Coaches on the Field Offer Children Lessons for Life

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), June 8, 2006 | Go to article overview

Coaches on the Field Offer Children Lessons for Life


Byline: BUILDING YOUTH ASSETS By Tim Patrick and Stephanie Diaz For The Register-Guard

`Great catch and throw, Katie!' How do you coach? Do you motivate with a positive and constructive focus to promote good sportsmanship at all times? Or do you focus on mistakes?

Youth athletics - whether it's an individual sport such as distance running or participation on a team - can be one of the most powerful character-shaping experiences for a child. Coaches and parents of athletes must take great care with lessons taught on the field, court and track. With the right approach, youngsters will grow in ability, self-esteem, emotional competence and character.

Research on coaching effectiveness has shown the importance of using positive and constructive feedback tactics. All aspects of communication behavior are important: team management, instruction, performance appraisal and social support.

Coaches who provide positively framed feedback to their athletes increase their players' intrinsic motivation, perceived competence, identification with their coach, motivation to continue participation, motivation to perform, and their self-concept. Interestingly, athletes that received positive feedback also report higher perceptions of their coach's competence and increased cognitive learning and satisfaction levels. Furthermore, positive coaches are an indication of successful players and teams. And it's no surprise that surveyed athletes prefer supportive, constructive feedback tactics from their coaches.

Unfortunately, not all experiences in sport are positive. In fact, competitive program participation can have many negative outcomes. Research indicates that competitive sports are associated with anger, increased levels of stress and anxiety, negative group dynamics/peer interaction and negative interactions with leaders. Coaches who provide negative feedback, or no feedback, to an athlete's efforts, whether successful or not, will cause that athlete to report lower levels of self-esteem, perceptions of competence and intrinsic motivation. Negative feedback also creates increased anxiety among athletes.

The impact of a coach's spoken or unspoken word can be far-reaching. Coaches not only occupy a central and influential position in the athletic setting; their influence can extend into other areas of a child's life. Coaches have the ability to be the most potent factor for enabling, empowering and encouraging the aspirations of a child, or they may serve to disable or potentially destroy them.

The use of positive, strength-based encouragement is a key element in the `40 Developmental Assets' model that is used by Eugene Recreation Services and hundreds of youth service agencies across the nation. …

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