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Enhancing Athlete Outcomes Through Quality Coaching

Justin A. Hebert & Aubrey Newland

Strategies Cover July August 2021

Win or go home” is an age-old proverb traditionally used as a catchphrase to describe a single-elimination scenario in a sporting competition. This phrase also alludes to many deeper consequences for those involved in the competition. For coaches of high-level, competitive teams, such as collegiate and professional ballclubs (and in some cases, high school teams), winning often represents the lifeblood by which their tenure is extended and thus it is in a coach’s best interest to employ coaching methods that optimally align with the goal of winning. In many cases, success is determined by the level of synergy demonstrated by a team and since coordination between the coach and the athletes is a part of this, it is critical that coaches and athletes communicate effectively. In such an atmosphere, higher degrees of athlete motivation and performance become possible. Using this lens, we evaluate coaching strategies to determine their impact on athlete well-being and performance, as well as team success. Furthermore, we adopt the position that team success stems from the ability of the coach to impact individual athletes in both team sports (i.e., football, basketball, baseball, etc.) as well as individual sports (i.e., tennis, cross-country, golf, etc.). Thus, while examining group-level (team) constructs, we assert the need for additional consideration of these constructs as person centered (athlete).

Recognizing the genesis of all group processes as person-to-person interactions, we use Steiner’s (1966) model of group productivity as a model of group processes that may be helpful in understanding the influence of coaches on their athletes. Steiner’s (1966) seminal research on group productivity states that the actual productivity of a group or team is equal to the potential productivity of the group minus losses due to faulty motivational and coordination processes (Figure 1). Based on Steiner’s model, we highlight some repercussions of coaching aggression, how this type of negative behavior can affect athlete and team productivity, and what actions can be taken by coaches to bolster current and future chances of success.

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