Aim: Since there is a lack of research based educational interventions concerning the relationship between coaches and young athletes, the aim of this study was to implement and examine the effects of sport psychology intervention for coaches in a track and field club. The research questions were: What are the effects of an educational intervention for coaches, with focus on a motivational climate, on: A) the coaches´ coaching approach B) their athletes´ goal orientation and C) their athletes´ perceived competitive anxiety?
Method: The coach education stretched over two months and consisted of four two-hour lessons with focus on motivational climate, goal orientation and sport anxiety. Six coaches (three females, three males), aged 38-52 (M=44.33 years, SD=4.84) and their 59 athletes (27 males and 32 females) aged 12-14 (M=13.10 years, SD=0.82), participated in the study. A control group of 35 athletes (10 males and 25 females), of the same age (M=13.46 years, SD=0.70) and with similar demographic data, was also recruited. Potential effects of the intervention on the coaches and athletes were captured by measuring key constructs twice (pre-/post-test). Measures included a study-specific motivational climate questionnaire for the coaches and two validated questionnaires for athletes: the Achievement Goal Scale for Youth Sports (AGSYS; Cumming, Smith, Smoll & Grossbard 2008) and Sport Anxiety Scale-2 (SAS-2; Smith, Smoll, Cumming & Grossbard 2006). Descriptive statistics, repeated ANOVA and repeated MANOVA were used to analyze the data.
Results: The analyses showed that the participating coaches experienced positive behavioral changes among themselves regarding support of autonomy, belonging, competence, and encouragement to task orientation, five months after the intervention had taken place (F (1, 5) = 6.49, p < .051, = .56). The analyses did not reveal any statistically significant changes concerning neither the athletes´ goal orientation nor sport anxiety over time or compared to the control group.
Conclusions:The study indicates a continuous need for longitudinal research based sport psychology interventions, especially towards individual sports since they, in many ways, differ from team sports. Future studies ought to complement with qualitative measurements which can bring deeper understanding of how, when and why changes occur. Despite loss effects in the athletes, the coaches´ perceived behavioral changes in themselves indicate that educational interventions are worthwhile in the long run.
Key words: coaches, competitive anxiety, motivation, motivational climate interventions, youth