Next one up! Exploring how coaches manage team dynamics following injury


Injuries are commonplace in high-intensity sport and a growing literature has explored how athletes are psychologically affected by such events. Given that injuries carry implications for the group environment in sport teams (Surya et al., 2015), the purpose of this study was to explore what occurs within a team during a time period of injury from a coach perspective, and how high-performance coaches manage a group at this time. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten U Sport (Canadian university) basketball head coaches (Mexperience = 14 years; SD = 9.05), and were thematically analyzed. Themes were identified in relation to (1) the perceived changes in group dynamics (i.e., role adjustments and strategic shifts), (2) factors that moderated a team's reaction to the injury (i.e., severity of injury, reaction of player injured, status of player injured, maturity of team, reaction of management), and (3) the coach management strategies used following an athlete's injury (e.g., provision of support, maintain alignment with team culture, communication). Our findings identify a range of group interaction processes and coach management strategies that unfold following injury. Coaches' descriptive accounts of how they attempt to manage group dynamics from the moment of the injury event to an athlete's reintegration into the lineup carries both theoretical and practical implications.