Behavioral Characteristics of 'Favorite' Coaches: Implications for Coach Education

Article excerpt

The purpose of this paper was to use athletes' and former athletes' memories of their favorite coach to improve coach education curriculum. Player preferences of coaching behavior can affect both their attitudes toward their sport experiences and team performance. By identifying positive coaching behaviors as recalled by athletes, coach educators can ensure that the curriculum in their courses reflect those preferences. University students enrolled in introductory coaching classes over a period of six years (12 semesters) were asked to list up to ten behavioral characteristics of their favorite coach in their athletic careers. Their responses were analyzed to determine specific examples of behaviors that defined coaches who were remembered as favorites. Comparisons were made with standardized measures of coaching characteristics (Chelladurai & Saleh, 1980) in hopes of determining ways to improve the coach education curriculum.

Behavioral Characteristics of Favorite Coaches: Implications for Coach Education

Both researchers and practitioners agree the development of athletic talent is dependent upon quality coaching (Bloom, 1985; Cote, Baker & Abernathy, 2003). Likewise, the quality is often determined by how coaches behave in all aspects of their sport. Coaching behaviors in practice, at games, and away from the sport have strong influences on players (Murray, 2006) and can impact both players' performances and continued participation. Memories of athletes and former athletes can be very beneficial in determining the most valued behavioral characteristics of their coaches. The purpose of this descriptive study was to present composite memories of nearly 400 athletes and former athletes as to the characteristics of their favorite coach. Coding methods established by Chelladurai and Saleh (1980) were used to classify coaching students' memories of the behaviors of their favorite coaches. Through this classification process, it was hypothesized coach educators could better understand preferred coaching characteristics of athletes, and develop, expand, or modify coach education curricula to produce more effective coaches (Conroy & Coatsworth, 2007).

As early as 1978, Chelladurai and Carron wrote that sport performance would be positively affected if coaches adapted their behaviors to comply with athletes' preferences. In the foundational work of the Leadership Scale for Sport (LSS), coaching behaviors were investigated as they related to players' preferences, coaches' perceptions, and actual coaching behaviors. This work resulted in extensive investigations of leadership behavior and preferred characteristics of coaches. Similarly, Iso-Ahola and Hatfield (1986) noted that player satisfaction in sport is often a direct result of coaching behavior, not successful team performance. They further noted that positive coaching behavior was a key factor in many aspects of athletic performance. Later, Ansel (1990) found athletes and former athletes are powerful, yet often untapped resources for descriptions of coaching behaviors. Ansel (1990) felt since players experience coaching behaviors on a daily basis, their input is both current and valid.

In an earlier study, Stewart (1993) found that coaches exhibiting positive behaviors were remembered by their athletes as being strong role models. He found athletes and former athletes described favorite coaches as those who acknowledged the inevitability of mistakes, stressed doing one's best, welcomed and used player input, and treated players fairly. Additionally, favorite coaches were those who demanded higher levels of effort while not criticizing or belittling athletes, and were creative and exciting when working with the team and individual players. Conversely, the negative behaviors of coaches were remembered just as vividly. Least favorite coaches were remembered as stressing winning at any cost, lying to players, demanding respect without earning it, and overworking players. …