How Coaches’ Expectations Affect Self-Confidence

HowCoaches’ Expectations Affect Self-Confidence

HowCoaches’ Expectations Affect Self-Confidence

Coachesplay important roles in the life of an athlete since they motivateand give them the skills they need to excel in their sports. Thismeans that apart from the physical training, coaches have theresponsibility of ensuring that athletes are motivated and haveacquired the self confidence that they need to improve theirperformance (Coaches Colleague, 2009). However, the human nature ofcoaches forces them to form expectations for their trainees. Some ofthese expectations are based on subjective factors while a few of theexpectations are objective. Most importantly, both subjective andobjective expectations influence athletes’ performance. This paperwill address the impact of coaches’ expectations on the selfconfidence of athletes. The paper will focus on the formation ofexpectations, the influence of coaches’ expectations on coaches’behavior, the impact of coaches’ behavior on athletes’performance, the confirmation of coaches’ expectations of athletes’performance, and the application of the findings reported in thepaper.

Step1: How coaches for expectations

Theprimary role of coaches is to help athletes develop their talents totheir full potential. Coaches should assume their responsibilities oftraining athletes by instructing them in the relevant skills andencouragement (Green, 2012). This implies that coaches should formtheir expectations of individual athletes on the basis of theirperformance during the training, their personal motivation, anddedication. However, this objective way of forming expectations doesnot hold because coaches tend to judge the anticipated performance oftheir trainees on the basis of their subjective cues. Coaches canhave high or low expectations with their athletes depending on howthey see them and not what individual players can do in the field.According to Weinberg &amp Gould (2006) some coaches form theirexpectations of individual athletes on the basis of their race,gender, socioeconomic status, and other social characteristics, whichare referred to as person cues. Reliance on these person cues resultsin the formation of inappropriate expectations.

Theuse of accurate information to evaluate the performance of individualathletes leads to formation of accurate expectations. A coach whorelies of the demonstrated capabilities of each athlete formsreliable expectation that that predict the competence of each athletewith some level of accuracy (Coaches Colleague, 2009). However, thisis can only be achieved by coaches who have the capacity to seeathletes beyond their race, gender, and other social characteristics.

Step2: How coaches’ expectations influence the behavior

Theaccuracy of the information used by coaches to form expectationsinfluences the type of behavior towards individual athletes. Weinberg&amp Gould (2006) grouped coaches’ behaviors towards athletes inthree categories. First, the quality and amount of interaction thatcoaches spend on each individual athlete depends on whether the coachused subjective of objective factors to form his expectations of eachathlete. For example, a coach, who uses subjective factors (such asgender and socioeconomic factors) to conclude that a give athlete hasa high potential and ability in sports spend more time training theathlete (Woitall, 2007). This is because such a coach is selfconvinced that the athlete will perform well in the competitions. Itwould also be expected that a coach with a high expectation of agiven athlete will show positive and caring emotions. The opposite isexpected to happen when the coach has a low expectation of anathlete.

Secondly,coaches vary the amount and quality of instructions they give totheir athletes depending on their expectations of each athlete. Inmost cases, coaches lower the level of skills that an athlete isshould receive during the training, especially when they ha a lowexpectation (Woitall, 2007). This results in the establishment of alower standard of performance for athletes with whom the coach haslow expectations. In addition, coaches allocate less training timefor athletes they expect to perform less, while athletes who areexpected to perform well are training for longer hours in order toperfect their skills and competence. This means that coaches find ita waste of tile to training athletes who are expected to performpoorly for longer hours. Moreover, coaches regulate the level ofskills that each individual athlete should receive depending on thelevel of expectation they have on them (Weinberg &amp Gould, 2006).For example, coaches have the tendency of being less persistent intraining athletes low expectation athletes on difficult skills thatare crucial for their performance.

Third,coaches vary the type as well as the frequency of their feedback toathletes depending on how they expect them to perform. The highexpectation athletes receive more informational and instructionalfeedback from the coaches than their low expectation counterparts(Woitall, 2007). Similarly, the high-expectation athletes receivemore praise and positive reinforcement following any successfulperformance. Athletes of lower expectation, on the other hand,receive quantitatively less feedback (such as praise) following theirmediocre performance.

Step3: How coaches’ behavior affects athletes’ performance

Thesubjective expectations held by coaches’ results in psychologicaland physical effects on athletes. Samah, Hanie &amp Olutokunbo(2013) identified some of the key behaviors adopted by coaches, whichhave the capacity to influence the performance of athletes in adirect way. These components of behavior include contingentencouragement, contingent technical instructions, and effectivecommunication. The praise and positive reinforcement that the highexpectation athletes receive from coaches has been positivecorrelated with their good performance (Weinberg &amp Gould, 2006).For example, the high tendency of coaches giving positivereinforcement to the high expectation athletes for their good play isrelated to an improvement in performance in the future. This isbecause positive reinforcement is closely associated with characterbuilding, which is both a sociological and psychological element.

Thelow expectation athletes, on the other hand, perform poorly becausethey receive reinforcement that is less effective and less play ortraining time. According to Woitall (2007) most of thelow-expectation athletes associate their poor performance with a lackof positive reinforcement and coaches’ encouragements that showingthem that they have a better future. This is a negative reinforcementthat that affects the performance of the low expectation athletes ina negative way. Moreover, lack of motivation for the low expectationathletes reduces their perceived ability and self confidence, whichare the major factors contributing to their poor performance. Theinfluence of coaches’ behavior on the performance of athletes isbased on the concept of operant conditioning, which was developed byB. Skinner. From this concept, negative reinforcement, which is givento the low expectation players would be expected to discourage themfrom performing well while positive reinforcement (given to the highexpectation athletes) motivates them to do well in sports (McLeod,2007).

Step4: How athletes` performance confirms coaches’ expectations

Thepossibility of coaches’ expectations being confirmed by theathletes’ performance is mainly dependent on the players’tendency to rely solely on coaches’ negative and positivereinforcements. In some cases, athletes feel motivated by coaches towork hard, and this culminates in good performance. On the otherhand, the low expectation players who accept the humiliation, lack ofcoaches’ attention, limited training and the level of skills thatthey can attain to influence their performance confirms the coaches’low performance expectations (Weinberg &amp Gould, 2006). Thisimplies that the chances for the confirmation of coaches’expectations, both the low and high expectations, depend on the levelof influence of their behavior on the athletes they coach and train.Bernier (2014) described this confirmation of coaches’ expectationsas a self-fulfilling prophecy where coaches impart negative orpositive reinforcement to their trainees and claim that they alreadyknew that those athletes would perform as they have done. Thissuggests that the actual performance of individual athletes may notbe an actual representation of the actual potential, but anillustration of the ceiling placed by their coaches through theirconduct.

Althoughit is widely believed that athletes’ is a depiction of coaches’behavior, some athletes get motivation from other sources, whichdisapprove the expectations of their coaches. This is a commonoccurrence among the low expectation athletes who manage to sourcetheir motivation from the family members, peers, and other members ofthe society (Weinberg &amp Gould, 2006). This improves theirconfidence beyond what the coach would have expected, thus enhancingtheir self-efficacy. This culminates in better performance, whichfails to confirm the coaches’ expectations of poor performance.

Step4: Application

Theinformation and the knowledge about the effect of coaches’expectations can use to help both the coaches and athletes. Coachesshould be made aware of the impact of their negative behavior andattitudes towards their trainee athletes. This can help them embracethe guidelines that will lead to objective evaluation of athletes,instead of relying on subjective social characteristics. This willresult in a fair of athletes, which will be based on their abilitiesand performance during the training. The most effective way ofapplying the findings reported in the present study is through theintegration of the information if the coaches curriculum. This is aneffective way of ensuring that coaches are fully informed about theimpact of the expectations they for about the potential of theirtrainees. The findings can also be used to enlighten athletes byinforming them that the expectations that their coaches have for themare not always correct. This will help athletes in sourcingmotivation from different sources, thus enhancing their performance.


Coachescan either form their expectations regarding the abilities ofathletes on the basis of subjective of objective factors. In eithercase, coaches’ expectations have the capacity to influence theirbehavior and how they treat athletes. Coaches’ behavior in turnaffects athletes’ performance by either motivating them or reducingtheir self confidence. Athletes’ performance may at times confirmthe expectation of the coach, but this depends on whether athleteswill allow the coaches’ behavior to influence them. Some of theathletes who are motivated by other people (including the familymembers and peers) are able to avoid the effect of coaches’negative reinforcement.


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Samah,A., Hanie, I, &amp Olutokunbo, S. (2013). Influence of coach’sbehavior on athletes’ motivation: Malaya Sport Archery Experience.InternationalJournal of Research in Management,3 (5), 1-20.

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Woitall,M. (2007). Howexpectations affect performance.Wilton, CT: Soccer America.