Working alliance in the coach-athlete relationship and athlete burnout The mediating role of athlete resilience

Frode Moen *, Maria Hrozanova **, Tore Stiles *** and Frode Stenseng ****

(*) Centre for Elite Sports Research, Department of Education and Lifelong Learning, Faculty of Social and Educational Sciences, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
(**) Centre for Elite Sports Research, Department of Neuromedicine and Movement Science, Faculty of Medicine and Health Science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
(***) Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social and Educational Sciences, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
(****) Department of Education and Lifelong Learning, Faculty of Social and Educational Sciences, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

The quality of the coach-athlete relationship has been linked to athlete burnout in previous studies. However, few studies have examined individual factors among athletes that may affect this association, and in particular among young athletes with high activity involvement. Hence, in the present study, we studied the potential mediating role of athletes’ resiliency in the effect of the working alliance of the coach and the athlete on the athletes’ levels of burnout. Six-hundred and seventy junior athletes from 27 Norwegian high schools specialized for sports participated in a web-based syrvey study where 49% males and 51% were females, and 78% of the athletes had ambitions to become future elite athletes in their sports. Structural equation modeling analyses showed a strong positive association between the coach-athlete working alliance and resilience, and a strong negative association between resilience and burnout. A moderate association was found between the coach-athlete working alliance athlete burnout. Furthermore, a mediational relationship was detected, where the effect of working alliance on less burnout partly was explained by an indirect effect of working alliance through more resilience in the athlete. The current study highlights the importance of a strong working alliance between coaches and athletes to develop athlete resilience, and the importance of athlete resilience as a buffer to prevent occurences of athlete burnout.

Keywords: Working alliance, Junior sport, Psychological resilience, Athlete burnout


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