Psycho-social considerations for coaching masters swimmers for competition


Master athletes (MAs) are adults over 35 years old, who formally register for sport, and acknowledge a degree of competitiveness in their orientation (Young, Callary, & Niedre, 2014). Coaches are integral resources that help to sustain involvement in sport. However, the impact of coaches on MAs’ experiences in sport is unclear. The purpose of this presentation is to qualitatively explore coaches’ behaviours and strategies that help MAs in the lead up to competition, as well as during and after competition. Participants were five female and five male competitive swimmers (from 45-65 years of age) who train 2.5-7 hours per week and work with a coach at least twice per week. MAs were interviewed individually about their recent experiences with coaches and prompted to give examples from their personal experiences to illustrate their specific needs, preferences, and dislikes regarding interactions with coaches. Data were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009). Each interview was first analyzed separately to find emerging themes before examining across interviews. Results indicate that coaches encouraged MAs to register for competitions, helped with their registration for events, and refined the structure of training in strategic ways for MAs to prepare them for upcoming competitions. Further, during and immediately following competitions, MAs’ experiences with coaches were revealed in terms of how coaches played unique roles with respect to: emotional support; providing performance-enhancing feedback; sharing information about on-site logistics; post-race debriefing; celebrating athlete accomplishments; and how the coaches, themselves, competed. Findings are framed against the backdrop of a dearth of research about coaching MAs with specific conversations devoted to novel considerations for what MAs want from their coaches such as providing basic rules about competition, supporting athletes, and uniquely, competing against their own athletes. 

Acknowledgments: The researchers would like to thank Cape Breton University's office of research for funding this study. References: Smith, J. A., Flowers, P., & Larkin, M. (2009). Interpretative phenomenological analysis: Theory, method, and research. Los Angeles, CA: Sage. Young, B.W., Callary, B., & Niedre, P.C. (2014). Exploring novel considerations for the coaching of Masters athletes. International Sport Coaching Journal, 1(2), 86-93.