A comprehensive understanding of the coach-athlete relationship: a post-secondary Canadian team sport perspective




Behan, Craig Martin

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This dissertation is comprised of three main sections. The first chapter is a historical overview of the coach-athlete relationships literature within sport. The review was conducted to consider as much empirical evidence as possible concerning coach-athlete relationships. This chapter examines and provides a comprehensive overview of past and current literature examining the coach-athlete relationship. Historical origins, contemporary models, other influences on the relationship, and coach-athlete interactive behaviours were examined. The second chapter is a qualitative study, guided by a phenomenological method of research. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and recorded with 10 of the most successful team sport coaches within Canadian Inter-university Sport (CIS) from 2002-2012. Following in depth coach interviews, interpretive research and bracketing and themes were used to identify key components from the interviews. A final thematic structure disclosing five major dimensions contributed to common factors the role relationships play in coach-athlete success, identified as: recruitment, communication, caring, culture, and trust. Findings resulted in the creation of a tool that assists in visualizing the reciprocal relationships between revealed dimensions and themes within a coach-athlete relationship (R-CART; Reciprocating Coach-Athlete Relationship Tool). Finally a qualitative longitudinal case study was conducted examine the evolution of the CAR over a season and to assess the impact of a visual tool to help guide coaches in enhancing the CAR. Two post-secondary teams and head coaches were chosen, one female and one male. The process of the study included an initial modification process of the R-CART, initiating the R-CART through a multiple qualitative case study, data analysis of case studies and further amendment of the R-CART. Team athletes were provided with an 11-item Coach-Athlete Relationship Questionnaire (CART-Q) and additional comments to evaluate the coach-athlete relationship. Results from the CART-Q were considered and cross-referenced with the R-CART, coach interviews and interventions ensued based on the student-athlete feedback. The findings suggested subtle amendments to the model and the R-CART potentially is a trustworthy tool for coaches developing, maintaining, and repairing the coach-athlete relationship. Collectively, this dissertation has expanded the current knowledge of coach-athlete relationships, providing coaches with a prospective tool for advancement in the area of coach-athlete relationships. Future research should aim to examine the role coach-athlete relationships in different context, such as grassroots sport, and look at the potential impact of the R-CART in those areas.



coach-athlete relationship, post-secondary, student-athlete, coach, team sport, qualitative