Enhancing the self-esteem of youth swimmers through coach training: Gender and age effects

J. Douglas Coatsworth, David E. Conroy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Objectives: Prior research has indicated that improving the behavior of youth sport coaches can enhance the self-esteem of boys age 12-14, particularly for those who begin the season with low self-esteem [Smoll, F. L., Smith, R. E., Barnett, N. P., & Everett, J. J. (1993). Enhancement of children's self-esteem through social support training for youth sport coaches. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78, 602-610]. The purpose of the present study was to extend the literature by testing the efficacy of a psychosocial coach training intervention for enhancing the self-esteem of male and female swimmers aged 7-18 years. Methods: Youth (N=135) and coaches (N=7) participated in a randomized efficacy trial comparing the effects of a psychosocial coach training intervention to an injury prevention intervention on changes in youth self-esteem over the course of a 7-week swim season. Three waves of data were collected: Beginning-of-season (pre-intervention), mid-season, and end-of-season. Results: Longitudinal growth modeling indicated significant variability in initial levels of self-esteem at beginning-of-season, but no significant mean level changes over time. Effects of the experimental intervention were moderated by age, initial level of self-esteem, and gender. Effects of psychosocial coach training were strongest for younger participants, and for girls who started the season with low levels of self-esteem. Conclusions: Training coaches in psychosocial and behavioral principles is an effective way to alter coach behavior and enhance the athlete-coach relational context. Psychosocial coach training is also associated with gains in self-esteem for some, but not all, athletes and may be most important for youth who need it most. Implications for coach training programs are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-192
Number of pages20
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology


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