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Based on Barter's competence motivation theory, this study examined the relationships between perceived coaching behaviors and (a) perceptions of ability and (b) motivation in competitive age-group swimmers. Male and female athletes (N=312) assessed their coaches' behaviors and their own ability and motivation using self-report measures. Multivariate analyses indicated that significant relationships were found for males, females, 12–14-year-olds, and 15-18-year-olds. Variables contributing most importantly to the relationships differed depending upon gender and age group. In general, coaches who were perceived as giving more frequent information following desirable performances, and more frequent encouragement combined with information following undesirable performances, were associated with athletes who perceived higher levels of success, competence, enjoyment, and preference for optimally challenging activities. These results indicate that young athletes' self-perceptions and motivation are significantly related to the quantity and quality of coaching feedback they receive for performance successes and errors.
This study was based on a master’s thesis conducted by S.J. Black under the direction of M.R. Weiss. M.R. Weiss is with the Department of Exercise and Movement Science at the University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403.