Reciprocal relations between coach and athletes in female elite junior swimming: A shared reality perspective

Abstract

Purpose: Shared Reality Theory (SRT) stipulates that humans are relationally and epistemologically motivated to create a shared reality about a target referent with others. Furthermore, a shared reality with significant others is argued to be a verification of worthwhile goals and the means to achieve them. It may therefore be argued that SRT holds potential for studying the reciprocity in the coach-athlete relationship and understand what makes the co-operation effective. The purpose of the present study is to investigate how and to which extent the coach and athlete share reality about performance development. Design: Six female elite junior swimmers (Mage=14.8 years) and their head coach were interviewed using semi-structured interviews (Mtime=39.9 minutes). A thematic analysis was applied on the transcripts. Results: The coach reported a sincere wish of coaching in adherence to the athletes' interests. However, as he coached several athletes, it was difficult to know the different athletes' interests without athletes conveying them. Thus, an important finding was the importance of honesty and directedness from the athletes when communicating with their coach, together with athletes taking initiative to communication. Athletes who reported this behavior achieved to a greater extent a shared reality with their coach about performance development. Conclusion: A shared reality in a coach-athlete relationship occurs when the coach and athlete have agreed on which goals to pursue and the means to reach them, and when there is a common understanding on why the goals and means are as they are. To achieve this, honest communication is key.

Acknowledgments: Dr. Bård Erlend Solstad, Dr. Camilla J. Knight, & Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Lemyre.