Research Update: The Volunteer Coaching Game Plan: Factors Such as Success and Self-Efficacy Drive Volunteer Coaches

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With 40 percent to 50 percent of young people's time categorized as free and unobligated, they have plenty of time for numerous leisure and recreation activities (Caldwell & Baldwin, 2003). Youth sports have become a staple for young people during their leisure time. While engaging in sports, youth are able to experience a new activity, refine their skills or techniques, interact with their teammates, engage in competition, and have fun. Youth coaches serve not only as team leaders, but also as role models and mentors. The coach's leadership style and decision-making in the youth sports setting may have a lasting impact on a young person's decision to continue participating in a sport.

Coaches are responsible for teaching and guiding their athletes. Volunteering to be a youth sports coach can be daunting if an individual has limited playing or coaching experience in that particular sport. Coaches with limited experience about motivation or technical skills may not believe in their ability to guide young athletes. Focusing on coaching efficacy allows individuals to understand what can impact their own coaching abilities and provides organizations with opportunities to mold and guide volunteer coaches involved in their programs.

Coaching efficacy is the belief coaches have in their ability to carry out a certain course of action. Specifically, coaching efficacy comprises four dimensions: character-building, motivation, technique, and game strategy (Feltz, Chase, Moritz & Sullivan, 1999).

Character-building addresses a coach's belief in influencing an athlete's personal development and attitude. Motivation examines a coach's belief in influencing the psychological state of an athlete. Technique looks at a coach's belief in his or her own instructional skills. And game strategy explores the belief a coach has in his or her ability to lead during a game performance. These four dimensions have been determined through research to be the "building blocks" on which coaching efficacy is gauged (Feltz et al., 1999; Marback, Short, Short & Sullivan, 2005; Vargas-Tonsing, Warners & Feltz, 2003).

Coaches with high levels of efficacy remain in coaching longer than coaches with lower levels of efficacy (Everhart & Chelladurai, 1998). Understanding these dimensions and a coach's overall level of efficacy may help youth sports organization administrators retain the volunteer coaches who in some cases are the backbone of programs.

Research and Critique

A coach's level of efficacy plays a major role in an individual's commitment to coaching. Factors that may play a role in determining a coach's level of efficacy are 1) organizational and community support, 2) coaching education/ licensing/certification programs or clinics, 3) previous coaching experience, and 4) win-loss record.

Administrators of youth sports organizations willing to invest the time addressing each of these factors increase the chances of their retaining coaches. Although all of the factors are discussed in terms of current research, organizations can have the greatest influence by providing support and education.

Research has shown that a coach will remain committed to coaching when the organization or community he or she coaches for is committed to him or her as a coach (Kent & Sullivan, 2003). Social support is a key component; a coach needs to feel appreciated and welcome by the organization and the community for the job he or she does. These feelings in turn will positively influence coaching efficacy levels (Feltz et al., 1999).

Coaching education classes and licensing or certification clinics have been attributed to an increase in a coach's level of efficacy. Lee, Malete and Feltz (2002) found that coaching education provides valuable information on technical skills and game strategy, which positively affect the coach's efficacy. …