The purpose of this project of research was to investigate empathic accuracy in
the coach-athlete relationship. It presents methodological paradigms that, while well
established in social psychology, are an innovative adaptation in sport psychology.
Study 1 assessed the empathic accuracy of 40 coach-athlete dyads. Coaches in
individual sports were more accurate than coaches in team sports, and this result was
mediated by shared cognitive focus between coaches and athletes. Coaches whose
training sessions were longer demonstrated increased empathic accuracy, while female
athletes were significantly more accurate than male athletes when working with a male
Study 2 assessed the empathic accuracy of 60 coach-athlete dyads. The results
indicated an association between members' meta-perceptions Gudgments that their
partner is positive about the athletic relationship) and increased empathic accuracy.
Increased empathic accuracy was in turn associated with higher levels of satisfaction for
athletes. No links between performance and empathic accuracy were evident.
Finally, study 3 explored how the empathic accuracy of 60 badminton coaches
was influenced by their professional training and personality, and the quality of
feedback they received from the athlete. All coaches watched a video of a technical
training session and made inferences about what the athlete's thoughts and feelings had
been. Half the coaches were given corrective feedback. Empathic accuracy improved
over the course of the video for both groups; the experimental group improved
significantly more. Coaches' coaching experience and imagination were significantly
associated with empathic accuracy for the control group only.
This thesis has contributed to researchers' knowledge of how coaches and
athletes understand each other and how this is influenced by how they interact and the
views they hold about each other. It has expanded the broader literature on empathic
accuracy through its examination in this unique context. The findings of this research
highlight: (a) empathic accuracy can be measured in an actual training context, (b) the
dynamics of the interaction play a key role in how well partners can accurately perceive
each other, (c) empathic accuracy is associated with positive outcomes, and (d)
empathic accuracy can be improved by manipulation.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.