Youth athletes’ perceptions of humanistic coaching

William R. Falcão *, Gordon A. Bloom **, Jeffrey G. Caron *** and Wade D. Gilbert ****

(*) HEC Montreal, Montreal, Canada
(**) McGill University, Montreal, Canada
(***) University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada
(****) California State University, Fresno, USA


R. Falcão, W., A. Bloom, G., G. Caron, J., D. Gilbert, W. (2019). Youth athletes’ perceptions of humanistic coaching. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 50(6), 523-547. doi:10.7352/IJSP.2019.50.523


Humanistic coaching focuses on promoting athletes’ personal growth and development by empowering athletes and fostering positive interpersonal coachathlete relationships. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the experiences of student-athletes coached by individuals using humanistic principles to foster personal development through sport. A collective case study with focus group interviews was employed with 23 student-athletes (Rage = 13-18 years old; Mage = 14.5; SDage = 1.75) from three schools. An inductive thematic analysis revealed that athletes perceived their coaches as someone who cared about them beyond sport, supporting them through academic and personal challenges. This led athletes to build trusting relationships with their coaches, as well as to positive sport experiences that fostered feelings of success, motivation, autonomy, and responsibility both in sport and school. Athletes’ descriptions of coaches’ behaviours aligned with humanistic coaching principles illustrating its value in fostering youth development through sport.

Keywords: youth sport; coaching; athlete development; focus groups