How to increase coach knowledge to enhance athletes' experiences from sports



Place: Norges idrettshøgskole

Formal title

How to increase coach knowledge to enhance athletes' experiences from sports


The aim of the thesis was to contribute to an understanding as to how to increase coach knowledge to enhance athletes' experiences from sports. The primary aim of the study was to understand how to create a coach development program specifically for coaches’ need-support. The second aim was to understand need-supportive coaching and its influence on athlete well-being and autonomous functioning. The content of the coach development program is based on self-determination theory, and learning theories informed how to plan for coach learning of the need-supportive coaching skills. I developed the Motivation Activation Program in Sports (MAPS) and implemented it at one of the six schools of the Norwegian College of Elite Sport (NTG) during the 2016/2017 academic year among 10 coaches and 102 students.


Developing and Implementing the Motivation Activation Program in Sports (MAPS)

Article 1 (Successful coach learning: Digital workbook informed by pedagogical principles). discussed the design of a digital workbook that was informed by evidence based pedagogical principles, more precisely the cognitive theory of multimedia learning. Ten coaches at one of the NTG schools attended the program over a season, and afterwards the coaches were asked whether the learning material had contributed to meaningful learning of need-supportive skills. The pedagogical principles in the used digital workbook showed the coaches how need-support can be acted out in a sport specific context. Additionally, the learning material resulted in increased engagement and awareness through coaches' reflections, which is an important step towards integrating new material to prior knowledge and create meaningful learning. Finally, the coaches highlighted transfer of the presented learning material to their lived experiences as a positive outcome.
Article 2 (Guidelines for Need-Supportive Coach Development: The Motivation Activation Program in Sports (MAPS))examined impact evidence of MAPS and whether the developed program had been successful in teaching coaches how to act need-supportive toward their athletes. The article explains how the program was delivered at NTG throughout the 2016/2017 season as a test trial. First, a detailed description of the conceptual framework used to inform MAPS is offered. Next, a thorough description of MAPS building components is provided. The third section of the article presents impact evidence of coaches’ learning experiences together with coaches’ practice examples of need-supportive coaching skills. Results reveal that MAPS taught coaches about need-supportive skills at the intrapersonal (awareness of own coaching practice) and interpersonal (interaction with athletes) level. In addition, effective need-support for athletes required sufficient time for each athlete, a gradual approach to athlete understanding, and a thorough consideration of specific situations.

Understanding need-support
Article 3 (Coaches' Competence support at risk in the elite sport context: Need-supportiveness and athlete wellbein. Submitted in, Current Issues in Sport Science) explored quantitatively how coaches’ behaviour affected athletes’ well-being. In a sample of 102 NTG student athletes, the within-person relationship between need-supportiveness and subjective vitality was investigated. They completed three questionnaires over an academic year (beginning, middle, and end), and Bayesian growth curve analyses revealed that the levels of relatedness and autonomy-support were stable and high throughout the year. In contrast, competence-support decreased during the season. In addition, the results showed a credible positive within-person relationship between changes in all three facets of need-supportiveness from the coach and vitality measured at the end of the season.
Article 4 (Perceptions of need-support when "having fun" meets "work hard" mentalities in the elite sport school context) investigated athletes’ and coaches’ perceptions of coach need-supportive behaviour and the athlete-coach dynamic in the endorsement process. Video-based interviews were conducted with 11 (of the 102) athletes and the 10 coaches from the same school. The interviews were analysed, and narratives were used to illustrate the story of the predominantly hedonic athlete (the aim of sport participation is having fun) and the predominantly eudaimonic athlete (the aim of sport participation is development). There was an obvious endorsement misfit between the group of athletes labelled hedonic and their coaches due to the expectations and demands of the elite sport school context. The paradox of the endorsement process intensifies when the "have fun" mentality of the athlete meets the "work hard" mentality of the coach, which, for some athletes, undermines their need-satisfaction, commitment, performance, and well-being. The findings suggest a strong need for a fit between coach and athlete aims for successful coaching in the elite sport school context."

Guidelines for need-supportive coach development is the main practical contribution of this thesis. The use of learning theories to plan coach learning is suggested, as well as explicit coaching skills and videos fragments to present the need-supportive style. The theoretical contribution is the coaches’ learning process model that incorporated meaningful learning as nexus, and a more nuanced understanding of the endorsement process. Based on our investigation it is proposed that future research concentrates on person-environment fit to understand how to facilitate an athlete created sport context that facilitates youth athletes’ flourishing.

Read the whole thesis

Download thesis