Date of Award

5-2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Kinesiology

Major Professor

Leslee A. Fisher

Committee Members

Rebecca Zakrajsek, Lars Dzikus

Abstract

Previous researchers have explored the effects of caring (see Noddings, 1992) on self-efficacy, motivation, and, ultimately, performance in physical activity contexts (e.g., Gano-Overway et al., 2009). However, the construct of coach caring has only recently been explored with coaches at the U.S. National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I (DI) level (Fisher et al., 2017a, 2017b; Knust & Fisher, 2015). Results suggest that DI coaches define caring as fostering strong relationships, providing athletes with everything they need to succeed, and developing the whole person for life outside of sport. Since DI coaches believe that coach caring can lead to greater performance, a logical next step was to explore student-athletes’ perceptions of coach caring at the elite level. Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to explore elite women’s rugby sevens athletes’ perceptions of coach caring. At this level, each athlete is striving to become a member of the USA women’s rugby team. Using Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR; Hill, 2012), ten elite sevens rugby athletes participated in semi-structured interviews that lasted 45-60 minutes. Six domains were constructed by a five-member research team, including an external auditor: (I) Elite women’s rugby sevens athletes’ perceptions of how they learned coach caring; (II) Elite women’s rugby sevens athletes’ definition of coach caring: Athlete-centered coaching; (III) Elite women’s rugby sevens athletes’ description of the demonstration of coach caring; (IV) Elite women’s rugby sevens athletes’ definition of a lack of coach caring; (V) Elite women’s rugby sevens athletes’ description of the relationship between coach caring and athletic performance; and (VI) additional influences such as power dynamics, unethical behavior, and gender differences, and were also highlighted. Some unique findings of this study included rugby sevens’ players’ desire for caring coaches to pay more attention to safety and injury protocol and also for them to create more meaning for them during their sport experience. Practical implications for certified mental performance consultants (CMPCs) as well as coach education and future research directions are also given.

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