Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

An Investigation of Optimism between Players and Coaches in NCAA Men's Division I Golf

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

An Investigation of Optimism between Players and Coaches in NCAA Men's Division I Golf

Article excerpt

In 1864, the Yale rowing team hired the first intercollegiate coach in history as William Wood was brought in to help Yale beat its' rival Harvard (Dealy, 1990). Since this initial hiring college coaching has evolved into a multi-million dollar profession. As the landscape in intercollegiate athletics has continued to rapidly change (shortened length of coaching tenure, increased role as fundraiser, pressure to win, coaching compensation) more pressure has been placed on coaches to be successful. Over this same time period more empirical research has been conducted to identify the characteristics and techniques that define a successful coach.

In a seminal investigation, Smith, Smoll, and Curtis (1979) discovered that coaches possessed little understanding of how often they demonstrate certain behaviors, and have even less understanding of how these behaviors affected their athletes. This analysis ignited an abundance of studies focusing on various aspects of coaching such as the relationship between coaches and athletes (Home, & Carron, 1985; Jowett, 2003; Jowett & Timson-Katchis, 2005); methods used by coaches to increase athlete's self-efficacy (Weinberg, Grove, & Jackson, 1992); coaching knowledge (Cote, Salmela, Trudel, Baria, & Russell, 1995); coaching techniques for children (Smith, Smoll, & Curtis, 1979); coaching behaviors (Ellis, 2000); effective goal-setting coaching behaviors, (Weinberg, Butt, & Knight, 2001); routines of expert coaches (Bloom, Durand-Bush, & Salmela, 1997); and the identification of the psychological skills training implemented by youth sport coaches (Gould, Demarjian, & Medberry, 1999).

Williams et al. (2003) stated that with few exceptions past research has not focused enough attention on the interaction between coaches and athletes, and how this interaction contributes to the athlete's overall performance. Williams, et al., (2003, p.16) states, "The coach is the most important person in determining the quality and success of an athlete's sport experience, yet surprisingly, little research exists that identifies optimal coaching behaviors and factors that influence the effectiveness of particular behaviors." One of these demonstrated behaviors to receive minimal research is explanatory style.

Explanatory style refers to the manner in which individuals interpret or explain their surroundings, experiences, or outlook towards the world around them (Gillham, Shatte', Reivich, & Seligman, 2002). The most common terms used to classify explanatory style are optimism and pessimism (Seligman, 1991). Dember, Helton, Matthews, and Warm (1999) define optimism as a disposition where the individual possesses positive outcome expectations and pessimism where the individual possesses more negative or less successful outcome expectations. Individuals identified as optimistic typically explain their experience in a positive manner and believe that good things will happen to them in the future. While individuals identified as pessimistic explain life experiences in a negative manner and believe that if something bad can happen, it will.

Research has analyzed the effects of optimism or pessimism in various environments such as clinical and health psychology (Lewis, Dember, Schefft, & Radenhausen, 1995). Within these areas, optimism has been linked to psychological/physical well-being (Kavussanu & McAuley, 1995), and happiness/ positive mental health (Taylor & Brown, 1988). Additional studies have analyzed the effects of optimism and pessimism on recovery from illness (Peterson, Seligman, & Valiant, 1988; Scheier, et al., 1989) finding more optimistic people experience better health and less feelings of distress. Czech, Burke, Joyner and Hardy (2002) found optimism and pessimism were correlated with stress and that differences existed in the coping strategies implemented by optimistic and pessimistic individuals.

However, a dearth of research investigating the effects of optimism or pessimism on sport performances had been conducted. …

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