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Coach Burnout: A Scoping Review

Peter Olusoga, Marte Bentzen, and Goran Kentta

Coaches’ experiences of burnout and stress have been popular topics for research within sport psychology, particularly over the last decade. The purpose of this scoping review was to provide an up-to-date and critical review of the coaching burnout literature, consolidate research findings, assess current methodological and conceptual trends, and identify avenues for research in this area. Five electronic databases were used to conduct the literature search up to September 30th, 2017 (PsycINFO, Web of Science, PubMed, SPORTDiscus, ORIA, Google Scholar). Initially, 65 papers, reviews, and books chapter were identified, but through an iterative process, 45 peer-reviewed, published articles satisfied the inclusion criteria, and the data from these studies was charted. Findings indicated that coach burnout literature is explored from a number of different theoretical perspectives, and shortcomings were identified regarding constructs and concepts used, and research quality. Based on consolidated findings, key challenges are identified, and recommendations for future research are suggested. Recommendations include the use of designs that fully capture the enduring nature of the burnout experience, further consideration being given to the measurement of coach burnout, and further research exploring the clinical treatment and prevention of burnout in coaching contexts.

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A Comparison of High-Performance Football Coaches Experiencing High- Versus Low-Burnout Symptoms Across a Season of Play: Quality of Motivation and Recovery Matters

Marte Bentzen, Nicolas Lemyre, and Göran Kenttä

The purpose of the current study was to provide insights in how and why four head coaches in elite football experienced being either high or low in burnout symptoms (BS) during a competitive season. A longitudinal sequential quantitative-qualitative mixed method approach was used to enhance the understanding of coaches’ experiences. First, data were collected using online questionnaires at the start and at the end of the competitive season with all coaches working at the Norwegian Elite Football League level. Second, in-depth interviews were conducted with four head coaches who were purposefully selected based on having the two highest and the two lowest burnout scores across the season compared with the overall sample. A quantitative approach was used to explore whether these four coaches differed when compared with the overall population on the associated variables: performance, budget, quality of motivation, perceived workload, work-home-interference (WHI), and recovery. A qualitative approach helped gain more insight in the experiences these four coaches had with possible onset variables. Analyses comparing the two sets of coaches, indicated no difference related to performance, budget and workload. However, the motivational profile, WHI, and ability to meet recovery demands were variables that contributed to explain differences in coaches’ BS.

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Challenges Experienced by Women High-Performance Coaches: Sustainability in the Profession

Göran Kenttä, Marte Bentzen, Kristen Dieffenbach, and Peter Olusoga

High-performance (HP) coaching is a demanding profession. The proportion of woman HP coaches is reported to be in the range of 8.4–20%. Mental health concerns in elite sports have recently gained attention, but mainly focusing on athletes. Beyond coach burnout, limited attention has been given to coaches’ mental health. A recent coach burnout review included only one paper that focused exclusively on women. It has been argued that women HP coaches face greater challenges in a male-dominated coaching culture. The purpose of this study was to explore challenges experienced by women HP coaches and their perceived associations with sustainability and mental health. Thirty-seven female HP coaches participated by answering a semistructured, open-ended questionnaire. All responses were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis, which resulted in two general dimensions: challenges of working as women HP coaches and sustainability and well-being as women HP coaches. Overall, results indicate that challenges reported might be common not only for all HP coaches, but also highlight gender-specific elements. Consequently, coach retention and sustainability would benefit from more attention on well-being and mental health among HP coaches.

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What Do We Know About Research on Parasport Coaches? A Scoping Review

Marte Bentzen, Danielle Alexander, Gordon A. Bloom, and Göran Kenttä

The purpose of this scoping review was to provide a broad overview of the literature pertaining to parasport coaches, including information regarding the size and scope of research, the populations and perspectives obtained, and the type of methods used to conduct the research. Data were collected and analyzed using a six-stage framework for conducting scoping reviews. The results revealed that the majority of articles were based on interviews, and an overwhelming majority of the participants were men coaching at the high-performance level in North America. Three of the most frequent topics were becoming a parasport coach, being a parasport coach, and having general parasport coaching knowledge. Articles ranged in date from 1991 to 2018, with 70% of empirical articles published from 2014 onward, indicating an emerging interest in this field of research. This review has the potential to advance the science and practice of parasport coaching at all levels.

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What Is Known About Mindfulness and Self-Compassion Among Sport Coaches? A Scoping Review

Karin Hägglund, Göran Kenttä, Christopher R.D. Wagstaff, and Marte Bentzen

Mindfulness and self-compassion are two constructs positively related to well-being and mental health outside sport. Within sport, these constructs are emerging in research, yet the extant work has primarily been conducted with athlete samples. The aim of this scoping review was to provide a broad synthesis of the literature on mindfulness and self-compassion among coaches. Fourteen articles were included, 11 of them published 2019–2022. Of the 14 publications, the concepts studied were mindfulness (n = 10), self-compassion (n = 2), and a combination of both (n = 2). The samples were predominantly male coaches (68.7%), and most of the studies targeted coaches at the elite or competitive level. The most common area studied was developing and testing interventions and programs, followed by depicting relationships of mindfulness or self-compassion with desirable outcomes. This review significantly extends the current knowledge by illuminating critical issues in this rapidly moving area of research; the need for conceptual and contextual clarity of mindfulness and self-compassion; methodological considerations, such as measures that may allow reliable comparison across studies; and the need to further explore the potential benefits of mindfulness and self-compassion for coaches for sustainability and performance.

Open access

Position Paper: Rationale for a Focused Attention on Mental Health of High-Performance Sports Coaches

Göran Kenttä, Kristen Dieffenbach, Marte Bentzen, Melissa Thompson, Jean Côté, Cliff Mallett, and Peter Olusoga

High-performance (HP) coaching has been described as “a complex, social, and dynamic activity that is not easily represented as a set of tangible and predictable processes.” Coaches are not only responsible for extensive planning, monitoring, and leadership in a dynamic and complex environment but also have responsibility for supporting athlete development and safeguarding their athletes’ overall health, well-being, and psychological and physiological safety. However, HP coaching is often considered an unsustainable profession, due to the levels of stress and subsequent mental health challenges that are frequently part of the role. Therefore, this position paper will focus on the concerns, challenges, and resources needed to prevent and manage mental ill-being and support the mental well-being of sport coaching professionals in HP sport, and provide recommendations for individuals, systems, and organizations that work with HP sport coaches.