Coach Perceptions of the Social Environment in Recreational Youth Sport

Sarah Lawrason1, Matthew Vierimaa2 and Luc J. Martin3

1 School of Health and Exercise Sciences, University of British Columbia Okanagan, 1147 Research Road, V1V 1V7, Kelowna, BC, Canada
2 School of Kinesiology, Acadia University, 550 Main Street, B4P 2R6, Wolfville, NS, Canada
3 School of Kinesiology & Health Studies, Queen’s University, 28 Division Street, K7L 3N6, Kingston, ON, Canada

Coaches play an important role in fostering a positive social environment in youth sport. Research has explored the social environment from the perspective of athletes engaged in interdependent sport, but less is known about coaches’ perceptions, especially for sport types that differ along the continuum of task interdependence. The purpose of this study was to explore coaches’ perceptions of the social environment in integrated and contrient recreational sports. Seven gymnastics and seven ice hockey coaches participated in semi-structured interviews, and transcripts were analyzed thematically. All coaches perceived a positive social environment to consist of supportive teammates, which encouraged athletes’ sport commitment. Interestingly, coaches had not received any formal education on facilitating athlete relationships within a team. Additionally, whereas gymnastics coaches described the development of a caring climate, ice hockey coaches focused on performance—both with intentions of improving athlete experiences. Future directions and implications for coach education are offered.

KEYWORDS: group dynamics, qualitative research, contrient sport, integrated sport