Division I Female Coaches’ Experiences of Care in Their Coaching

Susannah Knust, University of Tennessee, USA

Theme: Coaching/leadership

Program ID: LEC-13C

Presentation: October 5, 2013 11:30 am - 12:30 pm

Room: Melrose


According to sport psychology literature, care is an important part of the coach-athlete relationship (e.g., Jowett, 2007; LaVoi, 2004; Poczwardowski, 1997; Wylleman, 2000). However, a systematic study of “exemplar” caring coaches is lacking. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to interview 13 NCAA Division I head female coaches of female teams who were identified by others as “exemplar” carers. A semi-structured interview guide was developed using a modified version of Gilligan and colleagues’ (1989) Listening Guide. Hatch’s (2002) political analysis was also used to identify metaphors and major themes found in the transcribed interviews. Results suggest that two metaphors, Team as Family and Athletic Structure/NCAA as Spider Web, as well as three major themes (a) Developing the Total Person; (b) “Tough Love”; and (c) Reaching Their Full Potential emerged from the data. While coaches described relationships with and responsibilities for athletes and assistant coaches like a traditional, heterosexual family (e.g., coaches serve as “transitional parents”; athletes serve in the roles of children), relationships with university administrators and the NCAA were typically perceived as hierarchical and also complex. For these coaches, it was important to have in place caring coaching philosophies and behaviors that affected not only the short-term well-being and development of their athletes (e.g., making sure that athletes felt “heard” and “known”, reached their full potential both on and off the court, used “tough love when necessary) but also their long-term well-being. Coaches also measured their success based on the interactions they had with their athletes after graduation. Female identity development models (e.g., Layton, 1998) and feminist models of care (e.g., Noddings, 2005) are also linked to sport in the discussion. Further, suggestions are made for how to foster a caring environment in Division I sport.

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