Perceived coach autonomy support and athlete burnout: The role of athletes’ experiential avoidance

Wen Hsin Chang *, Likang Chi **, Chia-Huei Wu *** and Lung Hung Chen ****

(*) Physical Education Office, National Taipei University of Technology, Taiwan
(**) Department of Physical Education, National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan
(***) Department of Management and Marketing, Durham University. UK
(****) Department of Recreation and Leisure Industry Management, National Taiwan Sport University, Taiwan & Department of Medical Research, China Medical University Hospital, China Medical University, Taiwan

Researchers have found that perceived coach autonomy support is negatively related to athlete burnout. However, whether offering such support would be helpful for all athletes or only athletes with certain characteristics is unknown. Following the notion of autonomous goal regulation suggested in self-determination theory, the authors propose that having autonomy support from coaches will be more strongly associated with a decrease in athlete burnout among athletes with lower experiential avoidance than among those with higher experiential avoidance. Experiential avoidance is a tendency to escape, avoid, or modify the frequency of uncomfortable experiences. A total of 141 collegiate student athletes completed surveys at two time points over three months. The results indicate that perceived coach autonomy support is negatively related to athlete burnout. Furthermore, the negative relationship between perceived coach autonomy support and decreased athlete burnout is stronger when experiential avoidance is low rather than high. When the three dimensions of burnout were analyzed individually (i.e., emotional and physical exhaustion, reduced sense of accomplishment and sport devaluation), only emotional and physical exhaustion and overall score were significant. The implications and applications of these results are discussed from an interactionist perspective.

Keywords: self-determination, acceptance and commitment therapy, interactionism