The process of burnout among high-performance sport coaches



Place: NIH Aud A

Formal title

The process of burnout among high-performance sport coaches


The objective for the disseration has been to examine (a) whether high-performance coaches experience an increase in burnout over a competitive season and explore associated symptoms, (b) whether the self-determination theory process model could be a valuable framework to better understand the process of burnout, where both motivational and workload related variables serve as explanatory mechanisms.


Four differentiated methodological designs were used to answer the objectives.
(I) A retrospective qualitative design was used when interviewing four previous exhausted professional coaches to better understand their perception of the burnout process and its related symptoms.
A longitudinal variable centered approach using SEM-modelling on intraindividual change was used to test the SDT process model towards burnout among high-performance coaches (N = 343) over a competitive season.
(III) A longitudinal personal centered approach was used to examine for different exhaustion trajectories over a season among high-performance coaches (N = 299).
A longitudinal mixed method design was used to explore for differences among high-performance soccer coaches who were either high or low in burnout symptoms (quantitative data, N = 92; qualitative data, n = 4).


The longitudinal designs and analysis used in the current thesis contributed to a better understanding of the process of burnout. Essentially, coaches increased in the burnout dimensions over the competitive season. A personal centred approach gave a more nuanced picture of the development of exhaustion, where most coaches experienced low levels of exhaustion. Importantly, results revealed that there were subpopulations that either increased or stayed high in exhaustion throughout the season. At the end of the season, one out of four of the coaches was high in exhaustion, which is a considerable number. The magnitude and seriousness of the reported burnout symptoms were displayed both at the individual, intraindividual, and organizational level.

In conclusion, the expanded SDT process model served as a sound theoretical framework to better explain why a maladaptive work environment led to higher levels of burnout among high-performance coaches. Lower levels of need satisfaction, and needs thwarting, led to limited psychological resources that were of necessity when coaching in a demanding context. The strongest finding related to burnout and quality of motivation was the positive relationship with autonomous regulations (intrinsic and identified). Higher levels of autonomous regulations had a preventive effect on burnout, while lower levels had a detrimental effect on burnout. As coaches typically entered the profession with a high intrinsic motivation, finding it fun, interesting, and valuable, these are qualities that are of great importance to maintain in the job. Further, the findings regarding WHI and recovery as explanatory variables in the burnout process for coaches adds new knowledge to the coach burnout literature. Coaches who experienced larger interference between work and private life were at greater risk of experiencing higher levels of burnout. The ability to meet recovery demands is crucial in order to remain healthy and vital in the jobs as a coach, and both psychological detachment and relaxation need to be better implemented as skills among coaches to prevent burnout.

Paper I:
Bentzen, M., Lemyre, P. N., & Kenttä, G. (2015a). The process of burnout among
professional sport coaches explored through the lens of Self-determination theory: A qualitative approach.
Sports Coaching Review, 3(2), 101-116. doi:10.1080/21640629.2015.1035050

Paper II:
Bentzen, M., Lemyre, P. N., & Kenttä, G. (2015b). Changes in motivation and burnout
indices in high-performance coaches over the course of a competitive season.
Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. doi: 10.1080/10413200.2015.1053160.

Paper III:

Bentzen, M., Lemyre, P. N., & Kenttä, G. (2016). Development of exhaustion for high
performance coaches in association with workload and motivation: A person-centered
Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 22, 10-16. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2015.06.004

Paper IV:
Bentzen, M., Lemyre, P. N., & Kenttä, G. (2015c). Ability to meet recovery demands explain
differences in burnout in high-performance coaches. In review.


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