Examining the perceptions and behaviours of coaches working in both recreational and competitive youth sport environments


Research has suggested that coaches should modify their behaviour to suit the perceived demands and foci of their respective environments (Côté, Young, North, and Duffy, 2007; Lyle, 2002). However, direct comparison between recreational and competitive coaches’ behaviour have so far been subject to confounds such as personality differences, age of the athletes, and varying levels of coaching experience (Horn, 2008; Sullivan, Paquette, Holt, & Bloom, 2012). The purpose of this study was to examine the perspectives and behaviours of coaches working concurrently in recreational and competitive youth sport. It was hypothesized that coaches would perceive recreational and competitive environments to be different from one another and therefore exhibit different behaviour patterns in each setting. Eighteen coaches who worked, or had recently worked, in both environments were interviewed about their experiences. Subsequently, a sub-sample of five coaches from this group presently working with recreational and competitive synchronized swimming teams were systematically observed over the course of the sports season. Results from the qualitative interview data revealed there to be differences in the structure and programming of recreational and competitive youth sport practice. However, the quantitative data obtained from the systematic observation showed that youth sport coaches exhibited similar coaching behaviors in both environments. These findings suggest that unique contextual characteristics and organizational climate are not enough to elicit behaviour changes in coaches. 

Acknowledgments: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council