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.
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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- Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.
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