Differences in What Athletes Prefer

Weinberg and Gould (1995) point out that not every athlete likes the same type of coach. Some prefer a coach who emphasizes training and instruction, giving specific help with technical skills rather than more general factors such as motivation. Others prefer a coach who emphasizes social support and motivation. Some prefer the autocratic coach who tells athletes what to do. Others prefer the democratic type who involves the athletes in decision-making. Weinberg and Gould summarize the results of many research studies:

What are some group differences in coaching preferemces?

—Males tend to prefer an autocratic style more than do females. Females tend to prefer democratic and participatory coaching.

—Preference for social support such as empathy and understanding increases throughout high school and into college, then preference for an autocratic style increases, as athletes get older.

—Highly skilled athletes prefer coaches as trainers and instructors, democratic in style, emphasizing positive reinforcement.

—Athletes from the United States, Canada, and Britain do not differ in their coaching preferences. Japanese athletes prefer a more autocratic style.

—Athletes in highly interactive team sports tend to prefer an autocratic style, while athletes in individualized sports such as bowling or track and field tend to prefer a democratic style.

Most researchers agree on the characteristics of a good coach. A good coach will give specific and competent instruction on technical skills, and a good coach will stand ready to recognize and acknowledge positive gains by athletes. This approach seems to make both younger and older athletes most satisfied as well as bringing out their best performance.


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