A Case Study of a Successful Men’s NCAA Division I Distance Running Coach: To what extent is Decision-making Humanistic?

Submitted by Seth E. Jenny and Glenn F. Hushman

Seth E. Jenny, Ph.D., is an assistant professor within the Department of Physical Education, Sport and Human Performance at Winthrop University. He is a certified USA Track and Field coach and American College of Sports Medicine Health-Fitness Specialist. Glenn F. Hushman, Ph.D., is an assistant professor within the Department of Health, Exercise, and Sports Sciences at the University of New Mexico. There he teaches undergraduate and graduate physical education teacher education courses.

Abstract

A coaching philosophy is a set of values that guide a coach’s behavior in practical instructional situations, and in overall human relationships. The humanistic coaching philosophy is an athlete-centered, collaborative, and non-manipulative process between athlete and coach, taking into account individual athlete differences and abilities, with the hopes of eventually developing a self-confident and self-regulated athlete. The aim of this case study was to investigate the coaching philosophy and methods of a successful men’s NCAA distance running coach and explore to what extent the stated coaching philosophy and coaching methods of the coach are humanistic. After data collection of coach and athlete interviews, training session observations, and artifact collection, the primary theme of coach/athlete decision-making emerged. Findings indicated that the coach’s stated philosophy and methods were humanistic in regards to having open collaborative decision-making with athletes in most areas of the program (e.g., weekly running mileage, warm-up and cool-down routines, etc.), but dictatorial methods were employed in planning interval and tempo workouts independent from athletes. This corresponded to perceptions of dependency in which the majority of athletes felt dependent on the coach for planning training schedules and effectively implementing interval and tempo workouts into a training plan. A major implication from these findings include that in areas where coaches are authoritative, athletes may not develop feelings of competence which could impact athletes’ abilities to self-regulate independently from the coach. This research was performed and submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Science from the University of New Mexico.

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