Relational Efficacy Beliefs In Coach–Athlete Relations

Despite  the  proliferation  of  self-efficacy  research that has occurred over the past 40 years, only relatively  recently  (i.e.,  over  the  last  decade  or  so) have  investigators  turned  their  attention  to  the additional  efficacy  beliefs  that  are  formed  specifically  within  relational  contexts.  The  tripartite efficacy  model  provides  a  conceptual  framework for  the  investigation  of  this  issue  and  maintains that  when  individuals  occupy  a  position  within an  instructional  (e.g.,  coach–athlete,  teacher– student) or cooperative (e.g., athlete–athlete) relationship, they develop an interrelated network of confidence  beliefs.  This  network  comprises  their confidence in their own capabilities (see the entry “Self-Efficacy”), as well as two distinct relational efficacy  perceptions  regarding  the  person  with whom they are interacting. The first of these relational beliefs, termed other-efficacy, refers to how confident one person is in the other person’s ability (e.g., an athlete’s confidence in his or her coach’s ability). Athletes and coaches often allude to this concept when discussing how much they “believe” in  their  significant  other’s  capabilities  prior  to competition.   The   other   relational   construct, namely  relation-inferred  self-efficacy  (RISE),  is formed as individuals estimate how confident they think the other person is in their ability. In coach– athlete  exchanges,  for  example,  athletes  form RISE appraisals regarding how highly they believe their coach rates their ability as an athlete (e.g., I think my coach really believes in me). Due to the vagaries  of  interpersonal  impression  formation, our RISE beliefs may or may not align accurately with  the  other  person’s  actual  confidence  in  our ability, and in that sense, this construct is classified as a metaperception insofar as it reflects an inference about another person’s thoughts. This entry presents  an  overview  of  the  interrelationships between self-efficacy, other-efficacy, and RISE and integrates  information  on  the  theorized  antecedents  and  consequences  of  individuals’  relational efficacy  beliefs  with  existing  research  findings. The final section provides a summary of conceptual  and  empirical  evidence  for  the  existence  of an additional relational efficacy construct (estimations of the other person’s self-efficacy, or EOSE), which has been largely unexplored to date.

Interrelationships Between the Tripartite Constructs

Sport-based   investigations   with   members   of coach–athlete   and   athlete–athlete   dyads   have typically  demonstrated  positive  interrelationships between the tripartite efficacy constructs, whereby individuals’  other-efficacy  and  RISE  beliefs  have been found to be associated with higher levels of self-efficacy  perceptions.  For  instance,  athletes have  been  shown  to  report  greater  confidence in  their  own  ability  when  they  believe  that  they are  working  under  a  highly  capable  coach  (i.e., other-efficacy)  and/or  when  they  feel  that  their coach believes strongly in their ability (i.e., RISE). However,  this  does  not  always  appear  to  be  the case,  and  counterproductive  relational  outcomes have  been  documented  when  discrepancies  exist between  one’s  self-efficacy  and  relational  efficacy beliefs.  Empirical  evidence  indicates  that,  within coach–athlete  interactions,  a  minority  of  athletes may  report  strong  self-efficacy  beliefs  despite holding  relatively  low  other-efficacy  and  RISE appraisals.  In  this  situation,  when  relatively  self efficacious athletes doubt their coach’s capabilities and  their  coach’s  confidence  in  their  ability,  this appears  to  accompany  heightened  perceptions  of relational  conflict,  and  relatively  lower  levels  of commitment to and satisfaction, with their coach.

Formation and Consequences of Other-Efficacy

Other-efficacy beliefs are theorized to originate out of  one’s  experiences  with  significant  others  (e.g., athletes’ interactions with their coaches) and one’s perception of the other’s accomplishments, as well as through comparison processes and stereotyping (e.g., comparisons with previous coaches, perceiver tendencies).  Interviews  with  members  of  international-level coach–athlete and athlete–athlete dyads have  provided  support  for  these  proposed  antecedents.  For  example,  coaches  and  athletes  have reported that their confidence in the other person is strengthened when they feel that person boasts a successful  track  record,  compares  favorably  with their previous partners, appears to be highly motivated, and is held in high regard by third parties. In cooperative settings, experimental procedures have also  demonstrated  that  individuals’  other-efficacy beliefs may be substantively influenced by the provision of feedback about the partner’s performance effectiveness (or ineffectiveness).

In turn, when individuals believe strongly in the capabilities of their partner, coach, or athlete, this promotes  a  series  of  beneficial  intrapersonal  and relational  outcomes  (particularly  when  the  “perceiver” occupies a subordinate position in the relationship). From an intrapersonal perspective, one’s other-efficacy perceptions have been shown to be positively associated with one’s own performance and  motivation  levels,  as  well  as  positive  affective  states  (e.g.,  enjoyment).  In  exercise  contexts, related research regarding the notion of proxy efficacy (i.e., one’s confidence in the abilities of a third party  to  function  effectively  on  one’s  behalf)  has also  demonstrated  that  individuals  display  more adaptive exercise intentions and engagement when they  are  highly  confident  in  their  instructor’s  or practitioner’s capabilities.

In terms of relational outcomes, those who are highly  confident  in  the  other  person’s  ability  also tend to display a stronger desire to maintain their relationship with that person, higher levels of trust and rapport, and greater enjoyment regarding their interactions.  Due  to  the  interdependent  nature  of sporting interactions, research has also shown that one  person’s  other-efficacy  appraisals  may  shape outcomes for the other person in the relationship. For instance, when coaches believe strongly in an athlete’s capabilities, this has been shown to promote  greater  relationship  commitment  and  effort on the part of the athlete. This effect is likely transmitted through a causal chain whereby the coach displays encouraging and supportive interpersonal behavior as a result of his or her confidence in the athlete, and this behavior is subsequently detected by  the  athlete,  leading  to  favorable  outcomes  for the athlete.

Formation and Consequences of Relation-Inferred Self-Efficacy

RISE appraisals are shaped not only by the behavior of the target individual but also as a result of relevant  perceiver  attributes.  For  example,  athletes  and  coaches  appear  to  infer  that  the  other person has confidence in their ability when she or he  provides  positive  performance  feedback,  displays inclusive and supportive body language, and gives  the  impression  that  she  or  he  enjoys  their interactions. In addition, when individuals believe strongly  in  their  own  ability  and  are  highly  self-motivated,  they  also  tend  to  believe  that  those around  them  are  confident  in  their  ability  (e.g., I know I can do it, so why wouldn’t she be confident in me?). As with other-efficacy, RISE beliefs are  theorized  to  account  for  a  range  of  positive consequences. Most notably, as well as reinforcing one’s  confidence  in  one’s  own  ability,  individuals are  more  likely  to  feel  comforted  and  reassured when they sense that the other person believes in their  ability  and  as  a  result  should  report  unifying  relational  perceptions  (e.g.,  greater  relationship  satisfaction,  perceived  support,  persistence intentions).  These  relational  effects  have  been supported   in   existing   qualitative   sport-based research, as have a number of additional desirable outcomes  in  terms  of  elevated  performance  (e.g., if  I  feel  that  she  believes  in  me,  then  that  reassurance  helps  me  to  make  decisions  and  do  well when I’m competing) and motivation (e.g., when I think he’s confident in me, it makes me try even harder  for  him).  Similarly,  in  high  school  physical  education  (PE)  contexts,  students  have  been shown to endorse relatively more self-determined motives for PE (i.e., participating primarily due to fun,  interest,  and  enjoyment)  when  they  believe that  their  teacher  rates  them  as  a  highly  capable student.

In  coach–athlete  settings,  however,  there  is also  contradictory  evidence  to  indicate  that,  in some instances, RISE beliefs may align with maladaptive  relational  consequences.  Specifically, when  considering  how  the  predictive  functions of  RISE  may  differ  according  to  one’s  role  (and relative  status)  in  coach–athlete  dyads,  moderator  analyses  have  revealed  a  divergent  pattern  of effects  for  athletes  and  coaches.  When  coaches gauge  that  their  athletes  are  highly  confident  in their  coaching  capabilities,  it  has  been  shown  to promote  adaptive  relational  perceptions  on  the part  of  those  coaches  (e.g.,  greater  relationship satisfaction  and  commitment).  However,  athlete RISE  estimations  have  been  found,  at  times,  to display  inverse  relations  with  these  outcomes, insofar  as  athletes  may  report  lowered  commitment  and  satisfaction  when  they  infer  that  their coach believes strongly in their ability. It is possible that, for these athletes, strong RISE appraisals may encourage a degree of complacency, which is manifest in reduced relationship commitment and satisfaction (e.g., if she’s not going to push me any further, then what’s the point?). Alternatively, it is also  plausible  that  strong  RISE  appraisals  about a  coach  might  strengthen  athletes’  confidence  in their own ability to such an extent that they strive to find a new coach who can help them progress further and compete at a higher level. While these findings  appear  somewhat  counterintuitive,  they are noteworthy nonetheless and will undoubtedly be elucidated further as the relational efficacy literature continues to grow.

Estimations of the Other Person’s Self-Efficacy

Although  qualitative,  observational,  and  experimental  work  has  begun  to  map  out  the  implications   associated   with   coaches’,   athletes’, exercisers’,  and  students’  other-efficacy  and  RISE beliefs,  another  potential  relational  efficacy  construct has yet to receive systematic attention. This construct, EOSE, represents one person’s appraisal of his or her partner’s level of self-efficacy. To illustrate  the  nature  of  this  type  of  metaperception, we  might  consider  a  coach  who  feels  that  his  or her athlete is beset by self-doubt. In this instance, the  coach  is  not  directly  questioning  the  athlete’s capabilities  (i.e.,  other-efficacy),  nor  is  she  or  he concerned  about  the  athlete’s  confidence  in  his or  her  ability  as  a  coach  (i.e.,  RISE);  rather,  she or  he  feels  that  the  athlete  appears  to  lack  confidence  in  his  or  her  own  ability  (e.g.,  my  athlete doesn’t  look  very  confident  about  what  she’s  got to  do  in  this  competition).  Whereas  the  accurate appraisal of another person’s self-efficacy may rely on  the  detection  and  interpretation  of  relatively subtle behavioral cues, it appears that individuals in  coach–athlete  and  athlete–athlete  relations  do make assessments of this kind about one another. In  fact,  research  has  demonstrated  that  athletes and  coaches  draw  from  many  of  the  factors  that contribute  to  their  own  self-efficacy  beliefs  when estimating  how  confident  the  other  person  is  in his  or  her  own  ability  (e.g.,  gauging  the  other person’s  recent  performances,  verbal  and  nonverbal  behavior,  affective  and  physiological  state). Interviews  with  members  of  elite  sporting  dyads have also revealed that individuals may feel more positive  about  their  relationship,  as  well  as  more motivated and more confident in their own ability, when  they  believe  that  the  other  person  is  highly self-efficacious. On the other hand, when athletes and coaches appraise (rightly or wrongly) that the other  person  in  their  relationship  is  experiencing self-doubt, then this may result in elevated anxiety levels, interpersonal difficulties, and in some cases, relationship termination.

Despite  the  potential  for  EOSE  to  shape  personal outcomes and relational dynamics in sport, to  date  there  is  no  single  study  that  has  adopted a  fully  integrated  approach  to  the  study  of  relational  efficacy  beliefs  in  sport  (i.e.,  by  measuring other-efficacy,  RISE,  and  EOSE  simultaneously). Nevertheless, the emerging literature indicates that the tripartite framework has relevance in terms of understanding  the  interpersonal  cognitions  that drive  behavior  and  relationship  outcomes  within sport and exercise-based interactions.


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