Coaches’ Use of Need-Supportive and Need-Thwarting Behaviors Across the Developmental Continuum: A Qualitative Investigation in Figure Skating

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Diane Benish School of Sport Sciences, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, USA

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Tucker Readdy Barksdale AFB, Bering Global Solutions, Bossier City, LA, USA

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Johannes Raabe Barksdale AFB, Bering Global Solutions, Bossier City, LA, USA

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https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4307-6019
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There is extensive evidence illustrating the influence of coach behavior on athletes’ perceived basic psychological needs. However, much of that research has been conducted with athletes of similar developmental stages (i.e., children, adolescents, or adults). In sports such as figure skating, coach–athlete relationships often span several years and developmental stages; yet, researchers have not comprehensively investigated whether coaches consider athletes’ physical, social, self, cognitive, and emotional development in their interpersonal style. The purpose of this study was to qualitatively explore (a) what need-supportive and/or need-thwarting behaviors coaches use with athletes in different developmental age groups and (b) whether coaches’ use of need-supportive and need-thwarting behaviors was developmentally appropriate based on theoretical implications and empirical evidence grounded in both developmental and self-determination theory. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 13 coach–athlete dyads (13 coaches and 13 athletes) across four age groups: middle childhood (6–10 years), early adolescent (11–14 years), mid-adolescent (15–17 years), and early adulthood (18–25 years). Deductive reflexive thematic analysis of the 26 interviews revealed four themes highlighting (a) competence-supportive, (b) autonomy-supportive, (c) relatedness-supportive, and (d) need-thwarting behaviors. There were both consistencies and variations in coaches’ use of those behaviors across the four age groups.

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