Vealey, R. S., Armstrong, L., Comar, W., & Greenleaf, C. A. (1998). Influence of perceived coaching behaviors on burnout and competitive anxiety in female college athletes. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 10, 297-318.

How athletes' perceptions of a coach's behavior and communication style relate to levels of burnout and anxiety experienced by athletes was studied. A modified version of the Maslach Burnout Inventory was used to measure burnout in coaches, and the Eades Athletic Burnout Inventory was used to measure six components of athlete burnout. It should be noted that this study only investigates relationships and not causes. Thus, if significant relationships exist in the findings, it should not be concluded that one set of variable causes another.

  1. Coach burnout was significantly related to perceived coaching styles/behavior. The burnout factors of depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, and autocratic style were related to coaching behaviors that emphasized negative reactions and emphases and an emphasis on winning. On the other hand, a coach's personal accomplishment was related to athletes' perceptions of communication ability, use of praise, and relating to athletes.

    Implication. Coaches who emphasize good communications, use more praise than reproof, and relate to athletes' feelings, goals, needs, and areas of interest, are likely to experience personal satisfaction with their coaching role. If these behaviors are predominant in a coach's style, then both the coach and athletes will likely enjoy each other. However, increased use of negative behaviors (reproof, correction) and an emphasis on winning, as opposed to individual athletes' achievements, are indicative behaviors of coach burnout.

  2. Coaching styles/behaviors were predictive of athlete burnout. Athletes with burnout perceived coaches to have reduced empathy, an autocratic style, and an increase in negative behaviors.

    Implication. When handling athletes with burnout, coaches should emphasize an increase in empathy, positive reactions, and a cooperative or consultative coaching style.

  3. Athlete anxiety and burnout were significantly related. In athletes, worry and the disruption of the capacity to concentrate, both being cognitive factors, were related strongest to:

    Less anxious athletes displayed smaller amounts and fewer of these factors.

    Implication. These factors describe some of the features that a coach should recognize as indicating athlete burnout. They are associated with a reduction in performance levels and consistency and a probable reduction in work volume. Too often coaches react negatively to athletes with burnout and accuse them with having insufficient "mental toughness," or "lack of caring about a program," etc.

Overall Implications. Both coach and athlete burnout states influence the other person's behaviors and attitudes at training. When either party is fatigued or burned-out, a coach should focus on improving empathy, increasing positive interactions, and involving athletes in training program content decision-making.

Return to Table of Contents for this issue.