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A strong body of research supports the meaningful role of coaches in helping youth athletes develop personally and emotionally through the learning of life skills. However, limited exploration of this topic has taken place in non-Western regions where youth face very different developmental challenges. To explore this topic further, nine coaches in Swaziland participated in semi-structured interviews. Inductive thematic analysis revealed that although most coaches found it difficult to articulate a coaching philosophy, they valued developing both the athlete and the person. Coaches focused on teaching a range of life skills and values that were relevant to overcoming the most salient local youth challenges. The main strategies coaches employed to develop life skills were discussion, providing opportunities to build skills, and modelling appropriate behaviours through caring coach-athlete relationships. Results of this study provide further support for the role of coaches as facilitators of life skills learning in the Southern African context. Additional education is needed to help youth coaches craft coaching philosophies that are grounded in life skills outcomes. Future efforts should also focus on developing cost-effective programming to teach coaches how to build caring coach-athlete relationships and intentionally facilitate life skills learning in young people.
Zenzi Huysmans, Damien Clement, Robert Hilliard, and Adam Hansell are with the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV.