This paper is based on a Senior Scholar presentation delivered at the 2020 annual meeting of the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity. The paper begins with a summary of the research work completed by the author and coinvestigators in regard to the influences that significant others (parents, peers, and coaches) exert on the psychosocial well-being of individuals in sport and physical activity. In each of these three areas, illustrative research studies are summarized in a predominantly chronological order with a commentary at the end of each section that identifies unanswered questions and suggests future research directions. In the second section, four particular lessons learned by the author over the course of a scholarly career are identified and explained.
Thelma S. Horn
Developmentally based theories in the social-psychology field emphasize the important role that significant adults play in relation to children’s psychosocial health and well-being. In particular, these theories suggest that the responses adults provide to children in reaction to their performance attempts may affect the children’s own perceptions and evaluations of their competencies, as well as their overall self-worth. In the youth sport setting, coaches may be the main providers of performance-related feedback. The purpose of this paper was to use current research and theory to identify and discuss 4 dimensions of coaches’ feedback that are relevant to the growth and development of young athletes: content, delivery, degree of growth orientation, and extent of stereotyping. The paper ends with recommendations for future research on the topic, with emphasis on examining developmental transitions and why coaches give feedback in particular ways.
Thelma S. Horn
Perceptions of physical competence and intrinsic joy have been identified as 2 of the primary correlates and even predictors of physical activity and sedentary behavior for individuals of all ages. Developmental theories of competence motivation suggest that such self-perceptions may have their origins in the early childhood years and are formed on the basis of a whole range of social and environmental factors. However, it is likely that the primary influence during this early time period may be the attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors of significant adults with whom the child interacts. This paper identifies and discusses 3 ways in which important adults can exert an influence on young children’s perceptions of competence and intrinsic joy and, correspondingly, on their levels of physical activity and sedentary behavior. The paper ends with some recommendations for future research.
Thelma S. Horn
One of the primary dilemmas surrounding the topic of early sport specialization is whether the practice develops talent or creates long-term psychological problems. The purpose of this paper is to discuss this issue using psychosocial and developmental frameworks. This review begins with an overview of several developmentallybased constructs (e.g., biological maturation, perceived competence, body image, self-identity, motivational orientation) that are relevant to the sport domain. These developmental progressions are then used to address some potential implications for children who begin intensive training and competition at an early age. Next, some socioenvironmental factors are explored, with specific links made to the early sport specialization process. Finally, the paper ends with four recommendations for future research on the topic.
Thelma S. Horn and Maureen R. Weiss
This study examined developmental differences in children’s judgments of their physical competence. Two questionnaires were administered to 134 children, ranging in age from 8 to 13 years, to measure their perceptions of competence and the criteria they use to evaluate that competence. In addition, children’s actual physical competence was assessed through teacher evaluation. Univariate and multivariate analyses of the data revealed three major findings. First, the accuracy with which children judge their competence does increase with age. Second, the criteria children use to assess their competence is also age-dependent, with younger children showing greater preference for adult feedback and older children showing greater preference for peer comparison. Third, the criteria children use in competency judgments was found to be directly related to the accuracy of such judgments. The results of this study demonstrated the existence of developmental patterns with respect to children’s judgments of their physical competence.
Anthony J. Amorose and Thelma S. Horn
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships among athletes’ intrinsic motivation (IM), gender, scholarship status, perceptions of the number of their teammates receiving scholarships, and perceptions of their coaches’ behavior. Male and female college athletes (N = 386) from a variety of Division I sports completed a series of paper-and-pencil questionnaires. Multivariate analyses revealed that (a) scholarship athletes reported higher levels of IM than did nonscholarship athletes, (b) male athletes reported higher IM than did female athletes, and (c) perceived coaching behaviors were related to athletes’ IM. Specifically, athletes with higher IM perceived their coaches to exhibit a leadership style that emphasized training and instruction and was high in democratic behavior and low in autocratic behavior. In addition, athletes with higher levels of IM perceived that their coaches provided high frequencies of positive and informationally based feedback and low frequencies of punishment-oriented and ignoring behaviors. Results are discussed in terms of cognitive evaluation theory.
Eric M. Martin and Thelma S. Horn
This study examined whether adolescent athletes’ levels of sport burnout would be predicted by their level and type of both passion and athletic identity. Female high-school-aged athletes (N = 186) completed a series of questionnaires to measure study variables. The results of three hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed that athletes’ levels of harmonious passion served as negative predictors for all three dimensions of burnout, while obsessive passion positively predicted scores only on the exhaustion subscale. In addition, the subdimensions of athletic identity contributed a unique amount to the prediction of some aspects of burnout. These results indicate that both passion and athletic identity are important correlates or predictors of burnout levels, with harmonious passion offering the most protective effects.
Maureen R. Weiss, Vicki Ebbeck, and Thelma S. Horn
This study explored relationships among children’s age, individual differences, and sources of physical competence information. Children (N = 183) completed measures of competitive trait anxiety (CTA), perceived physical competence (PC), general self-esteem (SE), and sources of competence information in the sport domain. A cluster analysis revealed four distinct profiles of children. In Cluster 1, children were younger, scored relatively higher in CTA and lower in PC, and indicated strongest preference for pregame anxiety as a source of information. Cluster 2 was characterized by children with lower PC and SE scores who placed lower importance on parental evaluation and pre game anxiety sources. In Cluster 3, children scored higher on PC and SE, moderately lower on CTA, and preferred self-referenced and parental evaluation criteria. In Cluster 4, children were older, higher in CTA, lower in PC and SE, and indicated strongest preference for social comparison/evaluation criteria. The criteria children use to evaluate their physical competence are strongly associated with age and psychological characteristics.
Thelma S. Horn, Patrick Bloom, Katie M. Berglund, and Stacie Packard
This study was based on Chelladurai’s (1978, 2001, 2007) Multidimensional Model of Leadership and was designed to determine whether athletes’ preferred coaching behavior would vary as a function of their psychological characteristics. Study participants (N = 195 collegiate athletes) completed questionnaires to assess their sport anxiety (SAS), motivational orientation (SMS), as well as their preferred coaching styles (LSS) and feedback patterns (CFQ). Canonical correlation procedures revealed that athletes who were high in self-determined forms of motivation and in somatic trait anxiety preferred coaches who exhibited a democratic leadership style and who provided high amounts of training, social support, and positive and informational feedback while athletes who were high in amotivation indicated a preference for coaches who exhibited an autocratic style and who provided high amounts of punishment-oriented feedback. In addition, high cognitive sport anxiety was linked to greater preference for high frequencies of positive and informational feedback and lower preference for punishment-oriented feedback.