Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Great Expectations: An Examination of the Differences between High and Low Expectancy Athletes' Perception of Coach Treatment

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Great Expectations: An Examination of the Differences between High and Low Expectancy Athletes' Perception of Coach Treatment

Article excerpt

The self-fulfilling prophecy in a sport context is based on a coach's perception and expectations of the athlete. Thus, the prophecy asserts that a coach's expectations may influence athletes' cognitions and subsequent behavior. When the self-fulfilling prophecy is applied to the social interaction between individuals, the complete process has been identified as a six-stage model called Expectancy Confirmation (Darley & Fazio, 1980). Specifically, the model involves the following stages within a sport context: (1) a coach forms an expectancy about an athlete, (2) the coach behaves in a manner congruent with his/her expectancy, (3) the athlete interprets the coach's behavior, (4) the athlete responds to the coach's behavior, (5) the coach interprets the athlete's response, and, (6) finally, the athlete interprets his/her personal response to the coach's behavior. In addition, Fiske and Taylor (1991) developed this model to include the possibility of the perceiver (coach) retaining the original expectations of the target individual (athlete) even when presented with new information that is contrary to the original belief(see Figure 1).


The Expectancy Confirmation Model (1980) has not been used within the sport domain as researchers have opted for the following four-step model that examines the expectancy process solely from the coach's perspective: (1) the coach forms an expectation about an athlete, (2) the expectation affects the coach's behavior, (3) the coach's behavior influences the athlete's performance, and (4) the athlete's behavior reinforces the coach's original expectation (Solomon, DiMarco, Ohlson, & Reece, 1998; Solomon, Wiegardt, et al., 1996).

There are two primary differences between the four- and six-step models. First, the six-step model classifies the self-fulfilling prophecy process into more discrete stages, identifying the athlete's interpretation and response to the coach's expectation and behavior as separate steps of the process. Second, the six-step model illustrates that the self-fulfilling prophecy process does not end when the athlete's behavior becomes congruent with the coach's expectation, but rather, when both individuals have formed attributions or perceived causes for the athlete's behavior. This is an important part of the self-fulfilling prophecy process because attributions will influence affective responses and future expectations for performance (Biddle, Hanrahan, & Sellars, 2001).

Expectancy research in sport appears to be divided according to the level of expertise. In non-elite sport environments, Horn (1984) and Rejeski, Darracott, and Hutslar (1979) assert that differential patterns of coaching behaviors emerged, however, these patterns do not support the expectancy bias. Specifically, low expectancy athletes received more technical instruction compared to their high expectancy counterparts. On the other hand, Sinclair and Vealey (1989) contended that in elite sport settings, high expectancy athletes received more individual communication from the coach compared to low expectancy athletes. Similarly, high expectancy athletes have received more praise and instruction compared to low expectancy athletes in collegiate sports (Solomon, Striegel, et al., 1996; Solomon, Wiegardt, et al., 1996) and high school settings (Solomon, et al., 1998).

The results of these studies suggest that Stage 2 of the Expectancy Confirmation process is operational in specific sporting domains. Recall that the coach behaves in a manner congruent with the expectation in Stage 2 of the model, and therefore, these results illustrate that it is important to observe coaching behaviors to identify evidence of behavioral bias that may favor high expectancy athletes. However, an interesting approach to this line of inquiry is based on the next stage of the model. Specifically, exploring whether athletes perceive differential coaching behaviors based on their high or low expectancy status. …

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