Elite Athlete Perceptions of Strength & Conditioning Coaches – Part seventeen – Discussion: Implications, strengths, limitations and future research

The implications of this study underline the importance of incorporating transferable skills into S&C coach education. Evidence suggest that athletes will seek advice and support from someone they feel close to (Maniar et al., 2001), making the depth of the coach-athlete relationship integral. Therefore, it is proposed that S&C coach education should not just focus on the prescribable aspects (i.e. technical skills, recovery strategies) but incorporate transferable skills and guidelines to develop coach-athlete relationships. Recent research confirmed interpersonal skills should be the focus of coach professional development, which would enhance the coach-athlete relationship and in turn, elicit positive athletic outcomes (Vella et al., 2013).

            There were many strengths of the present study. Previous qualitative research in social sciences identified an expected sample size of six  (Boddy, 2016) while 12 participated in this study allowing data saturation to be met. Further they were evenly split between sexes, from both team (n=7) and individual sports (n=5), meaning there was not a dominant perspective from one gender, nor from those who compete in groups or individually. Participants were also from a broad range of sports (n=9) providing vast and rich experiences. Further, the current project was successful in recruiting athletes competing at an elite level, and therefore the findings may function as a model of what coaches and athletes must undertake to form effective relationships and elicit subsequent performance.

            The present study also has several limitations project which warrant discussion. The first was the source of the participants, with four (33%) athletes currently embedded within the same organisation, and an additional two previously being members. This likely resulted in some crossover of coaches meaning some of the findings/themes could have potentially been over-reported. Three other participants (25%) came from the same sport, which may have caused less diverse responses due to specific characteristics required by athletes to compete in that sport.

            Although the focus of this project was to investigate athletes’ perspectives, including coaches in a follow up study is a recommendation for future research. This would provide a more holistic view of the nature of the S&C coach-athlete relationship. Further, the 3+1C’s model has a companion quantitative questionnaire (Jowett and Ntoumanis, 2004), which would allow for insight from a much larger sample size. Therefore it is recommended that future research implements this tool which may assist in strengthening the current findings, and/or provide insight for further research. Additionally, negative behaviours were reported but removed from the raw data collected in this study.