Season-Long Examination of the Intervention Tone of Coach-Athlete Interactions and Athlete Development in Youth Sport
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Objectives: Coaches are a primary influence on athletes' development in youth sport (Horn, 2008). However, the intervention tone of coaches' behaviour has not been directly observed. The purpose of this study was to examine associations between the intervention tone exhibited by youth sport coaches and athletes' individual developmental trajectories over the course of a season. Design: Short-term longitudinal study with behavioural observation. Method: Fifty-five athletes and their coaches from five youth volleyball teams were observed at three time points, and the intervention tone of interactive behaviour was systematically coded and organized by coach-athlete dyad. Athletes completed measures of the 4C's of athlete development (competence, confidence, connection, character) at each time point, which were used to create individualized developmental trajectories. Person-centred analyses were used to examine associations between athletes' developmental trajectories and their unique interactive experiences with their coach. Results: Cluster analysis revealed the presence of three distinct clusters based on athletes' developmental trajectories: 1) high and increasing, 2) low and decreasing, and 3) moderate and maintaining, with athletes from each team distributed across clusters. Analysis of dyadic interaction profiles revealed significant differences in interactive behaviour between clusters. Conclusions: Results suggest that differences in coach-athlete interactive experiences are associated with different developmental trajectories over the course of a season, even for athletes working with the same coach, highlighting the individualized nature of coaches' influence on young athletes. Practical implications for coaches include a critical awareness of their unique interactive relationship with each athlete independently, as well as the importance of fostering these relationships with regard to young people as more than just athletes.