Coach involvement: The actions of coaches during the COVID-19 pandemic from the perspective of university athletes


At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the role and responsibilities of sport coaches changed dramatically (e.g., coaching virtually; Kelly, Erickson, & Turnnidge, 2020). Although recommendations for coaching during the pandemic were available (e.g., provide psychological support, have athletes set goals; Filiz et al., 2020), researchers have expressed a need to hear from those involved in such practices (e.g., coaches, athletes; Kelly, Erickson, et al., 2020). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of university athletes during the pandemic concerning the perceptions of their coaches' involvement during the early stages of the pandemic. University athletes (N = 25; male n = 12; female n = 13) participated in a one-on-one semi-structured interview in June 2020, which were then transcribed verbatim and analyzed using a thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006, 2019). Four main themes were identified that highlighted the coaches' role in: (1) fostering shared leadership (e.g., seeking input from athlete leaders), (2) facilitating team discussions (e.g., athlete wellness and mental health), (3) enhancing motivation (e.g., unique training activities), and (4) providing support (e.g., checking in with athletes). In addition, while these themes were often seen as positive in nature, some athletes expressed dissatisfaction with the level of coach involvement (e.g., too many meetings, forced communication). Despite the challenges associated with coaching during the pandemic, coaches attempted to engage their team in a variety of ways. Given the variance in athletes' perceived satisfaction with such actions, future research is needed to identify recommendations for how coaches should navigate these times.