Autonomy-supportive coaching: an autoethnographical account of the coaching process

Michelle Smith, Hayley McEwan

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Existing literature suggests that coach behaviours can influence the motivation of an athlete. More specifically, the creation of an autonomy-supportive environment is believed to nurture the athletes’ psychological needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness. Embedded in self-determination theory, the aim of the present study was to provide an in-depth examination of the development of autonomy-supportive coaching behaviours. An autoethnographical approach was adopted to explore and chart this process. Data were drawn from field notes, reflective journals, and critical conversations during the seven week study. Data are represented in three progressive stories – Athlete Input, Provision of Choice for All, and Self-Awareness of the Autonomy-Supportive Coach, which raise awareness of the contextual and social influences on the development and sustainment of autonomy-supportive coaching behaviours. Difficulties in creating a motivational climate are reflected upon (e.g., the implications of providing an A-S environment to children). A reflective examination of the process, and product of autonomy-supportive coaching is provided, bringing the unexplored and mundane aspects of the coaching process to life. To fuel the development of autonomy-supportive coaching behaviours, coaches are encouraged to adopt a research-oriented approach to practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-130
Number of pages21
JournalThe Journal of Athlete Centered Coaching
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2016


  • Motivation
  • Behaviour
  • Reflection
  • Autoethnography
  • Athlete-Centred


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