Coach Caring, Not Winning

Positive mental health reported when coaches foster caring environments

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If you’re coaching your son or daughter’s little league this year, you might want to focus more on developing the children than winning the game, a new study suggests.

In recent research, professors from Michigan Statue University discovered that young athletes reported more self-improvement when coaches promoted a nurturing environment. On the contrary, coaches focused only on winning create negative thoughts and emotions in their players.  

"Focus on improving players, not the scorecard."

Lead researchers on the study, Daniel Gould, Ph.D., and Larry Lauer, Ph.D., teach and consult sports psychology at MSU. Dr. Gould explains, “Coaches should create a climate or atmosphere where kids feel cared about, valued, safe and supported.”

According to Gould, this positivity should be supplemented with a conscious effort by coaches to avoid “the creation of an ego-oriented climate focusing primary attention on comparing themselves to others.”

The study is published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise, displaying the results of a survey administered to 239 urban athletes, ages 10-19, living in underserved communities. The students completed the Youth Experiences Scale-2, an assessment measuring for the positive and negative aspects of developmental experiences, from learning social development skills and teamwork to feeling stressed about morality. 

The findings suggest that adolescents engaged in sport exercises and communication focused on self-improvement felt they improved their life skills and developed their character. On the contrary, a climate focused on competition created an ego-driven environment that hindered success and made kids feel very negative.

"The research adds to the growing body of knowledge that shows coaching actions and the team climates they create have important influences on the personal development of youth," Gould said.

"Our data suggests if coaches want to develop life skills and character in youth, it is important to focus on player self-improvement more so than winning."

dailyRx contributing expert, LuAnn Pierce, LCSW, of the Turning Points Counseling Center in Denver, CO, has noticed this distinction in practice and understands the importance of a good leader. "While winning seems the ultimate goal, a wise coach will heed the higher calling, keeping in mind that his/her influence could make or break a young person,” says Pierce.

“All team members should be honored for their strengths and allowed to develop areas of need without fear or shame for letting down the coach or team."

No conflicts were reported during this study.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 10, 2012
Last Updated:
February 12, 2012