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Coaches’ Provision of Structure for Players’ Competence Development: Perspectives of Professional Soccer Coaches and Players in Norway

Kevin Nicol and Justine B. Allen

Developing athletes’ actual and perceived competence is critical to enhancing performance and considered central to coaching. According to self-determination theory, the provision of competence-supportive structure is critical for psychological need satisfaction, optimal motivation, and well-being. Coaches use of structure such as providing clear expectations, instructional guidance, and feedback are well-established coaching practices; however, little is known about how, and to what extent, these types of structure support or thwart players’ perceptions of competence, particularly in high-performance contexts. Five head coaches working in the highest soccer league in Norway, and three players from each of the participating head coach’s squads (N = 15) participated in semistructured interviews. Through abductive analysis, we generated five themes: structure to promote competence; coaching for competence development; relatedness support as a foundation for effective structure; freedom within structure is useful; and shared ownership of, and with, structure. The findings provide evidence that professional soccer coaches and players in this study desire and deliver structure. It is provided in an autonomy-supportive way and built on a relatedness supportive foundation. This study contributes new insight into the importance of competence-supportive structure in coaching, which coaches and those supporting the development of coaches may find useful.

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Examining the Relationship Between Perceived Coaching Approaches for Life Skills Development and Life Skills Outcomes for High School Athletes

Scott Pierce, Liam O’Neil, Martin Camiré, Corliss Bean, and Scott Rathwell

Promoting life skills is a prominent focus of the mission of high school sports. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between perceived coaching approaches for life skills development and life skills outcomes for high school athletes. A total of 346 athletes participating in high school sports from the United States completed the athlete-reported version of the Coaching Life Skills in Sport Questionnaire (perceived implicit and explicit coaching approaches) and the Life Skills Scale for Sport. Findings from hierarchical and stepwise regression models revealed that perceived implicit and explicit levels of coaching were differentially associated with each of the eight life skills outcomes, with the most consistent and significant predictor of life skills outcomes being structuring and facilitating a positive climate. Findings are discussed in relation to the conceptual and practical utility of the implicit–explicit continuum of life skills development and transfer, the importance of coach and athlete awareness of coaching approaches for life skills development, and recognition of the strengths and limitations of a variety of ontological and epistemological approaches to studying life skills in sport.

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Erratum. Practice Design and Coaching to Support Learning in Elite Youth Soccer Players: Recommendations From International Coaches, Coach Educators, and Researchers

International Sport Coaching Journal

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Psychological Safety in Elite Swimming: Fearful Versus Fearless Coaching Environments

Amelia B. Maughan and Sophia Jowett

Psychological safety has become a popular concept within organisational settings and recently has become a topic of interest within sport. The purpose of this paper was to explore the notion of psychological safety and its impact on athletes’ performance, as well as examine the role coaches played in creating psychologically safe environments. Semistructured interviews were conducted with five former female elite swimmers—all of whom had represented their country in Olympic Games and/or World Championships at least once. Obtained qualitative data were transcribed and analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. The analysis generated three main themes: (a) fearful coaching environment,  (b) fearless coaching environment, and  (c) team environment. All participants experienced both the presence and lack of psychological safety during their athletic careers. According to the participants, their coaches played a fundamental role in creating coaching environments that either invoked or suppressed fear. Swimming teams formed by peers also contributed to experiencing psychological safety (or lack of). This study highlights that an investigation of the content and functions of psychological safety within specific sport contexts can garner insightful knowledge that can have important theoretical and practical ramifications for coaches and coaching in sport.

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From a Junior Coach to the Senior Ranks: Relational Transition From a Collaborative Autoethnographic Perspective

Jaakko A.O. Nikander and Tatiana V. Ryba

Coaches are key people influencing athletes’ careers and their development, especially when athletes approach the junior-to-senior transition. Junior-to-senior mobility also includes transitioning into a new psychosocial environment, including changes in cultural narratives and expectations for both an athlete and their coach. The purpose of this study was to contribute knowledge about a sports coach’s career development and transitions by theorizing a relational co-construction of transitions from the junior level to the senior level. The cultural transition model was used as a conceptual framework to explore the temporality of the first author’s (Jakob) relational transition. To coproduce Jakob’s story, a collaborative autoethnographic approach was utilized. A photo-elicitation method and cyclical interviewing were used to generate the data followed by a thematic narrative analysis. The results indicated that the dominant narratives of elite sport and relation to the athlete shaped Jakob’s subject position, from which he projected his future career as a coach during the transition. Central to relational transition is the understanding that the meaning (re)construction and negotiation of cultural practices occur through interactions with repositioning. The subjective repositioning of both the athlete and the coach can impact the dynamics and outcomes of the transition process.

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Elite Coaches’ Role in Athletes’ Retirement Transitions: A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis

Christopher J. Brown

The aim of the research was to understand how prominent sociocultural discourses influenced how coaches construct athletes’ transition out of sport and position themselves within the process of retirement. Interviews with eight male elite coaches were analysed using a Foucauldian Discourse Analysis. Coaches’ talk about athletes’ transitions out of sport was constructed within the dominant performance discourse in sport. This suggests years of adhering to disciplinary practices of elite sport left athletes underprepared for the next steps in their life. Even when constructing retirement in more positive terms, this was done in ways that drew on ideas of high performance and objective success. Coaches’ own positions within transitions were discussed by drawing on ideas from a patriarchal construction of the coach–athlete relationship. Here, coaches are positioned as father figures with responsibility for guiding athletes through their careers and transitions out of sport. However, coaches suggested that the policies, procedures, and processes within wider networks of power inside sport often restricted their capacity to support athletes during their transitions. Future research and practice are aimed at helping coaches to navigate the power dynamics of sporting structures and organisations.

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The Learner-Centered Curriculum: Is it the Missing Piece in Coaching Programs?

Lincoln Cruz Martins, Andrea J. Woodburn, and Michel Milistetd

Sports federations and national sports organizations worldwide are responsible for coaching education programs. While notable progress has been made to improve the quality of coaching in different countries over the past two decades, the literature still highlights limitations in coach education programs regarding the achievement of meaningful learning. A learner-centered perspective that promotes ongoing development is suggested instead of a traditional instructional approach to overcome this. However, shifting to adopting a learner-centered curriculum remains a challenge. Although evidence of the paradigm shift exists within the microcontext of teaching and learning, researchers highlight the difficulty of application of a learner-centered culture in coach education. This article examines the traditional curriculum’s conception and design, the need for restructuring, and the principles of learner-centered curricular design. Additionally, it provides practical implications to assist sports organizations in creating a learner-centered curriculum.

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Volume 11 (2024): Issue 2 (May 2024)

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Becoming More Authentic as an Elite Coach: The Case Study of Erkka Westerlund

Clifford J. Mallett, Vladislav A. Bespomoshchnov, Markus Arvaja, Steven Rynne, and Jukka Tiikkaja

In this empirical case study, we examine one of Finland’s most successful and respected coaches, Erkka Westerlund. Specifically, we adopted a career-focussed approach that traces his growth as an ice hockey coach through an in-depth understanding of his journey, including his early foray into coaching at 12 years of age, his eventual dismissal as a coach at 42 years of age, his hiatus from coaching, and then his return to national and international honours. The case is comprised of multiple data sources such as semistructured interviews and a raft of secondary sources such as media publications about the participant, his autobiography, and video recordings of him speaking at various conferences and events. Data were analysed through indwelling and reflexive thematic analysis. The pivotal turning point in Erkka Westerlund’s coaching journey was a 6-year sabbatical from coaching (1991–1997). This sabbatical was transformative for him as a person and coach. Specifically, this transformation clarified and aligned his coaching and personal identities, who he was as a person (core values), and the subsequent transformation of his coaching practices that led to national and international success.