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Coaching: Public Perceptions of Shoving Players and Mandated Certification



In a 2020 poll of U.S. residents’ perspectives designed and analyzed by the Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University, we asked questions about coaching, including coach certification and physical aggression toward players at various competitive levels. Coaching is integrated into society at a personal level, as many children and their families interact with coaches of youth teams on a regular basis. It is also prominent on a larger societal and media scale because college and professional coaches are often in the news for their hiring qualifications, salaries, and treatment of players. A quick web search of “high school coach shoving player” will likely yield several local and national news stories about coach resignations, suspensions, and/or controversy, including a recent action by Tara Poovey, a Phoenix, Arizona, high school girls’ basketball coach. Prominent former men’s college basketball coaches, such as California Berkeley’s Mike Montgomery, Rutgers’ Mike Rice, and, most famously, Indiana’s Bobby Knight, received a wide range of consequences for their physical aggression toward players. Researchers have analyzed such aggressive behaviors for their effects on athletes and performance (Kassing & Infante, 1999), coach-athlete conflict more generally (Wachsmuth et al., 2017), and fostering appropriate coaching behaviors (Paterick et al., 2015). On a related note, there are currently no universally-mandated certifications for coaches across all levels of sport, including community youth leagues, high school, college, and professional. This may be on the horizon as many universities now offer coaching certificates and degrees (e.g., Texas Tech University, Michigan State University). We have seen the media reports and read the scientific evidence, but we wanted your perspectives. So, we asked.

Download the full research note here.