Coaching Efficacy

Self-efficacy judgments are domain-specific beliefs held  by  individuals  about  their  ability  to  successfully execute differing levels of performance given certain  situational  demands  (a  situation-specific self-confidence). Coaching efficacy is the extent to which a coach believes in the personal capacity to affect the learning and performance of the athletes. Efficacy beliefs of a head coach play a central role in several broader theoretical models of effective sport coaching. This entry provides a broad overview of related  research  and  first  introduces  a  conceptual model  of  coaching  efficacy.  Measurement  models for coaching efficacy are then described. Potential sources   and   proposed   outcomes   of   coaching efficacy are then reviewed, and the entry concludes with a discussion of future research directions.

A Conceptual Model of Coaching Efficacy

For  as  long  as  there  has  been  organized  sport, coaches have played a key role in the motivation and  performance  of  athletes.  Perhaps  surprisingly, it was not until 1999 that a formal conceptual  model  of  coaching  efficacy  was  put  forth  by Deborah Feltz, Melissa Chase, Sandra Moritz, and Phillip  Sullivan.  The  proposed  conceptual  model of coaching efficacy was intended to address a gap in  the  sport-oriented  literature  and  was  based,  in part,  on  Albert  Bandura’s  self-efficacy  theory  as well  as  the  teacher  efficacy  literature.  An  important  caveat  of  the  original  conceptual  model  was that it focused on high school and lower division collegiate coaches.

The conceptual model of coaching efficacy consisted of three key elements: (1) proposed sources of  coaching  efficacy  information,  (2)  dimensions of coaching efficacy, and (3) proposed outcomes of a  coach’s  efficacy  beliefs.  Since  1999,  confirmatory  evidence  has  been  provided  for  many  of  the core  facets  of  the  conceptual  model  of  coaching efficacy. Evidence has also been provided that has prompted modifications to the initial framework. Other  populations  such  as  youth  sport  coaches have  also  since  been  studied,  which  has  further contributed to a continually evolving framework.

Measurement of Coaching Efficacy

The coach must competently and confidently perform multiple roles to be an effective leader. These roles  often  include  but  are  not  limited  to  that  of teacher,  motivator,  strategist,  organizer,  physical conditioning  trainer,  and  character  builder.  This complex  and  multifaceted  task  suggests  that  a coach’s  own  belief  in  the  personal  ability  to  successfully  execute  core  tasks  may  be  best  reflected within a multidimensional measurement model. A standard  first  step  in  multidimensional  measurement  is  to  operationally  define  the  most  general construct of which multiple dimensions are thought to exist. Coaching efficacy, broadly defined, is the extent  to  which  a  coach  believes  in  the  personal capacity to affect the learning and performance of the  athletes.  Because  coaching  efficacy  is  a  belief, for  which  only  imperfect  observed  indicators  can be collected, measurement of the construct generally has taken a latent variable approach.

Deborah  Feltz  et  al.  put  forth  the  first  formal measurement  model  (theory)  of  coaching  efficacy in  1999:  the  Coaching  Efficacy  Scale  (CES).  The multidimensional  model  for  the  CES  posited  that four specific efficacies were related to one another and defined coaching efficacy. Motivation efficacy was  defined  as  the  confidence  coaches  have  in their ability to affect the psychological mood and psychological  skills  of  their  athletes.  Game  strategy efficacy was defined as the confidence coaches have in their abilities to lead during competition. Technique  efficacy  was  defined  as  the  confidence coaches have in their instructional and diagnostic skills.  Character  building  efficacy  was  defined  as the  confidence  coaches  have  in  their  abilities  to influence  the  personal  development  and  positive attitude toward sport in their athletes.

An  investigation  published  in  2005  regarding the  psychometric  properties  of  measures  derived from the CES concluded that several modifications could be made to increase the precision of coaching efficacy measures produced by the CES. Two of the major suggested modifications were to delimit subsequent versions of the CES by level coached, and to make a few structural changes to the CES itself. In 2008, the Coaching Efficacy Scale II–High School Teams (CES II-HST) was published, and in 2011, the Coaching Efficacy Scale II–Youth Sport Teams  (CES  II-YST)  was  published.  Within  both the CES II–HST and the CES II–YST and as compared with the CES, a new dimension of coaching efficacy, physical conditioning efficacy, was added, revised operational definitions for two of the previous  dimensions  were  put  forth,  and  a  majority of new or revised items were developed. Physical conditioning was defined as the confidence a coach has in the ability to prepare athletes physically for participation in the sport. Technique efficacy was redefined as the confidence a coach has in the ability to use instructional and diagnostic skills during practices. Character building was redefined as the confidence a coach has in the ability to positively influence athletes’ character development through sport.  Evidence  has  been  provided,  for  both  the CES II–HST and the CES II–YST, that the proposed measurement model closely and reliably resembles real data for both male and female coaches.

Sources of Coaching Efficacy

Albert Bandura proposed that self-efficacy beliefs are based on the complex cognitive processing of approximately  four  general  categories  of  potential  sources  of  information:  (1)  past  performance accomplishments,   (2)   vicarious   experiences, (3)  verbal  persuasion,  and  (4)  physiological  or emotional  arousal.  Past  performance  accomplishments  have  typically  been  identified  as  the  strongest source of efficacy information. Deborah Feltz et  al.  worked  from  Bandura’s  general  framework and  put  forth  potential  sources  of  coaching  efficacy  information,  which  included  coaching  preparation,  coaching  experience,  prior  success  in coaching,  perceived  ability  of  team,  and  social support  from  various  stakeholders  (e.g.,  athletic director,  community,  students,  faculty,  and  parents).  Subsequent  research  has  since  built  upon this  aspect  of  the  conceptual  model  of  coaching efficacy and has added a few potential sources of coaching efficacy information. These include assistant  coaching  experience,  relevant  athletic  experience  of  the  coach,  perceived  improvement  of athletes, social support from athletes, and imagery use by the coach.

Each  of  the  proposed  sources  of  coaching efficacy  information  outlined  in  the  previous paragraph  has  been  found  to  be  an  important predictor  of  at  least  one  of  the  proposed  dimensions  of  coaching  efficacy  at  one  or  more  levels of competition. There is some evidence, however, that  the  degree  of  importance  for  some  of  these sources of coaching efficacy information may vary somewhat  by  level  coached  and  or  gender  of  the coach.  For  example,  coaching  preparation  and coaching  experience  have  been  found  to  be  reliable  sources  of  efficacy  information  at  both  the high school and youth sport levels but less so for collegiate coaches at Division II and III. Prior success (e.g., won–loss record in the previous year or career winning percentage) has been shown to be an  important  source  of  efficacy  information  for female coaches but less so for male coaches at the high school level. Finally, the current proposed collection of proposed sources of efficacy information appear  to  be  more  salient,  on  average,  for  some dimensions  of  coaching  efficacy,  such  as  game strategy  efficacy,  technique  efficacy,  and  motivation efficacy, than for other dimensions of coaching  efficacy  like  character  building  efficacy.  That said, it is important to note that even for the most understood dimensions of coaching efficacy, most of the variability in even these dimensions has yet to  be  explained.  This  suggests  that  there  may  be more  work  to  be  done  to  discover  new  sources  of coaching efficacy information in order to get a fuller understanding of the complex cognitive processes that underlie these beliefs.

Outcomes of Coaching Efficacy

Albert Bandura proposed that self-efficacy beliefs often  are  the  primary  determinant  of  people’s behavior and thought patterns. Self-efficacy beliefs affect  the  choices  a  person  makes  (Do  I  attempt to take on a particular task?), the effort a person dedicates to a particular task (Will I give my best effort  to  this  task?),  and  the  persistence  a  person displays  while  working  toward  completion  of  a particular  task  (Given  a  setback,  will  I  redouble my efforts toward accomplishing this task?). Self efficacy beliefs also affect the goals that a person sets (Will I select a goal that pushes me to perform my  very  best?),  the  attributions  a  person  makes (Given a setback, will I identify internal or external explanations for the outcome?), and the emotional reactions a person has (Given that I almost, but not quite, accomplished my goal and that I no longer  have  the  opportunity  to  pursue  this  goal, will I feel proud of what I did accomplish?).

Deborah  Feltz  et  al.  worked  from  Bandura’s general  framework  and  highlighted  potential  outcomes of coaching efficacy, which included coaching  behavior,  player  and  team  satisfaction,  player and  team  performance,  and  player  and  team  efficacy.  More  efficacious  coaches  as  compared  to less  efficacious  coaches,  on  average,  are  theorized to  provide  more  effective  feedback  (e.g.,  more  of a  focus  on  encouragement  and  inclusive  leadership  and  less  of  a  focus  on  organizational  issues and autocratic leadership) to athletes or teams, be more  appropriately  committed  to  coaching  and suffer less burnout from coaching, have more satisfied  athletes  or  teams  (e.g.,  want  to  play  for  the same coach again next year), have athletes or teams more frequently perform at or above their current ability  level,  and  serve  as  positive  source  of  efficacy  information  for  their  athletes  or  teams  (e.g., the  coach  is  perceived  as  confident  in  the  athlete or team). Interestingly, to date, motivation efficacy and character building efficacy have generally been the most consistent predictors of positive outcomes for athletes or teams. Thus, the more relationship-based dimensions of coaching efficacy as compared with  the  more  technical  dimensions  of  coaching efficacy, such as technique efficacy and game strategy efficacy, may be especially important to athletes or teams. The predictive ability of physical conditioning efficacy has yet to be systematically studied.

Future Directions

Self-efficacy  theory  provides  a  strong  theoretical base for the construction of the coaching efficacy construct. The conceptual model of coaching efficacy  serves  as  a  very  useful  and  flexible  sport specific  theoretical  framework.  The  measurement of  coaching  efficacy  has  improved  yielding  better model-data fit in recent years, in part, because of the  recent  development  of  different  instruments based on level coached. Clearly there exists a solid basis from which future scholarship can proceed in some way. Future directions that may prove especially fruitful may include a sharper focus on relevant subpopulations, such as gender of both the coach and the team and level coached, with regard to  potential  sources  and  outcomes  of  coaching efficacy,  and  longitudinal  research  designs  that describe the dynamic nature of coaching efficacy.


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  4. Feltz, D. L., Hepler, T. J., Roman, N., & Paiement, C. A. (2009). Coaching efficacy and youth sport coaches. The Sport Psychologist, 23, 24–41.
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