College Coaches' Views about the Development of Successful Athletes: A Descriptive Exploratory Investigation

By Giacobbi, Peter R., Jr.; Whitney, Joe et al. | Journal of Sport Behavior, June 2002 | Go to article overview

College Coaches' Views about the Development of Successful Athletes: A Descriptive Exploratory Investigation


Giacobbi, Peter R., Jr., Whitney, Joe, Roper, Emily, Butryn, Ted, Journal of Sport Behavior


Coaching behaviors have received considerable attention in the sport psychology literature. Researchers have investigated compatibility between the coach and athlete (Home & Carron, 1985; Bennett & Carron, 1977), team climate (Fisher, Mancini, Hirsch, Proulx, & Straurowsky, 1982), strategies used by coaches to increase the self-efficacy of athletes (Gould, Hodge, Peterson, & Giannini, 1989; Weinberg, Grove, & Jackson, 1992), leadership styles and decision making (Chelladurai & Arnott, 1985; Chelladurai, 1980; Chelladurai, & Saleh, 1978; Gordon, 1988), and more recently, the structure of coaching knowledge (Cote, Salmela, Trudel, Baria, & Russell, 1995), the pre and post competition routines of expert coaches (Bloom, Durand-Bush, & Salmela, 1997), and the mental skills training techniques used by junior tennis coaches (Gould, Damarjian, & Medbery, 1999).

Sport psychology researchers have also utilized systematic observational techniques to examine coaching behaviors at various levels of competition (Horn, 1985; Lacy & Darst, 1985; Langsdorf, 1979; Smith, Smoll, & Hunt, 1977; Smoll, Smith, Curtis, & Hunt, 1978; Smith, Zane, Smoll, & Coppel, 1983; Tharp & Gallimore, 1976). In one widely cited study, Tharp and Gallimore (1976) observed hail of fame basketball coach John Wooden during 15 practice sessions and found that half (50.3%) of Wooden's behaviors were instructional in nature. Wooden rarely used positive statements without some form of instruction and his negative statements were consistently followed by instruction as well. Tharp and Gallimore (1976) also found that Wooden used cue words such as "hustle" or "drive" as a form of reinforcement and to encourage intensity in his players. Similar results concerning feedback and instruction patterns were found by Lacy and Darst (1985) with successful high school football coaches, Lacy and Goldston (1990) with h igh school basketball coaches and Bloom, Crumpton, and Anderson (1999) who observed basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian over an entire season.

Several investigators have attempted to obtain coaches' insights about the psychological characteristics important for athletic success and skill improvement. For instance, a recent survey by Kuchenbecker (1999) assessed coaches' views on the attributes necessary for sport success. Six-hundred and fifty eight coaches from a variety of competitive levels (e.g., youth, high school, college, etc.) were provided a list of several dozen physical and psychological attributes they felt were most important for sport success. The coaches indicated that loving to play the game, having a positive attitude, and being coachable were the most important determinants of athletic success (Kuchenbecker, 1999). In addition, some investigators have attempted to analyze various aspects of coaching strategies, philosophies, profiles of great coaches, and the use of sport psychologists (Kimiecik & Gould, 1987; Mechikoff & Kozar, 1983; Walton, 1992; Wrisberg, 1990). For instance, Kimiecik & Gould (1987) reported James "Doc" Counsilm an's recommendations concerning the sport psychologist's role and the dissemination of information to athletes and recommended that sport psychologists consider coaches' opinions in order to develop an understanding of the psychological principles utilized by successful coaches (Kimiecik & Gould, 1987). Similarly, Wrisberg (1990) interviewed Pat Head-Summitt in order to obtain her views on coaching style, conducting practice, interacting with athletes, and preparing athletes for competition.

Cote, Salmela, Trudel, Baria, & Russell (1995) conducted an open-ended interview study that closely examined the coaching process of elite gymnastics coaches. In this study, the researchers interviewed 17 Canadian expert high-performance gymnastics coaches in an effort to develop a "grounded heuristic model" of how coaches' knowledge is used to solve problems and develop athletic potential. …

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