A Blueprint for Student-Athlete Success: Understanding the Conditions Implemented by University Coaches
Student-athletes represent a unique group of individuals that must balance their academic goals with their athletic pursuits in a high performance sport context. Coaches play a significant role in helping athletes achieve in both contexts, which involves extensive planning and preparation beforehand in order to create an environment for student-athlete success. This study used a foundational concept from the industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology literature to investigate the necessary conditions that interuniversity sport coaches implemented prior to and during a competitive season to facilitate performance for both their individual athletes and the collective team. Using a case-study approach, semi-structured interviews were conducted with five U Sports head coaches from soccer, cross-country running, ice hockey and basketball before and at the end of their seasons. As a way to triangulate information obtained from coaches and to enrich my understanding of the particular conditions discussed, I also interviewed student-athletes from each team (n = 5) and the High Performance Director who manages this particular U Sports Athletics program. The data were analyzed thematically to highlight the necessary conditions specific to each coach and their individual athletes, and were then generalized across all teams within the broader athletics program. The five conditions discussed with coaches are described in detail: (1) create a team vision with clear objectives, (2) opt for athletes of best fit, (3) assemble team roles and expectations, (4) confirm and allocate necessary resources and support, and (5) have competent and prepared team coaching. Within each condition, I first provide support for their relevance and importance based on participant responses, followed by strategies for how to implement conditions in practice. Lastly, and perhaps of most significance, I discuss considerations of the broader context within which these teams are situated, as well as at the case level for the conditions established. Both research and practical implications emanating from this thesis are discussed in Chapter 5.