When Psychologists Teach Coaches How to Coach, Young Athletes Feel Better and Play Longer
Participating in youth sports is both valued by our culture and beneficial to children's health. But the quality of a child's experience in a sports program largely depends on the environment created by the coach. Psychologists Ronald Smith and Frank Smoll designed the Coach Effectiveness Training program (CET) to instruct youth sports coaches on the finer points of team-building, esteem-nurturing, and example-setting. Based on cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques, CET teaches coaches to be aware of their behaviors, to understand how their behaviors are perceived by their young athletes, and to foresee the impacts of their behaviors. CET also instills in coaches a commitment to improving children's skills and rewarding their efforts, replacing the "winning is everything" philosophy that is common in sports.
In one of their many studies, Smith and Smoll trained Little League Baseball coaches in the philosophy and methods of CET. After their training, these coaches were evaluated more positively by their players than were coaches who did not receive the CET training. CET-trained coaches' athletes also enjoyed playing for their coaches more and thought that their teammates got along better than did athletes of non-trained coaches. Impressively, the self-esteem of trained coaches' athletes increased over the course of one year, with low self-esteem athletes showing the most improvement. Subsequent research with other sports teams has shown that athletes under the leadership of CET-trained coaches are also less anxious and less likely to drop out of their sports program than are athletes of non-trained coaches.
Smith, R. E., Smoll, F. L., & Hunt, E. B. (1977). A system for the behavioral assessment of athletic coaches. Research Quarterly, 48, 401-407.
Smith, R. E., Smoll, F. L., & Curtis, B. (1979). Coach effectiveness training: A cognitive behavioral approach to enhancing relationship skills in youth sport coaches. Journal of Sport Psychology, 1, 59-75.
American Psychological Association, May 29, 2003