Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Craig A. Wrisberg

Committee Members

Mark A. Hector, William J. Morgan, Howard R. Pollio


Several quantitative studies within the field of sport psychology examining the athlete-coach relationship have suggested that coaches influence both athlete’s self-esteem (Barnett, Smoll, and Smith, 1992) and his/her satisfaction in performing in his/her sport (Riemer and Chelladurai, 1995; Schliesman, 1987; Horne and Carron, 1985; Chelladurai, 1984). Vernacchia’s case study (1977) of a three-time All-American runner was the only study of qualitative nature to address the athlete’s perspective of his/her relationship with his/her coach. Given this lack, the purpose of the present research was to study the athlete’s “lived” experience of being coached form an existential-phenomenological perspective. Eight former Division I collegiate athletes, each from a different sport, were interviewed on their experience of being coached. These interviews were transcribed and analyzed using phenomenological methods outlined by Pollio, Henley, and Thompson (1997). Results revealed that three themes in the athlete’s experience of being coached There for Me/Not There for Me, Knowing and Being Known Personally, and Authority/Power emerged from the “ground” of the athlete’s experience of Previous Coaches he/she had known. The theme of There for Me/Not There for Me had six subthemes: Guidance/Knowledge of What I Should Do, Help Me/Pull Me Through, Confidence in Me, Care about Me, Abandoned Me, and Disrupted Me. The four subthemes of Knowing and Being Known Personally were: Open-Mindedness/Communication/Trust, Coach Knows How to Motivate Me, Knowing the Coach Personally, and Not Knowing the Coach (Unpredictable). The subthemes of Authority/Power were: Authority/Power Imposed Upon Me, Authority as a Source of Guidance, and Confronting the Coach as Authority. Results of the present study support and expand on previous research regarding the coach’s impact on the athlete in relation to previous coaches, as a facilitating or abandoning presence, and open and trustworthy communicator, an authority figure, and as a source of sport enjoyment or lack of enjoyment. The advantage of phenomenological methodology in understanding the meaning of behavior was also discussed in relation to previous research methods. This study concluded with recommendations for coaches, sport psychology consultants, and sport researchers.

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