Discover more from 3 Points by Brian Sullivan
And how they can impact performance
“I’m a big believer in that you become what the head coach thinks of you” - Matt Painter.
That quote has been sitting with me for the last 6 weeks. It seems so simple and obvious, but we almost always thinking of the athlete as the driver of their own success. What role does the coach play? I decided to take a closer look….
So in this week’s 3 Point’s, I’ll take a closer look at expectancy theory and how coaches expectations of their players might impact their performance.
1. Expectancy Theory has been studied in coaching and can be explained in a 4-step process.
Step 1: The coach assesses the athlete’s ability and establishes performance expectations based on three types of impression cues:
Personal (race, gender, body size)
Performance (coordination, speed, agility)
Psychological (confidence, motivation, anxiety).
Step 2: The coach’s expectations influence how they behave toward the athlete. Previous research suggests that high expectancy athletes receive a greater quantity and quality of feedback than their low expectancy teammates.
Step 3: The athlete becomes aware of the coach’s treatment and this subsequently affects the athlete’s own self-perceptions and behaviors.
Step 4: The athlete’s performance conforms to the coach’s original expectations (i.e., high expectancy athletes typically outperform their low expectancy counterparts). These performance outcomes reinforce the coach’s belief that her/his initial assessment of the athlete’s ability was accurate.
2. A team of researchers sought to study this in action and did so with the late Pat Summitt, who retired as the all-time winningest college basketball coach and an 8-time National Champion. The study had Coach Summitt submit her expectations of players two weeks in to pre-season and two weeks following their last game. The researchers observed Coach Summitt during the 2004-05 season. The study closely analyzed over 500 minutes of practice and coded 3,296 coaching behaviors from Coach Summitt.
The researchers predicted two things: Summitt’s perceptions of her players’ abilities would remain stable over the course of the season and secondly, that she would provide differential treatment based on her perceptions. What they found was that while Coach Summitt’s perceptions of her players abilities did remain stable, she did not provide players with higher expectations a greater quality or quantity of feedback. Each player on her team received similar feedback in quantity and quality.
Further analysis showed the most frequent behavior from Coach Summitt was instruction (48%) followed by praise (14.5%), hustle (10.7%) and scolding (6.8%). A similar study conducted on John Wooden found his most frequent behaviors were instruction (50%) followed by hustle (12.7%), praise (6.9%), and scolding (6.6%). Hmm…
3. The researchers provided a few practical suggestions given their findings:
Assessing athlete ability is an inherent component of the coaching process. However, coaches must be aware of how their assessments affect their communication patterns.
Coaches might also consider using their assessments to determine how they can best accommodate each athlete’s individual needs.
Coaches might consider monitoring each player’s level of improvement over the course of a season so that they can adjust their coaching behaviors accordingly.
Becker, A.J. and Wrisberg, C.A., Effective Coaching in Action: Observations of Legendary Collegiate Basketball Coach Pat Summitt, The Sport Psychologist, 2008, 22, 197-211.