Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

A Case Study of a Successful Men's NCAA Division I Cross Country Coach: Essential Elements and Components of a Humanistic Approach

Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

A Case Study of a Successful Men's NCAA Division I Cross Country Coach: Essential Elements and Components of a Humanistic Approach

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

A coaching philosophy is a set of values or basic principles that guide a coach's behavior in practical coaching situations, and human relationships in general (Hogg, 1995). A coaching philosophy is not the offensive or defensive strategies which the coach ascribes to during competition. How athletes are treated, a coach's leadership style, and the intricacies of the coach-athlete relationship more closely resemble a coaching philosophy. Principles, values, and beliefs of the coach underpin a coaching philosophy (Hogg, 1995). Having a welldeveloped coaching philosophy provides program direction, guides in decision-making, reduces chances of surrendering to external pressures, and increases the likelihood of success (Martens, 2012). Coaching philosophies are formed over many years and in many different ways, starting with personal experiences as an athlete (Wootten, 2003). Investigating one's values framework will help solidify a coaching philosophy that will purposefully direct consistent coaching practice and behavior (Lyle, 2002). Coaching philosophies range from autocratic or authoritarian to democratic or humanistic. All coaches fit somewhere on the continuum between authoritarian and democratic (Mundra, 1980). This study explored men's National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I cross country distance running coaching through the lens of the humanistic coaching philosophy.

The basis of the humanistic philosophy is surrounded by Rogers' (1980) theory that all individuals have an innate self-actualizing tendency to develop their own physical and mental capacities in ways that serve to maintain or enhance themselves to increase autonomy and lessen control of external forces. In essence, the humanistic model forces a reassessment of how humans examine themselves and encourages success measured only against one's own potential. Because the individual is celebrated for what he or she is, it is likely that this will lead to intrinsic motivation and a more satisfied outlook of themselves and the world around them (Cross, 1991). The humanistic approach to coaching is a person-centered philosophy where the focus is process-oriented and the athlete is empowered to be a more self-actualized individual through autonomy-supportive means. Lyle (1999) describes the humanistic coaching philosophy as a collaborative and non-manipulative process between athlete and coach, taking into account individual differences and abilities, with the hopes of eventually developing an emancipated, self-regulated, adaptable, and self-confident athlete. A close interpersonal relationship between athlete and coach is stressed in a humanistic philosophy where decisions are shared. The coaching process is a collaborative process, particularly as the athlete gains experience (Hogg, 1995). Such an approach lessens dependence on the coach while strengthening a facilitating/reinforcing role versus a directive one (Lyle, 1999).

At the very heart of humanistic coaching is the theme of a strong interpersonal relationship between the athlete and coach. This coach/athlete relationship is characterized by love, respect, and trust in the humanistic model. Whitson (1980) asserted that intrinsic motivation is nurtured when athletes recognize the care and concern which is manifested through close individualized attention by the coach. This close personal relationship may allow athletes to be themselves and could allow them to take risks free from fear that failure will lead to marginalization or rejection. This athlete self-responsibility could nurture a -candid" culture rather than a -blame" culture, where the athlete may not only accept acclaim for success, but also admit responsibility for poor performance (Cross, 1991). As the athlete is nurtured to not be afraid to admit mistakes, it is hoped all involved (principally the athlete) would learn from them. While there is currently no empirical evidence to suggest that coaching with a humanistic philosophy improves athlete performance, evidence exists indicating athletes may prefer being coached within a humanistic paradigm (Cuka & Zhurda, 2006; Parker, Czech, Burdette, et al. …

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