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Which sources of information do coaches choose to form expectations about athletes?

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Which sources of information do coaches choose to form expectations about athletes?

Which sources of information do coaches choose to form expectations about athletes?


Have you ever wondered how coaches make up their minds about the athletes they coach? How do coaches judge who is good enough or who will blossom? Or who will play professionally or compete at the Olympics? Solomon (2010) gathered research on expectancy sources from coaches. These are the sources of information a coach uses to judge an athlete’s ability. The win/loss record is not so important to the coach; rather, the coach explores at least 10 common sources of information — all of which are psychological. Here are the 10 common sources:


  • hard worker,

  • receptivity to coaching,

  • willingness to learn,

  • love of sport,

  • willingness to listen,

  • competitiveness,

  • honesty,

  • respect,

  • self-discipline, and

  • integrity


Should we be fascinated that coaches use psychological factors to judge an athlete’s ability, perhaps not; however, this realisation makes sense in some ways because we can categorise other people and their personalities, character and qualities because we are used to doing this with other people. What is challenging is that these factors are usually only understood broadly and mean different things to different people. One factor that is valued most by the coaches and less by the athletes is coachability. Coachability includes:


  • handling pressure,

  • concentration,

  • mental maturity,

  • competitiveness,

  • receptivity to coaching,

  • willingness to listen,

  • willingness to learn,

  • integrity,

  • trust,

  • honesty, and

  • respect.


When we compare coachability with the psychological qualities above, we see crossover. If athletes were measured on coachability, Solomon suggests, athletes would have a way of working to improve themselves and their abilities in the eyes of the coaches. 


Even if one were to create a simple table with the characteristics listed and a score between one and ten for each characteristic provided by the athlete and by the coach, it would be a helpful guide for the athlete for self-reflection with the coach. What matters most here is that the athlete understands the coach’s ratings and that they work together on those elements that allow the athlete to prosper. When the athlete is fumbling around in the dark for ways to change their image in the eyes of the coach, the athlete could work specifically on handling pressure or mental maturity or a willingness to learn. These subjective psychological qualities gain traction when we work on them alone, with a coach or with a sport psychologist. The best way forward might be to work with your sport psychologist at the beginning and then share your learning with your coach. The key is collaboration and cooperation to keep in pursuit of personal excellence.


Solomon, G. B. (2010). The influence of coach expectations on athlete development. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 1:2, 76-85, DOI: 10.1080/21520704.2010.528173

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