59 Psychologists Teach Coaches

Based on Research by Ronald Smith, Ph.D. and Frank Smoll, Ph.D..  Psychology Science Minute written by American Psychological Association, adapted by Juanita N. Baker, Ph.D..

Is playing a sport good for kids?  Some critics argue that parents and coaches place too many demands upon kids especially by “winning at all costs” and creating fear of failure and excessive anxiety.

A quality child’s sports experience largely depends on the environment created by the coach. Psychologists Ronald Smith and Frank Smoll designed the Coach Effectiveness Training program to instruct youth sports coaches on the finer points of team building, esteem nurturing, and example-setting. Based on cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques, they taught coaches to be aware of and foresee the impacts of their behaviors by understanding how their young athletes perceive their behaviors. The training encourages coaches to replace the “winning is everything” philosophy with a commitment to reduce criticism and punishment, improve children’s skills and reward their efforts.

After training, these coaches had similar win-loss records but were evaluated more positively by their players compared to coaches without training. Their athletes also enjoyed playing for their coaches more, thought that their teammates got along better, and had more fun. Subsequent research with other sports teams confirms that athletes under Coaching Effectiveness Trained coaches are also less anxious and 30% less likely to drop out of their sports program.

Coaches and parents!  Focus on team and skill-building and encourage kids’ efforts.


For more details see:


American Psychological Association, May 29, 2003

More about researchers and availability of coaching, see:


Cited Research

Smith, R. E., Smoll, F. L., & Hunt, E. B. (1977). A system for the behavioral assessment of athletic coaches. Research Quarterly, 48, 401-407.

Smith, R. E., Smoll, F. L., & Curtis, B. (1979). Coach effectiveness training: A cognitive behavioral approach to enhancing relationship skills in youth sport coaches. Journal of Sport Psychology, 1, 59-75.

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