Athlete-Coach Communication and Injury Reporting Amongst Male and Female Athletes
Although physical activity is a necessary component of a healthy lifestyle, there is great alarm that injuries are escalating amongst athletes at every level of sporting competition. In sports such as football and hockey, there are growing concerns about head trauma; in sports such as gymnastics and track and field, there are growing concerns about overuse injuries (Lopate 2013; Caine et al. 2006). Although the physiological and psychological factors which can increase the risk of injury will vary on an individual basis from sport to sport and athlete to athlete, one possible factor that can contribute to injury is the characteristics of the communication which occurs between athlete and coach. Of course, the nature of coach-athlete communication can be positive or negative; helpful or unhelpful. Reflecting this, a number of measurement scales have been developed to critically assess effective communication in an athletic context, including The Scale for Effective Communication in Team Sports (SECTS) which characterizes interactions as exhibiting distinctiveness, acceptance, positive conflict and/or negative conflict (Sullivan & Callow, 2005, pg. 88).
This paper will seek to examine the relationship between the risk of sports injuries and the factors related to communication which transpires between coaches and players. It will also examine how a specific characteristic of the athlete, namely gender, also affects communication between coaches and athletes. Women are often said to be more ‘expressive’ than men in their communication styles; there is also less cultural pressure upon women to ‘be a man’ and bottle up their feelings in regards to injury and showing weaknesses. Women and men have been broadly characterized as “linguistically distinct groups” (Freed, 1996, p. 54). However, there is a paucity of studies on female athletes, who might feel subjected to cultural pressures to seem ‘stronger’ than a man before their coaches. Additionally, the different types of sports women compete in may manifest a different athlete-coach communication dynamic.
This topic is important to study given the growing concern about injuries amongst male and female athletes alike. If specific communication styles and techniques are found to be uniquely effective, the health of athletes could be better preserved over the long-term. Both athletes and coaches alike could receive instruction designed to improve their interpersonal relationships both on the field and off. Decreasing injury rates could also be very valuable for sports which have become extremely controversial due to perceived high physical risk to the athlete. But the precise strategies and techniques must be revealed and explored through further empirical research.
Caine, D. (et al. 2006). Physical injuries in children’s and youth sports:
Reasons for concern? British Journal of Sports Medicine, 40:749-760.
Sullivan, P.J., & Callow, N., (2005). A Cross-cultural examination of the factor structure
Of the Scale for Effective Communication in Team Sports, Group Dynamics: Theory Research, and Practice, 9(2), 87-92.
Lopate, L. (2013). Concussions in the NFL. NPR. Retrieved: http://www.wnyc.org/story/concussions-and-nfl/
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