Mastery, Autonomy and Transformational Approaches to Coaching: Common Features and Applications

in International Sport Coaching Journal
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  • 1 University of Wollongong
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The purpose of this paper is to provide a concise resource for coaches, coach educators, and coaching scientists by reviewing three common approaches to coaching: the mastery approach to coaching; autonomy-supportive coaching; and the transformational leadership approach to coaching. The theoretical foundations, purpose, evidence base, specifed behaviours, and translation into coaching and coach education of each approach are reviewed. Despite diverse theoretical foundations and variations in purpose, there is some overlap in the coaching behaviours prescribed by each approach. However, there is limited empirical evidence to support the use of the three approaches in coach education and this is detrimental to effective and evidence-based coach education. Efforts to integrate theoretical foundations are promising, and a comprehensive prescription of coaching behaviours based on an integration of the three approaches is possible. This approach can potentially lead to cumulative effects on positive athlete outcomes. Future research should elucidate the common and unique contributions of these approaches to athletes’ outcomes, and whether they differ by age, sex, type of sport, or competition level.

Stewart Vella is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Early Start Research Institute at the University of Wollongong. He has published numerous articles on the relationship between coaching behaviours and athlete outcomes, and has held coaching appointments for over a decade across participation and competition contexts for both adolescents and adults. He has also been a coach educator across various participation and competitive youth sports.

Dana Perlman is a senior lecturer in the School of Social Science at the University of Wollongong in Australia. He is the director of the Pedagogical Laboratory for Physical Education and Sport and has a research focus in the area of motivation within a variety of activity related settings.

Address author correspondence to Stewart Vella at

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