Youth athletes' perceptions of humanistic coaching


Humanistic coaching focuses on promoting athletes' personal growth and development by empowering athletes and fostering a collaborative coach-athlete relationship. Humanistic coaching entails a higher involvement of athletes in their learning process, sharing responsibilities, and making decisions about the team. The purpose of this study was to investigate the experiences of student-athletes of coaches who had been trained to use humanistic principles to foster personal development. Focus group interviews were employed to investigate the experiences of 23 student-athletes from three different schools in low socio-economic communities in a major Canadian city. An inductive thematic analysis was performed to identify common themes across focus groups. Athlete descriptions of their coaches demonstrated they were aware of coaches' humanistic behaviours, which they felt positively impacted their sporting experiences. Moreover, the athletes described their coaches as being engaged in their lives beyond sport, helping with personal issues and getting involved in their education. Athletes also described having a trusting relationship with their coaches, and reported learning both sport and life skills from them. Finally, athletes reported improved developmental outcomes such as confidence, motivation, autonomy, and decision-making – both in sport and in school. These findings extend the current humanistic coaching literature by providing athlete accounts of humanistic coaching in a developmental youth sport setting, and by supporting the notion that effective coaching requires a balance between multiple coaching approaches. Additionally, it illustrates the value and importance of training youth sport coaches to adopt humanistic coaching principles as a way to foster youth development through sport.