The present study is the first to examine elite athletes’ perceptions of S&C coaches within Australia. All athletes agreed that S&C training was vital to their athletic success, and that it was a shared experience between athlete and coach. General sport coaching literature recognises athletes perception of coach behaviours effect sporting outcomes (Boardley et al., 2008), and the present findings add to the context specific field of S&C. Athletes preferences for coaches character traits were found (positive outlook, athlete-centred mindset, attentive, adaptable, humorous and had a holistic view to health), as were perceptions of effective behaviours (active listening, providing direct feedback, individualisation, mutual goal setting, acting on athletes feedback/suggestions, being energetic and taking an interest in the athlete beyond sport). S&C coach-athlete relationships were reportedly fostered through prolonged engagement, shared purpose, positive and negative competitive experiences and face-to-face communication.
Whilst athlete satisfaction – and subsequent performance – may be linked to the coach’s ability to nurture the psychological needs of an athlete, coaches receive little formal training on how to create these environments (Smoll and Smith, 2001). Implementing such training into formal S&C education may be a long-term goal of research in this area. The findings from the current project are a step toward bridging that gap, and may assist S&C coaches to identify their strength and weaknesses within the higher order themes and implement a positive change in behaviour. Alongside their knowledge of applied scientific principles, an S&C coach who is able to modify their behaviours based on athletes’ needs, who understands how to create a motivational climate and who understands how their behaviours are perceived within that climate should consequently be more effective.
Steve “Coach” Foulds is an applied researcher and teacher at universities in Melbourne, Australia. He holds an MHPS, GHCE, BExSS (Hons) and a BSpSc(SS) and outside of academia worked with athletes from 20+ sports up to the international level.