A balancing act: Benefits and concerns of a tough-love approach to coaching inner-city females


Most research in sport-based positive youth development (PYD) has been conducted with middle-upper SES, suburban, White populations. This literature typically promotes autonomy-building, authoritative coaching styles (Gould & Carson, 2008). However, child development research provides robust support for authoritarian styles in under-served communities (Hartman & Manfra, 2015; McLoyd et al., 2007). While sport-based PYD research in underserved settings is scarce, the existing literature appears to support the use of authoritarian leadership (Cowan et al., 2012; Flett et al., 2013). The purpose of this study was to address limitations in the aforementioned studies and extend our understanding of effective coaching for underserved African-American youth. Participants included one head coach with over 30-years experience, and 10 female high-school basketball players. The study incorporated: Ethnographic field-notes of 34 events (M = 7hrs/event); and interviews with the coach, players, and a second coach-interview. Thematic categories were developed from both sources of data (Miles et al., 2014). The coach used both authoritarian and authoritative approaches, and players felt that each approach had positive and negative aspects. Negative findings included that the girls didn't like the strictness at times, thought the coach sometimes overstepped boundaries, and felt that the coach showed favoritism by being too soft to some players. Positive findings included that the girls were learning life skills from the coach, saw the value of authoritarian coaching, and wanted to be on the team because of the coach's reputation for being tough. The players felt that it was also their responsibility to bring the team together. Implications for coaching education will be discussed.

Acknowledgments: Aaron Goodson and Dr. Sharon Hayes for their assistance with the methods and analysis