findings support evidence from organisational psychology literature which has
shown trust between leaders and followers is reciprocated in the form of enhanced job
attitudes and performance (Schaubroeck, Lam & Peng, 2011). However, while cognitive and
affective trust and respect appear to play a vital role in the context of effective S&C coaching,
future research is required to more specifically explain how the different types of trust impact
on elite athlete development and performance. Furthermore, from an applied perspective,
research might examine how such qualities could effectively be fostered and developed by an
S&C coach. The findings reinforce previous research into effective behaviours and
characteristics of S&C coaches by highlighting the effectiveness of both transactional
behaviours such as instruction and organisational and planning skills as well as higher order
characteristics (Szedlak et al., 2015).
Second, our findings show that the ability to effectively instruct the athlete based on
scientific knowledge and to have good organisational and planning skills are essential
behaviours of an S&C coach (Haggerty, 2005; Massey, Schwind, Andrews & Maneval, 2009).
Additionally, the results highlight the effectiveness of higher order characteristics such as
motivation and inspiration, which have been linked with a positive effect on the athletes’
development and performance (Becker, 2009; Magnusen, 2010; Szedlak et al., 2015). Our
findings further support previous research (f.ex., Chase, Lirgg & Feltz, 1997) of the impact of
the coach’s high performance expectations on the athlete. Of particular interest, these themes
were constantly linked by the athletes themselves to trusting and respecting the coach. The
athletes often felt that the coach’s abilities, characteristics and expectations would have little
influence on them without the coach having established trust and respect, through building a
relationship with the athletes, and through that relationship demonstrating the aforementioned
themes. In summary, our findings strengthen current research of the effectiveness of
transactional behaviours such as instruction, but further indicate an additional positive,
augmentative influence of higher order characteristics of trust and respect that go beyond the
coaching effect accounted for by the transactional behaviours (Price & Weiss, 2013; Rowold,
2006).
Our results revealed that effective S&C coaching behaviours resulted in numerous
positive cognitions for athletes, such as increased intrinsic motivation, enhanced self-
confidence, enhanced enjoyment and decreased anxiety, which in turn have been linked with
positive effects on athletes’ performance and well-being (Reinboth & Duda, 2006). The data
also highlight an enhancement in the participants’ self-regulatory process (Zimmerman, 1998,
2002). Our results support previous research suggesting that elite athletes display a higher
quality of self-regulatory processes such as self-monitoring and self-reflection, which
positively affects athletic performance (Cleary & Zimmerman, 2001). Research into physical
activity has shown that behavioural compliance or adherence can be a fundamental problem
(Garcia & King, 1991; McAuley & Courneya, 1993), and effective coaching behaviours that
increase self-regulatory processes such as adherence and independent training need to be
encouraged in the S&C context. Radcliffe et al. (2013) highlighted the importance and
benefits for the S&C coach to utilise these psychological strategies to encourage adherence to
a training program. Additionally, Radcliffe and colleagues identified a lack of opportunity to
develop such psychological skills within the professional training required to become an
accredited S&C coach. Practically, our findings support Radcliffe et al’s (2013) and Collins
and Durand-Bush’s (2014) suggestion that psychological strategies such as goal-setting,
planning, focus, self-monitoring, motivation and feedback, should be considered by the S&C
coach as part of a systematic attempt to instil higher levels of self-regulatory skills within the
athlete . However, our findings further suggest that these psychosocial strategies can only be
effective in an environment of trust and respect between the athlete and the coach.
Development of Vignette Method
Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 29
A review by Culver, Gilbert and Sparkes (2012) suggested that qualitative research in
sport psychology lacks flexibility as it has become overly reliant on the use of semi structured
interviews followed by content analysis. Thus, a narrative methodology using vignettes
provides an innovative way to analyse the participant belief system within the sport coaching
context (Smith & Sparkes, 2012; Smith & Sparkes, 2009). There are several benefits of this
methodological approach in the current study. First, utilising vignettes allowed our research
team to follow Biddle, Markland, Gilbourne, Chatzisarantis and Sparkes (2001) suggestion to
embrace issues of how knowledge is constructed and represented. That is, we were able to
analyse athletes’ assumptions, interests, and procedures in working with their S&C coach,
which may not have been discovered otherwise. This would lead us to a better understanding
of how S&C coaches’ behaviours and characteristics are perceived as effective by elite
athletes and furthermore how these behaviours and characteristics influence the athlete. The
use of semi-structured interviews alone, without common scenarios that the athletes could use
as stimulus for discussion, seems problematic when analysing athletes’ perceptions in relation
to fluid, dynamic narratives such as their experience of effective coaching (Plummer, 2001).
Rapley (2004) and Sparkes and Smith (2008) further elaborate, noting that a study that only
uses interviews with direct questions does not fully allow us to understand the narratives of
people’s lived, situated practices. By utilising vignettes to analyse lived experience, we
ensure that the data gathered is more congruent with the narrative approach we adopted to
consider what and how the athletes perceive their S&C coach to be effective.
Second, vignettes allow participants to engage more fully in considering the
psychosocial elements of the coaching process, resulting in greater meaning, purpose and
motivation to their psychosocial world (Papathomas, 2016). The vignettes reassured or
allowed for greater association with the stories, and reminded the participants of experiences
by prompting greater recall of the coaching process (Smith et al., 2015). Consequently, the
participants could remember and retrieve experiences more automatically and effortlessly, as
memory is predominantly story based, and they were easily drawn into discussing their
subjective world within the coaching process (Scott, Hartling, O'Leary, Archibald & Klassen,
2012). In summary, the stories used in the vignettes added flexibility by creating greater
dialogue with participants concerning their experiences of effective coaching in a strength
and conditioning environment.
Third, as suggested by Sparkes and Partington (2003), a content analysis in the
present study might have resulted in under-appreciating trust as a central and overarching
characteristic within the data (see Figure 1). Moreover, underlying psychosocial behaviours
and characteristics may have been overlooked, as direct questioning may fail to provide an
adequate context to encourage further discussion (Culver et al., 2012). Vignettes provide the
participant with an opportunity to reflect on situations or context that they have not fully
considered or routinised (Jenkins, 2010). The results of this study highlight a deeper level of
consideration and reflection as the participants almost solely identified effective psychosocial
behaviours and characteristics, when one might have expected a higher focus on scientific
knowledge and instruction. As such, the use of vignettes has revealed the emphasis and value
elite athletes place on the psychosocial aspects of S&C coaching which so far has been
marginalised.
Last, we aimed to enrich the process of developing the resonance of the vignettes.
When we asked the participants about the authenticity of the vignette, their responses
highlighted the vignettes resonance and supported our contention that the contribution of
using actual quotes strengthened the authenticity of the vignette and further enhanced the
richness of data. For example, one participant said, “you could quite literally exchange my
name for one of the characters”. Furthermore, the authenticity of the vignette was evidenced
by high level of disclosure of personal and meaningful experiences during the interviews.
Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 31
Dale (2000) suggests the trustworthiness of narrative research is reduced if it lacks a first-
person description of an experience by the participant. All participants shared and introduced
their own experiences as well as responding to the vignette, using a first-person description,
which was a direct result of understanding and associating with the characters and scenarios
depicted in the vignette. For example, one participant responded, “Yes, I could identify with
all of them. It felt to me that these stories came from my own experiences. They really made
me think and helped me to remember different experiences”.
This study is not without its limitations. While the vignette presented to the athletes
was based on real life experiences and incorporated actual quotes identified in previous
research, the written presentation is only one way to prompt athletes to respond. Future
research might consider different ways of vignette presentation, such as audio, video, acting
and/or picture vignettes. The use of different formats would reflect the integration of
technology in S&C coaching, in particular the use of video for analysis and instant feedback
(Anning, Willy & Mueller, 2011) and, as such, could enhance the potential to mobilise an
empathetic and emotional response (Douglas & Carless, 2008). Additionally, to utilise the
flexibility of the vignette approach, Smith et al. (2015) provided initial support of the utility
of vignettes as a tool to disseminate physical activity knowledge to adults with spinal cord
injury. S&C, as an emergent profession, could utilise the vignettes to disseminate effective
and/or ineffective coaching practises for S&C coaches to reflect upon experiences that they
might not have had before. The vignettes could be used to accelerate coach development,
especially for novice S&C coaches who lack experience in relating to and working with elite
athletes. This process would encourage the coach to self-reflect and identify individual areas
of good practice and improvements needed to reach full potential in their coaching roles.
Conclusion
This study focused on effective behaviours and characteristics of S&C coaches and their
influences as perceived by elite athletes in response to a vignette. Athletes identified the
importance of psychosocial behaviours or higher order and characteristics and their
interactions, emphasising the important role of trust and respect within the relationship
between the coach and athlete. Practically, this study informs practitioners of the importance
of further developing characteristics such as trust and respect in conjunction with previously
identified effective behaviours such as instruction, motivation and inspiration to positively
influence athletes’ behaviour and performance. In addition, the results should be considered
as a prompt to current S&C accreditation bodies such as the UKSCA to further enhance the
non-technical aspect of their coaching curriculum. One such example could be the inclusion
of mentorship programmes, where novice coaches are guided by more senior coaches in areas
such as initiating and maintaining trust and developing a motivational climate. Finally, the
study offers further evidence of the effectiveness of the vignette method in eliciting greater
depth of data. Future recommendation of the application of the vignette method applied to the
context of S&C coaching should incorporate the use of vignettes to disseminate research of
effective and ineffective coaching scenarios to S&C coaches, acting as an educational tool.
Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 33
Appendix A. Supplemantary data
Themes included in developing the vignette stages
Theme
Actual quote
Relatedness & closeness
Authenticity & sincerity
Role model
“I always feel that I can trust Rob and I can actually tell him
when I have a problem, and I have a lot of respect for him and I
really look up to him. He is just a genuine guy”
Confidence
High performance
expectations,
Belief in athlete
“Rob was like ‘one more, one more’ and he kept going. I ended
up with 36 press ups, it was as if he knew how strong I was.”
“I guess the whole can do attitude that he has and that he will
not let us fail makes the session bearable.
I guess he really believed in me and my ability.
Instruction
“Rob was so knowledgeable, it made me feel I could trust him
even if I did not understand the science behind it.”
“Starting off with just the movement and breaking it down
every single rea really helped.”
Communication skills
Planning & organisation
“The session are so well thought out and run according to plan
that Rob sets up, it kind of really motivates me because means
that I have a purpose for the session.”
Feedback
Motivation & inspiration
“It looked to me that Rob was happy and full of praise for your
effort. He was always saying positive things to you. I
remember when he does that to me, it really encourages me.
Also, I know that if you do not perform Rob would let you know
about it and spur you on.”
“He kind of makes me want to go to the gym and I like it when
he says after the first set that I can beat my target.”
The vignette: Emma’s story; international sailor
Stage 1
Emma is a 19 years old, international sailing athlete in the laser radial class, a single
handed sailing dinghy. She has also just started at University to study ship sciences. She is
currently attending a national squad camp. During the camp the athletes attend strength and
conditioning session in the performance gym after and before the sailing sessions on the
water. Emma just finished her evening S&C session when she met one of her friends in the
gym, Frances. As they started talking about the training day their conversation quickly
moved towards their evening S&C session. ‘How was your session?’ asked Frances. “Tiring
but good” replied Emma. “How was yours?” asked Emma. Frances paused “Really
challenging, Rob (the S&C coach) changed the programme today and I did not quite get it at
first?”. “That must have been difficult!”, Emma replied. “It was Ok, I always feel that I can
trust Rob and I can actually tell him when I have a problem, and I have a lot of respect for
him and I really look up to him. He is just a genuine guy.” Frances replied.
Stage 2
Emma started the cool down and stretch, when another friend, Pete, an experienced sailor
part of the performance group, came to join her. They started to talk about the day’s event
and how the sailing went. As they continued Pete asked her what her schedule was for the
next day. Emma replied “Oh we have got fitness testing in the morning, I am not looking
forward to it.” Pete responded “I quite like it, this morning during my testing Rob was like
one more, one more and he kept going. I ended up with 36 press ups, it was as if he knew
how strong I was.Emma replied “Wow, yeah, I guess the whole can-do attitude that he has
and that he will not let us fail makes the session bearable.“ Emma paused and added “I guess
he really believes in me and my ability.” They finished off the stretching and hurried to get
some dinner.
Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 35
Stage 3
It as an early start the next morning and Emma still felt tired from the day before. As
the wind was favourable for the day Rob, the S&C coach, and the sports science support staff
decided to postpone the testing session but schedule a technique lifting session in for the
evening. After Emma came off the water she and her close friend, Pauline, also an
international dingy sailor, got ready to go the scheduled session. After a quick warm up Rob
introduced the exercises and took them through the individual lifts. The session flew past, as
Pauline remarked: “That went quick, I am glad this was just a technique session, I am still
bruised from our water session!” “Yes, I kind of learned a lot though. I never managed to do
some of those lifts before, especially the clean. I did not even know why I should be doing
this.” Emma replied. “Rob was so knowledgeable, it made me feel I could trust him even if I
did not understand the science behind it.” Pauline added. “Starting off with just the
movement and breaking it down every single area really helped.” Emma answered.
Stage 4
Emma and Pauline left the gym to go to their rooms, trying to have an early night to
prepare for the final day. The testing was rescheduled for the following morning. After
breakfast, Emma and the squad walked over to the performance gym. Emma asked Pauline:
“Do you know what is going on this morning and what tests we are doing?” Pauline replied:
“Yes we got sent a detailed programme of all the tests. The session are so well thought out
and run according to plan that Rob sets up, it kind of really motivates me because means that
I have a purpose for the session.”.
Stage 5
Emma felt exhausted, slightly under the weather, before the session started. However,
the testing session went well. Emma exceeded her targets but still was not pleased with her
performance as she believed that she could have done even better if she would have felt
totally fit. Pete observed the session and started to talk to Emma afterwards. “You did well
Emma.” He said. “I could have done better, I guess.” Emma replied. “It looked to me that
Rob was happy and full of praise for your effort. He was always saying positive thing to you.
I remember when he does that to me, it really encourages me. Also, I know that if you do not
perform Rob would let you know about it and spur you on.” Pete added. “I guess you are
right, that is probably the reason I did well. He kind of makes me want to go to the gym and I
like it when he says after the first set that I can beat my target.” Emma replied.
Running head: USING VIGNETTES TO ANALYSE EFFECTIVE COACHING 37
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... Being supportive was critical to an athlete's perception of coach-athlete compatibility (18). This can be demonstrated by showing care in both sport and non-sport-related settings, exhibiting emotional intelligence, and giving athletes choice (7,27). Positive nonverbal communication, which demonstrates self-confidence, is also important (18). ...
... Athletes appreciate S&C coaches who make them accountable for their own engagement and work ethic (5,7) and act as a role model for positive attitudes toward training (29). These positive coaching behaviors can lead to increased athlete motivation and commitment (27), with having high expectations of the athlete associated with positive effects on athlete development (19,28). ...
... Experience and knowledge are viewed by athletes as important for the credibility of the S&C coach (7,20,28). Strength and conditioning coaches need to be educated and understand their role and responsibility (27), with the ability to demonstrate competency helpful for fostering athlete relationships (7). Higher levels of education may influence the S&C coach's behaviors (19) and having a strong ability to teach is essential for developing relationships (29). ...
Article
Carson, F, Blakey, M, Foulds, SJ, Hinck, K, and Hoffmann, SM. Behaviors and actions of the strength and conditioning coach in fostering a positive coach-athlete relationship. J Strength Cond Res XX(X): 000-000, 2021-A number of models have been developed to explain the various factors that affect coach-athlete interactions; however, they have had limited application to strength and conditioning (S&C). A systematic review of the literature was completed using the databases SPORTDiscus Full Text, MEDLINE, Global Health, Academic Search Complete, and PsychINFO, sourcing articles related to S&C coach-athlete relationships. An initial search yielded 1,364 articles, which when screened against the inclusion criteria was narrowed to 8 articles relating specifically to the S&C coach-athlete relationship. Four major themes were identified throughout the included articles: leadership styles; perceptions of leadership; coach knowledge, experience, and training; and building relationships. These themes highlighted that positive coach-athlete interactions are fostered through a mutual understanding of the S&C coach's responsibility to improve performance and reduce injury through scientific methods, with an awareness of different psychosocial behaviors of both the coach and the athlete. This will create a mutual interconnectedness whereby both parties can participate in a functional dyad. Three practical applications deduced from the findings identified the importance of building an autonomy-supportive environment, keeping knowledge and expertise at a high standard, and embracing the whole person rather than just the athlete. These teachings aim to guide S&C coaches through the necessary actions and behaviors recommended to successfully build and foster positive S&C coach-athlete relationships.
... This research highlights that athletes perceive psychosocial behaviors (i.e., being caring, comforting, and understanding) to be an important, integral characteristic of effective coaching practice in S&C. Furthermore, Szedlak, Smith, Day, and Callary (2018) discovered that S&C coaches' psychosocial behaviors positively impact the athletes' development, including athletes' cognition and affect (i.e., motivation, confidence, enjoyment, and gratitude) and behaviors (i.e., extra effort and self-regulation). Taken together, this evidence suggests that athletes' preferred coaching practice includes psychosocial behaviors. ...
... Our results strengthen and extend the literature on the effectiveness of psychosocial behaviors in S&C. A limited amount of research has examined the effectiveness of psychosocial behaviors in S&C (e.g., Gearity & Metzger, 2017;Szedlak et al., 2018). Thus, our results reinforce these recent, emergent findings by emphasizing the importance of psychosocial behaviors in S&C coaching practice. ...
... Such flexibility in the coaching process is key, as coach development researchers have suggested that this ability to adjust to the athlete's needs and context (a psychosocial behavior) is fundamental to the holistic development of the athlete (e.g., Côté & Gilbert, 2009). In addition, Szedlak et al. (2018) suggested that athletes perceive psychosocial behaviors to positively influence their cognition and affect, including motivation and gratitude, which is reflected in our study's results. Extending these findings, our results provide an insight into how elite S&C coaches perceive that specific psychosocial behaviors (e.g., effective communication) could enhance athletes' autonomy. ...
Article
Full-text available
This study aimed to examine elite, experienced strength and conditioning (S&C) coaches’ reflections on the effectiveness of psychosocial behaviors in S&C coaching. In particular, this study aimed to explore which psychosocial behaviors are essential, the process of how these might influence coaching practice, and how the development of psychosocial behaviors should be encouraged. Eight elite, experienced S&C coaches were recruited and partook in a semistructured interview. Using a reflexive thematic analysis, six themes were identified: understanding athlete’s needs, communicating effectively, caring and connecting with the athlete, practicing what you preach, the importance of reflective practice, and the contribution of formal training. The findings of this study enhance the literature by highlighting that elite, experienced S&C coaches perceive psychosocial behaviors to be essential in effective S&C coaching practice. In particular, the findings describe the processes of how identified psychosocial behaviors might positively influence athlete development by enhancing motivation, buy-in, and autonomy. In addition, the authors’ results suggest that current S&C coach development programs are limited in facilitating the learning of psychosocial behaviors. Thus, their findings strengthen the call for S&C coach educators to utilize constructivist learning strategies including facilitated reflection to encourage the development of essential psychosocial behaviors that contribute to the holistic development of the athlete.
... Within the context of HP strength and conditioning coaches, Szedlak, Smith, Day, and Callary (2018) also found that building trust and respect between the coach and athlete was paramount. They noted that coaching characteristics such as being caring, knowledgeable, and understanding their coaching role, as well as behaviours such as committing to the athlete, motivating the athlete, preparing for training, and communicating well with the athlete helped build this trust and respect. ...
... However, no emphasis was placed on how the quality of the coach-athlete relationship impacted other life domains outside sport and led to better overall functioning. These coaching characteristics and behaviours may implicitly develop athletes' psychosocial outcomes, but explicit processes also affect athletes' cognitions, emotions, and behaviours, such as their motivation, confidence, enjoyment, gratitude, effort, and self-regulation (Szedlak et al., 2018). ...
Article
Throughout the last decades, many researchers have devoted their time to understanding how sport can foster positive psychosocial attributes, such as life skills development and transfer in various youth sport settings. In this paper, we conduct a narrative review focused on coaches’ contributions to athletes’ psychosocial development across HP and Masters sport, as well as expand on future research directions and provide practical implications. In the first section,we focus on coaching practice and psychosocial development within HP sport. In the second section, we outline the nuances of coaching approaches for psychosocial development within Masters sport. In the last section, we provide directions for future research in this field and emphasise the need for lifelong learning and transfer of psychosocial attributes across adult sport.
... While this increase in provision has been welcomed, CE has also been critiqued with key shortcomings being a lack of contextually relevant content, a privileging of scientific over socio-pedagogical elements, a tendency to separate theoretical and craft knowledges, and a compartmentalisation or fragmentation of CE curriculum (i.e. discrete units of physiology, psychology, nutrition) (Cronin & Lowes, 2016;Jones & Turner, 2006;Nelson, Potrac, & Cushion, 2006;Szedlak, Smith, Day, & Callary, 2018). Furthermore, CE has recently been targeted as neglecting to address unethical coaching techniques that have been the focus of global reports relating to the abuse and maltreatment of athletes (e.g. ...
... Still, we suspect that alternative pedagogies have their starting point in trying to "fix" CE's didactic limitations through connecting theory and practice, bringing in more authenticity, and facilitating interdisciplinarity (Cronin & Lowes, 2016;Jones & Turner, 2006;Nelson et al., 2006;Szedlak et al., 2018). As a result, they are effective in engaging (and possibly entertaining) students. ...
Article
Full-text available
Despite increased recognition that a higher education sports coaching qualification plays an important role in shaping coaches’ ethical decision-making, few scholars have considered what ethics to teach and how best to deliver such curriculum. Examples of actual ethics courses are particularly amiss. This article furthers scholarship on ethics education by introducing Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), a pedagogical perspective and approach that is employed to teach quality of mind competences considered necessary to make ethical decisions. To demonstrate how ESD can be translated into ethics curriculum, we present the university course “IIG206 Sustainable Sports Coaching”, which the authors delivered to coaching students, and outline how the course offered students’ opportunities to develop quality of mind competences, including “thinking on their feet”, complexity thinking, working interdisciplinarily, creativity, and “thinking outside the box”. Practical recommendations for scholars keen to create and deliver ethics education in coaching education conclude the article.
... In addition to SCCs utilising a broad scientific knowledge base [19] they also need to make use of psychosocial skills. The psychosocial behaviours of SCCs have been reported to positively impact an athletes' emotional states; for example, motivation and enjoyment, and behaviours such as self-regulation [20]. Indeed, the need to "manage athletes psychologically" has been identified as a significant stressor experienced by elite coaches [21]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Research into sports coaches has identified the valuable role they play concerning social support provided to athletes together with their contribution to social and cultural interactions within both the participation and performance domains. The purpose of the present study was to qualitatively extract and examine the knowledge and on-task cognitions of high-level coaches (HLCs) within strength and conditioning (S and C). Applied cognitive task analysis (ACTA) was used to examine ten HLCs, each purposefully sampled to reflect over eight years of work in full time environments. The analysis of responses demonstrated HLCs engage in a pattern of innovative and diverse thinking, together with adaptability and multilevel planning, designed to promote an inclusive approach from performers, coaches and management. Commonality was demonstrated within the decision making of HLCs during the design of training programs. Communication was another important consideration when connecting with athletes, observing athletes, speaking to the head coach and integrating their approach with others. A confident, flexible approach to adapting to situational demands was evident and supported by the ability to recall and select from a wide range of previously learnt and tested strategies. Evidence is offered for the importance of interpersonal and social factors in HLCs’ relationships with athletes and coaches. The incorporation of strategies to support versatile, dynamic decision making within future S and C coach development materials will support more impactful performances by coaches at all stages of the coaching process.
... Mills and Gearity (2016) recommended creating specific educational material to help prepare novice S&C coaches to make ethical decisions through value judgement, with greater inclusion of social theory in S&C coach education as a means to develop the habits of heart. Szedlak et al. (2018Szedlak et al. ( , p. 2020 recommend the inclusion of vignettes and self-reflection to enhance these habits in the learning of novice S&C coaches. This implicit learning approach can encourage neophyte S&C coaches to challenge traditional constructs in a safe, social learning environment. ...
Article
Strength and conditioning (S&C) coaches are physical performance professionals who require years of education, training and experience to become recognised specialists. Specific actions, behaviours and industry tools have been established to help S&C coaches become more effective, however these are targeted at those who already have some experience. Less is known about how neophyte S&C coaches are educated, and what technical skills and psychosocial behaviours are prioitised in the profession. The aim of this study was to critique the literature on how S&C coaches are educated and identify specific components that are influential to novice S&C coach education. A systematic review, following PRISMA guidelines, was conducted using EBSCOhost, Google Scholar, PsycINFO, PubMed, and SPORTDiscus databases. Guided by Shulman's (2005) signature pedagogy framework, the review identified the habits of mind, hand and heart implemented within the profession. The habits of mind identified themes relating to the importance of reflective practice, communities of practice and observation. Habits of hand identified the benefits of hands-on experience in industry settings and simulated practice. Habits of heart are the personal values and philosophies that underpin S&C practice and are used to develop good coach-athlete relationships. Hands-on practical experience combined with structured reflective practice provides the best opportunity for novice S&C coaches to develop the required technical skills and psychosocial behaviours of the profession.
... Cette complexité est notamment mise en exergue par le National Standards (Henry, 2013). Au-delà du développement sportif des athlètes, l'activité de l'entraîneur doit aider le développement personnel des athlètes (Szedlak et al., 2017) en tant que sportif, mais également en tant qu'acteur de la société (Côté & Gilbert, 2009 ;Shields et al., 2002). Cet enracinement culturel explique notamment pourquoi certaines importations de formes d'entraînement d'autres pays ou la venue d'entraîneurs étrangers n'ont pas toujours le résultat escompté . ...
Thesis
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Qu’est-ce qu’un entraîneur expert ? Le manque de consensus autour de cette question impacte régulièrement le recrutement des entraîneurs de Haut Niveau souvent plébiscités pour leur succès en tant qu’athlète et non par la qualité de leurs formations (Gilbert et al., 2006). Le choix de la Fédération Française de Badminton en avril 2015 de renouveler la quasi-totalité des entraîneurs nationaux de l’INSEP par une nouvelle équipe avec à sa tête, le Danois Peter Gade, ancien n°1 mondial, en est un parfait exemple. Ce manque de critères objectifs (Abraham et al., 2006) amène aussi régulièrement à évaluer les entraîneurs experts à travers la performance de leurs athlètes, elle-même fréquemment résumée aux résultats de ces derniers en compétition. En effet, il est difficile de rendre compte de l’activité des entraîneurs experts, tant elle paraît guidée par des connaissances tacites (Saury & Sève, 2004), amenant même à les considérer comme des alchimistes de la performance (Ripoll, 2012). Pour alimenter les travaux visant à délimiter les contours de l’expertise, cette recherche vise tout d’abord à analyser l’activité des entraîneurs dits experts in situ à travers un programme de recherche en anthropologie culturaliste (Bertone & Chaliès, 2015). Ce programme permet de comprendre les fondements de l’activité des entraîneurs (i) en conceptualisant les significations que les acteurs associent aux expériences qu’ils vivent et (ii) en appréciant les accords de significations entre les acteurs. Le premier volet de cette étude a été mené en collaboration avec trois badistes masculins de l’équipe de France sénior et deux entraîneurs dits experts (un entraîneur national de l’INSEP et un ancien entraîneur national bulgare). Les données ont été recueillies à partir d’enregistrements audio-vidéo (EAV) de chaque séance d’entraînement suivi d’entretiens d’auto-confrontation (EAC) avec l’entraîneur et le badiste. Les premiers résultats ont montré que les interactions entraîneur-athlète étaient régulièrement le lieu de désaccords entre les acteurs amenant une collaboration improductive et desservant par conséquent l’objectif de performance poursuivie. Ces premiers résultats nous ont amené à prolonger cette étude par un second volet visant à offrir aux entraîneurs experts un espace de développement professionnel. À cet effet, un dispositif de recherche transformatif a été construit afin de leur donner accès au vécu de l’athlète et ainsi leur permettre de prendre conscience de certains aspects de leur activité et de ses effets sur celle du badiste. Menées en collaboration avec les badistes et les entraîneurs nationaux des Pôles France Relève de Bordeaux et Strasbourg, les données ont de nouveau été recueillies à partir des EAV de séances d’entraînements individuels suivis d’EAC menés avec l’entraîneur et le badiste. Un entretien aménagé a ensuite été mené avec l’entraîneur afin de le confronter aux propos tenus par le badiste lors de son EAC. Il lui était alors demandé d’interpréter le désaccord observé et de s’engager dans d’éventuelles pistes de transformation de son activité. Un EAV de la séance d’entraînement suivante a ensuite été réalisé pour observer de possibles traces de développement professionnel chez l’entraîneur. Les résultats ont montré qu’un tel dispositif consistant à donner accès à l’entraîneur au vécu de l’athlète peut permettre à la dyade de tendre vers un plus haut niveau d’intersubjectivité (Jowett, 2006). En tentant de rendre accessible les schémas d’expériences et d’actions habituellement non-conscientisés (Alheit & Dausien, 2005) en vue d’accompagner une dynamique de développement professionnel, ce dispositif s’inscrit dans la problématique de l’articulation entre les situations de formation et les situations de travail (Durand & Fillietaz, 2009) dans la perspective d’un apprentissage tout au long de la vie.
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