Responding to challenges and setbacks – Strategies used by high-performance curling coaches to enhance group processes

Jamie Collins, University of Ottawa, Canada

Theme: Coaching/leadership

Program ID: LEC-01B

Presentation: October 2, 2013 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Room: Belle Chasse


Team sport athletes often cite interpersonal issues such as an inability to interact, communicate effectively, and solve problems as reasons for suboptimal performance and conflict. Accordingly, optimizing group processes has been recognized as one of the most crucial and challenging issues met by sport coaches (Bloom, Stevens, & Wickwire, 2003; Collins & Durand-Bush, 2010). The purpose of this grounded theory study was to identify factors that contribute to the development and maintenance of optimal group processes in high performance curling, with a particular emphasis on the role of the coach in this process. This presentation will focus on effective strategies used by coaches in response to challenges, setbacks, or obstacles in order to enhance team functioning. The study involved 15 Canadian high-performance curling teams and their coaches (N = 60-75 athletes and 15 coaches). The in-depth content analysis of the transcribed data collected through multiple individual and focus group interviews revealed that in response to difficulties, many coaches employed solution-focused strategies to help the athletes work together, such as playing the role of mediator during times of conflict, and encouraging athletes to access additional resources (e.g., mental performance consultants). Many coaches also devoted time to anticipating obstacles and thus relied on proactive strategies, which included collecting performance-related data and communicating it in order to enhance athletes self-awareness, helping team members understand their interpersonal differences or preferences for communication, and providing athletes with performance reminders. Interestingly, the coaches differed greatly in the extent to which they adopted a role in optimizing group processes; their roles ranged from that of innocent bystander to engaged catalyst. Advice given by the men and women high-performance athletes and coaches regarding how to optimize group processes will be discussed, as well as perceived implications for performance, enjoyment, and team sustainability.

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