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When athletes “uncritically accept” the coaching expectations associated with their sport, negative health consequences (e.g., disordered eating behaviors, clinical eating disorders) may result. The coach’s influence on disordered eating behaviors may be a product of factors related to overconformity to the sport ethic, issues with coach communication regarding recommendations for weight management, and the strength of the coach-athlete relationship. The present study investigated perceived weight-related coach pressure, the coach-athlete relationship, and disordered eating behaviors by surveying 248 female varsity athletes and dancers from four universities. Mediational analysis revealed that the coach-athlete relationship was a partial mediating variable between perceived coach pressures and disordered eating behaviors. Subsequently, strong relationships between coaches and their athletes may reduce the negative impact of perceived weight-related coach pressure on the development or exacerbation of disordered eating behaviors in female collegiate athletes.
Ashley Coker-Cranney is with the Department of Sport and Exercise Psychology at West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV. Justine J. Reel is with the College of Health and Human Resources at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC.