International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching Volume 5 · Number 1 · 2010
The Assessment of Athletic Ability at the Junior College Level
Gloria B. Solomon Department of Kinesiology, TCU Box 297730, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, TX 76129, USA E-mail: email@example.com
ABSTRACT The means by which coaches select, develop, and evaluate their athletes is a topic of interest among sport scholars. Expectancy theory is one framework implemented to further understand the leadership behaviors of coaches. Results from previous research suggest that coaches use a wide variety of sources to develop and evaluate their players. Unfortunately, junior (also called community) college coaches have been omitted from this important work. The purpose of the present study was to query junior college coaches and their athletes regarding impression cues utilized to judge athlete ability. Thirty-four coaches and 210 athletes completed the Solomon Expectancy Sources Scale (SESS). Results determined that head and assistant coaches are consistent in their prioritization of expectancy sources. Coaches and athletes are also congruent; however, coaches rated Coachability significantly higher than athletes. These results are discussed in light of the unique position of the junior college coach. Key words: Coachability, Community College, Expectancy Theory, Impression Cues
INTRODUCTION In the world of competitive sport, athletic achievement is largely dependent on the quality of leadership. Sport scholars have created various models, which offer insight into the influence of coaching quality and style on athletic performance [1, 2]. One line of inquiry explores the quality of coach leadership through the lens of expectancy theory [3, 4]. According to expectancy theorists, coaches directly and indirectly impact athlete development via a four-step cyclical process [3-5]. In step one, coaches utilize various impression cues (personal, performance, psychological) to evaluate athlete ability. During the early stages of meeting potential and current athletes (scouting, pre-season practice, etc.) coaches begin the evaluation process. While early research suggested that coaches rely predominantly on performance cues (e.g., skills tests, performance statistics) [6-8], recent evidence demonstrates that psychological cues (e.g., confidence, concentration) are commonly utilized by coaches to judge athletic ability [3, 4, 9, 10].
Reviewers: Sean Cumming (University of Bath, UK) Emerson Franchini (University of São Paulo, Brazil)
13]. athletes reported that coach behavior in practice is more influential than behaviors exhibited during games . coaches interact with athletes according to their initial impressions. More recently. which evaluate an athlete’s psychological qualities. In a study
. Further evidence suggests that athletes who possess the physical qualities necessary to be successful in a specific sport perceive better quality feedback from their coaches . 21]. It is theorized that high-expectancy athletes perceive coach feedback as instrumental to development and therefore experience improvement. 8. These interactions include both verbal and nonverbal behaviors issued by the coach according to his/her perceptions of athlete ability. height. Content validity and reliability via internal consistency have been ascertained for the ERS . Furthermore. Some early research contends that high-expectancy child athletes receive more reinforcement . step four purports that athlete’s performance conforms to the coach’s initial expectation. body type. Becker and Wrisberg adapted the ERS by adding three items.e. their performance suffers. Specifically. performance . Originally. 24]. Within the sport literature. past performance. In order to fully test the applicability of this model in competitive sport. 14] and elite  levels. climate. 18].. p. high-expectancy athletes are afforded more feedback and better quality feedback than their lower-expectancy teammates at the high school [12. Solomon found that in a league of six basketball teams. coaches rely on performance (i. However. consequently. In the 30 years of expectancy effects research.e. Initially. the lack of psychometrically sound instrumentation has plagued the literature and subsequently challenges the utility of this theory. Solomon made the first attempt to create a tool to scientifically define skill level for coaches . age) impression cues to evaluate athlete ability. recent research demonstrates that instructional behaviors have the capacity to influence athlete’s self-perceptions and. Those who were originally deemed high ability show the greatest gains in improvement. low expectancy athletes recognize the lack of attention meted out by the coach and.38
Assessment of Athletic Ability
In step two. patterns among youth sport coaches are inconsistent. skill tests) and personal (i. Rosenthal identified four specific areas in which the coachathlete dynamic may be affected at this stage: feedback. an examination of measurement procedures must be conducted. More recently. subsequently. While this step in the expectancy cycle has yet to be empirically tested. This reinforces to the coach that s/he is a good judge of athlete ability and thus. it was common for researchers to operationalize expectancy level by simply asking coaches to rank order their athletes from most to least skilled [7. while Horn found that low-expectancy children were issued more instructional feedback .. The sport context appears to influence feedback patterns. it was left to the coaches to define skill. In her study. Step three asserts that athletes respond to coach feedback and subsequently their performance behaviors are affected. Finally. 169]. Athletes are acutely aware of the treatment issued by their coaches [8. college [8. The Expectancy Rating Scale (ERS) is comprised of five items that operationalize skill as physical ability and has been utilized in several studies [4. Another troublesome measurement issue in the expectancy literature relates to the assumptions associated with step one of the four-step cycle. However. The Modified Expectancy Rating Scale (MERS) provides a valid and reliable tool to assess coaches’ evaluation of athlete ability in a more comprehensive manner . this is the most widely researched step in this cycle. and output . “Youth sport coaches did not offer different praise or instruction feedback to their high and low expectancy athletes” [16. expectancy theorists posited that in step one. input. completes the expectancy cycle. Horn found that high-expectancy youth athletes are afforded better feedback in competition whereas in practice feedback patterns appear to be more equitable . 23.
athletes of more successful coaches were aware of how they were being evaluated.100 articles published in English language journals . Furthermore. One. Neglecting to sufficiently distinguish between the various competitive levels in college athletics is common and the junior-college coach is oftentimes marginalized or even excluded from the sport science literature. The SESS is a valid and reliable tool containing 30 items housed into four factors: Coachability. Considering that there are approximately 1. it is even more critical to evaluate and develop athletes to meet the needs of the team as accurately and rapidly as possible. However. coaches at the college level accounted for 37% of the articles. Both successful (win % > 50%) and less successful (win % < 40%) intercollegiate head basketball coaches prioritized similar expectancy sources . The purpose of the current investigation is three-fold. Therefore. resulted in the creation of the Solomon Expectancy Sources Scale (SESS). The role of the coach in an educational setting has undergone significant inquiry. In study one. Participants were labeled according to their context. Team Player. the sources of information coaches use in step one need to be further explored. An expansive cross-cultural investigation determined that intercollegiate head and assistant intercollegiate coaches in the USA rated all four factors significantly higher than elite German coaches . Solomon [4. Solomon conducted a four-phase investigation to create a psychometrically sound instrument which researchers could adopt to study expectancy effects in competitive sport . Clearly the utility of this instrument for coaches outside of the USA is in need of further inquiry. Gilbert and Trudel identified over 1. The position of junior-college coaching is a unique one. it is essential to begin to investigate how junior college coaches assess athletic ability and subsequently use this information to develop athletes. She concluded that in order to utilize the fourstep cycle to comprehend coach-athlete dynamics. there is no research to date on how junior-college coaches evaluate their athletes. and Maturity . The culmination of this series of studies. the research question posed asked whether there is a significant difference between the evaluative sources of information used by head and assistant coaches. junior or community college coaches were not identified. Thus. this sample of basketball coaches prioritized psychological factors when evaluating athletes. the researcher sought to examine the primary sources of expectancy information utilized by head and assistant junior college track and field coaches.
. In their comprehensive analysis of the coaching science literature from 1970 – 2001. this represents a vast population of coaches whose evaluative principles have yet to be explored. the athletes of less successful coaches were not cognizant of the sources used by their head coaches. 25] found that head coaches rely predominantly on psychological cues to judge athletic ability. Two studies have utilized the SESS to discover the qualities coaches are using in the first step of the expectancy cycle. Oftentimes these coaches are serving in a part-time capacity despite the fact that quality college-level coaching demands a full-time commitment. athletes perceive their juniorcollege experience as a stepping stone to pursue an athletic scholarship at a four-year institution . Physical Ability. Another distinct feature of coaching at this level is that there is only a two-year window to work with the athletes. 18 Division I intercollegiate coaches were interviewed regarding the means by which they judge athlete ability . Oftentimes. including over 300 coaches. They noted that the majority of articles focused on coaching behaviors in team sport settings. From this qualitative inquiry. Interestingly. a questionnaire was developed which was subjected to three rounds of analyses.International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching Volume 5 · Number 1 · 2010
of intercollegiate coaches. Due to the distinct differences in responsibilities by coaching role (head and assistant).500 junior colleges in the USA. Specifically.
MEASURES Demographic Questionnaire. ethnicity. A total of 34 coaches and their athletes (n = 210) served as the subject pool. s = 13. gender. coach status (head. the researcher sought to distinguish patterns between track athletes (emphasis on speed) versus field athletes (emphasis on power).26. Nine schools agreed to participate for an acceptance rate of 53%. METHOD PARTICIPANTS Track and field coaching staffs from 17 junior colleges (JC) in northern California were invited to partake in this study. s = 1. ethnicity. building off of the work by Becker and Solomon .74 4.17).39. Table 1.51). gender. no directed hypotheses were proffered. See Table 1 for the complete demographic profile for coaches. team gender.82
. assistant). Coach Demographic Information n Gender Male Female Coach Status Head Assistant Ethnicity African American Asian American European American Hispanic Mixed Ethnicity Gender Coached Male Female Both Coaching Experience College Athlete Experience 26 8 19 13 6 1 22 3 1 7 6 21 Mean 10. Table 2 contains the athletes’ demographic information. the researcher queried both coaches and their athletes regarding their perceptions of qualities coaches use to assess athletic ability. considering that the sport of track and field is really a compilation of multiple sports housed under one term. and years experience as a college athlete.40
Assessment of Athletic Ability
Two.89 . data collected included age. and primary and secondary events. The athletes were 17 to 27 years of age (M = 19. The coaches ranged in age from 25 to 79 years (M = 46. data obtained included age. Do coaches and athletes hold congruent perceptions of the evaluative sources of information used to judge athlete ability? Three. is there a significant difference in perceptions of coach evaluation criteria between athletes competing in track events versus those who are field athletes? Due to the exploratory nature of this study. For the coaches. A demographic questionnaire was administered to gather background information from the coaches and athletes. primary event coached. years experience as a junior college athlete. year in school. Specifically.00
SD 10. years as JC coach. For athletes.
a regularly scheduled practice session. nine programs agreed to participate. In order to respond. Of the 17 junior colleges. Team Player (8 items).35 1. The independent variable was coach status (head. Each point along the scale is labeled from Very Strongly Disagree (1) to Very Strongly Agree (7). Then the coaches and athletes completed the Demographic Questionnaire and the SESS. or following. and Maturity (5 items). Athlete Demographic Information n Gender Male Female Year in School 1st 2nd 3rd Ethnicity African American Asian American European American Hispanic Mixed Ethnicity High School Experience Junior College Experience 84 125 105 76 13 70 9 92 22 7 Mean 3.International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching Volume 5 · Number 1 · 2010
Table 2. All junior colleges in northern California with track and field programs were identified (n = 17). and Maturity. Team Player.64
Solomon Expectancy Sources Scale.12 . Results indicated that there were no significant differences between head (n = 19) and assistant (n = 13) coaches on the four
SD 1. The SESS was subjected to psychometric procedures to ensure adequate reliability and validity . Physical Ability. The 30 items are housed in one of four factors: Coachability (11 items). Data were collected on-site immediately prior to. four independent sample t-tests were performed . RESULTS The first research question sought to determine whether head and assistant coaches hold congruent perceptions of qualities used to assess athlete ability. _________________ is a component which I use a majority of the time. Coaches and athletes were verbally issued detailed administration procedures and the informed consent form prior to completing the questionnaires. A convenient date and time were arranged with each of the nine teams via the head coaches. assistant) and the dependent variables were the four SESS factors: Coachability. Each item is framed within the sentence below. In order to address this question. Physical Ability (6 items). When evaluating athlete ability. All coaches who agreed to participate were provided with a summary report detailing the key findings. a 7-point Likert scale was developed. The SESS is a 30-item questionnaire designed to elicit information regarding coach’s assessment of athlete ability. PROCEDURE Permission was sought and granted from the University Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects.
183 .57 (1. p <.709
Variable Coachability Team Player Physical Ability Maturity
The second research question sought to compare coaches and athletes on expectancy sources.02 (.283 1.05. The athletes received slightly different directions.019) 5.37 (. 201) = 2.062
Variable Coachability Team Player Physical Ability Maturity
* p < .33 (. Means and Standard Deviations Associated with the Series of Four Independent t-Tests Comparing Coaches and Athletes on the Four SESS Factors Coaches Mean (SD) 6.60 (.061 .993) 5.75 (. there were no significant difference on three of the four factors.748) 5.74 (. and Maturity. athlete) and the dependent variables were the four factors contained in the SESS.650) 5. A further examination of the data showed that regardless of coach status.877) 5. all coaches rated Coachability as the most important factor when evaluating athletic ability. Those athletes who did not report a primary event were excluded from this analysis. coaches reported a significantly higher rating of Coachability than their athletes.589 . This finding is interesting in light of the fact that both coaches and athletes rated Coachability as the most critical factor in evaluating athlete ability.85 (.597) 5.469 .594 .947) 5.234* .261 t-value 1.26 (. For this analysis.56 (.249 t-value 2.57 (.824) 5. Table 3 contains the relevant statistics for this series of analyses.665) Athletes Mean (SD) 5.880) 5. However.589) 5.149 .78 (. Means and Standard Deviations Associated with the Series of Four Independent t-Tests Comparing Head and Assistant Coaches on the Four SESS Factors Head Coaches Mean (SD) 5. track
. they completed the questionnaire by reporting how they think their primary event coach evaluates athletic ability. the athlete sample was isolated and subjected to a series of independent sample t-tests to determine if track athletes perceived different sources of coach evaluation than field athletes.596) 5.683) Cohen’s d .13 (. Maturity was rated lowest. Results revealed that athletes’ perceptions were congruent with their coaches preferences for evaluation sources on three of the four factors: Team Player. The grouping variable was status (coach. Table 4.246 .862) 5. However. a series of independent t-tests were conducted.466 .342 . Results demonstrated that track athletes (n = 124) and field athletes (n = 61) are quite similar in their perceptions of coach evaluation.745) Assistant Coaches Mean (SD) 6.23. The independent variable was primary event type (track.920) Cohen’s d . Table 3.51 (. both coaches and athletes completed the SESS.42
Assessment of Athletic Ability
SESS factors. t(1. field) and the dependent variables were the four SESS factors. To test this research question.74 (.45 (.05
For the third research question. Physical Ability. Refer to Table 4 for an overview of the statistics resulting from these analyses.377 1.
80 (.849) 5.05. Further comparisons showed that both head and assistant coaches rated Coachability highest among the four factors.05
DISCUSSION This study represents a starting point for the scientific examination of expectancy effects in competitive sport. this finding supports the contention by Solomon and Rhea that it is indeed a misperception to assume that coaches rely predominantly on physical qualities to assess athletic ability . Three of the four factors were perceived similarly including Team Player. Therefore. This finding is consonant with a previous study that found no differences in SESS factors between more and less successful basketball coaches .36 (SD) (.941) 5.277 . Table 5. and Maturity.698 . athletes rated the qualities they perceived their coaches used when evaluating athlete ability. The sample of 225 full-time head coaches of team sports was congruent in their leadership behaviors as measured by the Leadership Practices Inventory . items related to Physical Ability were not in the top third of SESS items.33 5. Thus.61 5.000*
Variable Coachability Team Player Physical Ability Maturity
* p < . The second research question included the current athletes of the coaching sample. the Coachability factor was rated higher by coaches. and Maturity. Physical Ability. Physical Ability. However.
.77 (.996) (. Both coaches and athletes completed the SESS. Coffman determined that male and female coaches were quite similar in their leadership practices . t(1. assistant coaches rated Physical Ability as third highest of the four factors.196 . p <. While US coaches rated all four SESS factors higher than German coaches . Team Player.175 1. Table 5 contains the statistical findings from this analysis. the juniorcollege athletes rated these three factors the same as their coaches . head coaches rated Physical Ability items as second highest of the four factors. all coaches in this cross-cultural sample ranked the four factors in the same order: Coachability. Like the athletes of successful coaches. The first research question compared head and assistant track and field coaches on qualities utilized to assess athlete ability.951) (1. seven of the top 10 SESS items rated by intercollegiate basketball coaches fall under the Coachability factor. Results demonstrated that there were no differences in impression cue sources between head and assistant coaches.933) Field Mean 5.938 2. the congruency among head and assistant junior-college coaches regarding expectancy sources utilized to judge athlete ability parallels the consistency between male and female juniorcollege coaches and successful and less successful intercollegiate head basketball coaches. 183) = 2.145 .320 t-value 1. Specifically.875) Cohen’s d .65 (. In a study of junior-college coaches. Interestingly.62 5.085) (.00.58 (. Means and Standard Deviations Associated with the Series of Four Independent t-Tests Comparing Track Athletes and Field Athletes on the Four SESS Factors Track Mean (SD) 5. In the current study.974) 5. which parallels the individual item analysis conducted by Becker and Solomon .International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching Volume 5 · Number 1 · 2010
athletes rated Maturity significantly higher than field athletes. Coaches rated the qualities they utilize when evaluating athletic ability.
Therefore. willingness to learn. clear communication of expectations will only enhance the coach-athlete dynamic. athletes on less successful teams were not aware of how they were being evaluated. The factor of Maturity encompassed five qualities: courage. evaluate and develop athletes in similar ways as their full-time colleagues. and competitiveness. however. Only one sport was selected for this investigation. receptivity to coaching. coaches in two and four-year colleges in the USA utilize similar qualities when judging their athlete’s ability. mental maturity. In order to maximize athlete development in the short period of time that junior-college coaches have. confidence is a key psychological quality that coaches use as a source of evaluation. Emphasizing the need for coaches to convey this information directly to their athletes should be addressed in coach education and training programs. Athletes were further divided into two groups: track and field. Research at the four-year college setting found that head coaches’ perceptions of athlete confidence predicted athlete performance [4. The short time (2 years) that coaches have to work with athletes at the juniorcollege level and the possibility that coaches must divide their time between coaching and other jobs might lend insight into the most effective methods for educating junior-college coaches in the future. Further exploration of why track athletes believe their coaches prioritize Maturity items must be examined. what is most essential is that athletes become aware of the criteria their coaches are using to evaluate ability. Perhaps the Coachability factor is mediated by the coach-athlete relationship that is developed in the sport setting.
. Regardless of gender. Track included the running events. Becker and Solomon found that successful and unsuccessful coaches prioritized expectancy sources in a similar manner .44
Assessment of Athletic Ability
Clearly athletes have an understanding of how important being “coachable” is. honesty. athlete. handling pressure. It appears that coaches in varied college settings prioritize similar impression cues when evaluating athlete ability. concentration. confidence. querying coaches and athletes from a variety of junior-college sport programs would serve to enhance our understanding. or coaching role. The third exploratory question sought to determine if there were different perceptions among athletes competing in track versus field events. Perhaps it requires actually serving in the coaching role to fully comprehend how important it is to have athletes on the team who are malleable and receptive to coach feedback. What differed is that successful coaches were more astute at communicating this information to their athletes. It would be informational to determine if part-time coaches who have other sources of employment. The practical implications from this study may provide the coach. respect. CONCLUSION The knowledge base in this area will be improved by conducting future studies on the juniorcollege population. 25]. The Coachability factor included the following 11 items: integrity. These two major event categories typically have different coaching staffs. The statistical analyses revealed that track athletes rate Maturity significantly higher than field athletes. Evidently. Junior-college track and field athletes were fairly accurate in recognizing the factors their coaches used to judge their athletic ability. and sport psychologist with valuable information. Considering the relatively short duration of the junior-college experience. willingness to listen. Further research distinguishing part. and making complete assessments. field included the throwing and jumping events. the development of the coach-athlete dynamic may be structurally limited.and full-time coaches would also be insightful. the magnitude is more pronounced for the coaches. ability to use good strategy. sport type. A new Model of Great Coaching asserts that the coach-athlete relationship is a central ingredient to coaching excellence . athletic experience. trust.
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