• An Ethnographic Case Study of Developing and Maintaining the Coach-Athlete Relationship in Elite University Sport

      Corkery, Erin; Applied Health Sciences Program
      Relationships and social interactions are crucial components in sport participation from adolescence through to elite and professional levels of competition. Recently, there has been growing interest in the study of the coach-athlete relationship as a result of an increase in the awareness of its implications and potential impact on performance success. The purposes of this research were to: (a) describe and interpret how one university sport coach develops and maintains relationships with athletes within one competitive season, and (b) describe and interpret the practices (including intentions and actions) used to facilitate social interactions that nurture the coach-athlete relationship. One male coach and twelve female elite university athletes from one sport team participated in the research. Data were generated from two main sources: observations of team practices and games, and two individual interviews with the coach and three athletes (one interview during the competitive season and one interview after the season had ended). Through a constructivist lens, I investigated the participants’ unique perspectives of the ongoing processes within the coach-athlete relationship. I used Jowett’s (2001) adaptation of interdependence theory, the 3+1Cs model (closeness, commitment, complementarity, and co-orientation), to examine the perspectives of both coach and athletes and subsequently create an interpretive representation of my findings. Findings highlighted the variety of ways participants understood and interpreted their coach-athlete relationship. Several potential influences of these relationships were uncovered during data analysis such as: vulnerability, gender, communication, and self-reflection. Implications for coaches, athletes, and coach educators are discussed.