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Investigating the Interpersonal Dynamics Between Coaches and Athletes Based on Fundamental Principles of Attachment

Louise Davis and Sophia Jowett

Grounded in Bowlby’s (1969/1982, 1988) attachment theory, this study aimed to explore (a) the pervasiveness of the three main functions of attachment within the context of the coach-athlete relationship, (b) the associations of athletes’ attachment styles with such important variables as satisfaction with the relationship and satisfaction with the sport, and (c) the process by which athletes’ attachment styles and satisfaction with sport are associated. Data were collected through self-report measures of attachment functions and styles as well as relationship satisfaction and sport satisfaction from 309 student athletes (males = 150, females = 159) whose age ranged from 18 to 28 years (Mage = 19.9, SD = 1.58 years). Athletes’ mean scores indicated that the coach was viewed as an attachment figure fulfilling all three functions of secure base, safe haven, and proximity maintenance. Bivariate correlations indicated that athletes’ avoidant and anxious styles of attachment with the coach were negatively correlated with both relationship satisfaction and sport satisfaction. Mediational regression analysis revealed that athletes’ satisfaction with the coach-athlete relationship may be a process that links athletes’ attachment styles with levels of satisfaction with sport. The findings from this study highlight the potential theoretical and practical utility of attachment theory in studying relationships within the sport context.

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Attachment Styles Within the Coach-Athlete Dyad: Preliminary Investigation and Assessment Development

Louise Davis and Sophia Jowett

The present preliminary study aimed to develop and examine the psychometric properties of a new sport-specific self-report instrument designed to assess athletes’ and coaches’ attachment styles. The development and initial validation comprised three main phases. In Phase 1, a pool of items was generated based on pre-existing self-report attachment instruments, modified to reflect a coach and an athlete’s style of attachment. In Phase 2, the content validity of the items was assessed by a panel of experts. A final scale was developed and administered to 405 coaches and 298 athletes (N = 703 participants). In Phase 3, confirmatory factor analysis of the obtained data was conducted to determine the final items of the Coach-Athlete Attachment Scale (CAAS). Confirmatory factor analysis revealed acceptable goodness of ft indexes for a 3-first order factor model as well as a 2-first order factor model for both the athlete and the coach data, respectively. A secure attachment style positively predicted relationship satisfaction, while an insecure attachment style was a negative predictor of relationship satisfaction. The CAAS revealed initial psychometric properties of content, factorial, and predictive validity, as well as reliability.

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Examining Perceptions of Teammates’ Burnout and Training Hours in Athlete Burnout

Ralph Appleby, Paul Davis, Louise Davis, and Henrik Gustafsson

Perceptions of teammates and training load have been shown to influence athletes’ physical and psychological health; however, limited research has investigated these factors in relation to burnout. Athletes (N = 140) from a variety of competitive team sports, ranging in level from regional to professional, completed questionnaires measuring individual burnout, perceptions of teammates’ burnout, and training hours per week on two occasions separated by three months. After controlling for burnout at time one, training hours were associated with athletes’ burnout and perceptions of teammates’ burnout at time two. Multilevel modeling indicated actual team burnout (i.e., the average burnout score of the individual athletes in a team) and perceived team burnout were associated with individual’s own burnout. The findings highlight that burnout is dynamic and relates to physiological stressors associated with training and psychological perceptions of teammates’ burnout. Future research directions exploring potential social influences on athlete burnout are presented.

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The Importance of Positive Relationships for Coaches’ Effectiveness and Well-Being

Louise Davis, Sophia Jowett, and Daniel Sörman

The present study investigated the role of quality coach–athlete relationships and coaching efficacy on coaches’ well-being and performance. We examined whether coaches’ direct and meta-perspectives of the coach–athlete relationship quality predicted dimensions of coaches’ efficacy, hedemonic and eudaimonic well-being, and coach-related performance. A total of 233 male and female Swedish coaches from various team and individual sports completed the Coach–Athlete Relationship Questionnaire, the Coaching Efficacy Scale, Positive and Negative Affect Scale, Subjective Vitality Scale, and a one-single item developed to measure perceived coach performance. Structural equation modelling analyses revealed that quality coach–athlete relationships as defined by closeness, commitment, and complementarity associated with all four dimensions of coach efficacy. While coach–athlete relationship quality was linked with coaches’ positive affect, vitality, and satisfaction with coaching performance, only the motivational dimension of coach efficacy was associated with indicators of coach well-being and coach-related performance. Further analyses showed that the motivational dimension of coach efficacy explained the link between coach–athlete relationship quality, well-being, and coach-related performance. Overall, the findings extended the coach efficacy model by investigating the coach–athlete relationship as a predictor and coach well-being as an outcome. Our findings emphasize the importance of relationships for coaches’ efficacy and well-being.

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Exploring “Sledging” and Interpersonal Emotion-Regulation Strategies in Professional Cricket

Paul A. Davis, Louise Davis, Samuel Wills, Ralph Appleby, and Arne Nieuwenhuys

The present study examines cricketers’ perceptions of emotional interactions between competitors. Semistructured interviews with 12 male professional cricketers explored experiences (i.e., emotions, cognitions, behaviors) relating to incidents during competition where they or an opponent attempted to evoke an emotional reaction (e.g., sledging). Cricketers described their use of sledging as aggressive actions and verbal interactions with the aim of disrupting concentration and altering the emotional states of opponents. They described experiencing a variety of emotions (e.g., anxiety, anger) in response to opponents’ attempts at interpersonal emotion regulation; linguistic analyses indicated that both positive than negative emotions were experienced. A range of strategies in response to competitors’ deliberate attempts at interpersonal emotion regulation were outlined. The present study extends previous research investigating interpersonal emotion regulation within teams by indicating that professional cricketers are aware of the impact of cognitions and emotions on performance and attempt to negatively influence these factors in competitors.

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Bridging Boundaries Between Life and Sport: Exploring Sports Coaches’ Micro Role Transitions

Paul A. Davis, Faye F. Didymus, Scott Barrass, and Louise Davis

Coach education notes the importance of effective transitions between life and sport, yet research evidence supporting coaches to make such transitions is lacking. The present study used a mixed-methods design to explore 41 highly qualified coaches’ perceptions of how responsibilities in life beyond sport spill over to coaching practice. Additionally, we examined coaches’ transitions between roles in life and sport and the implications for their health and coaching practice. Coaches completed questionnaires measuring perceived stress and emotion regulation, and a writing task about how roles outside of sport impacted their coaching practice. Linguistic analyses using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count software revealed that coaches with lower levels of perceived stress expressed more positive emotions when writing about the influence of life commitments on their coaching practice. The findings also suggest that coaches’ perceptions of the coaching process can be both positively and negatively influenced by life commitments spilling over into sport. Further, coaches reported challenges with the process of undertaking micro role transitions and highlighted implications for their mental health, coaching effectiveness, and relationships in both sport and life. Integrating organizational and sport psychology research, we offer guidance to optimize coaches’ transitions between roles to promote health and optimal performance.

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An Attachment Theory Perspective in the Examination of Relational Processes Associated With Coach-Athlete Dyads

Louise Davis, Sophia Jowett, and Marc-André K. Lafrenière

The aim of the current study was to examine actor and partner effects of (a) athletes’ and coaches’ attachment styles (avoidant and anxious) on the quality of the coach-athlete relationship, and (b) athletes’ and coaches’ quality of the coach-athlete relationship on relationship satisfaction employing the actor-partner interdependence model (Kenny, Kashy, & Cook, 2006). Coaches (N = 107) and athletes (N = 107) completed a questionnaire related to attachment styles, relationship quality, and relationship satisfaction. Structural equation model analyses revealed (a) actor effects for coaches’ and athletes’ avoidant attachment styles on their own perception of relationship quality and coaches’ and athletes’ perception of relationship quality on their own perception of relationship satisfaction, and (b) partner effects for athletes’ avoidant attachment style on coaches’ perceptions of relationship quality and for coaches’ perceptions of relationship quality on athletes’ perceptions of relationship satisfaction. The findings highlight that attachments styles can help us understand the processes involved in the formation and maintenance of quality relational bonds between coaches and athletes.

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Urine Specific Gravity as a Practical Marker for Identifying Suboptimal Fluid Intake of Runners ∼12-hr Postexercise

Eric Kyle O’Neal, Samantha Louise Johnson, Brett Alan Davis, Veronika Pribyslavska, and Mary Caitlin Stevenson-Wilcoxson

The legitimacy of urine specific gravity (USG) as a stand-alone measure to detect hydration status has recently been challenged. As an alternative to hydration status, the purpose of this study was to determine the diagnostic capability of using the traditional USG marker of >1.020 to detect insufficient recovery fluid consumption with consideration for moderate versus high sweat losses (2.00–2.99 or >3% body mass, respectively). Adequate recovery fluid intake was operationally defined as ≥100% beverage fluid intake plus food water from one or two meals and a snack. Runners (n = 59) provided 132 samples from five previous investigations in which USG was assessed 10–14 hr after 60–90 min runs in temperate-to-hot environments. Samples were collected after a meal (n = 58) and after waking (n = 74). When sweat losses exceeded 3% body mass (n = 60), the relationship between fluid replacement percentage and USG increased from r = −.55 to −.70. Correct diagnostic decision improved from 66.6 to 83.3%, and receiver operating characteristic area under the curve increased the diagnostic accuracy score from 0.76 to approaching excellent (0.86). Artifacts of significant prerun hyperhydration (eight of 15 samples has USG <1.005) may explain false positive diagnoses, while almost all (84%) cases of false positives were found when sweat losses were <3.0% of body mass. Evidence from this study suggests that euhydrated runners experiencing significant sweat losses who fail to reach adequate recovery fluid intake levels can be identified by USG irrespective of acute meal and fluid intake ∼12-hr postrun.