Somebody’s Eyes are Watching: The Impact of Coaching Observations on Empowering Motivational Climates and Positive Youth Development


  • Eric Legg Arizona State University
  • Aubrey Newland
  • Ryan Bigelow



Coaching, empowering climate, motivational climate, positive youth development, youth sports


This paper addresses three key issues important to parks and recreation professionals. First, we provide a model of research that works directly with practitioners to address their identified needs in a manner that is least intrusive to their daily work, has the potential for immediate benefit to a parks and recreation program, and provides results that lead to future practical managerial implications. Second, we examine the impact of observing youth basketball coaches and providing feedback on the creation of an empowering motivational climate. Finally, we assess the relation of specific elements of empowering and disempowering motivational climates to positive youth development (PYD) outcomes both within and outside of sport. Eight youth teams, including eight coaches and 57 players, participated in the study. Half of the coaches were observed and provided feedback during the season, while half did not receive any feedback. At the conclusion of the season, players completed questionnaires related to their perceptions of the coach-created empowering and disempowering climate, as well as two measures of PYD. Results did not indicate a significant difference in perceived empowering and disempowering climates between coaches who were observed and coaches who were not observed. However, perceptions of the motivational climate did significantly predict PYD outcomes both within and outside of sport. After examining specific elements of the climate, components of an autonomy-supportive climate represented a significant predictor of PYD. Managerial implications include the potential value of observational feedback, though effective feedback likely requires multiple sessions and more detailed feedback. In addition, coaching behaviors such as explaining the rationale for decisions, and providing athletes with choices and input in decisions appear to be more likely to create desired outcomes. Thus, coaching education and training may wish to emphasize these behaviors. We conclude by offering insights from both the research team and a parks and recreation professional. In so doing, we provide a template for future research that addresses current disconnects between academic research and professional practice. Given the potential theoretical and practical impact of this research, future research may wish to replicate this model and continue to examine observational feedback through longer-term studies that provide more opportunities for observation and feedback.

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Author Biography

Eric Legg, Arizona State University

Assistant Professor
Honors Faculty
School of Community Resources & Development
Arizona State University 





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