Enhancing children’s motivation and well-being through innovative coach education

Submitting Institution

York St John University

Unit of Assessment

Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Education: Specialist Studies In Education
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences: Psychology

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Summary of the impact

This case study describes impact from research conducted by Howard Hall into motivational processes underpinning disaffection, debilitation and burnout in youth sport. The conceptual foundations and empirical evidence generated from this research helped inform the design of a large-scale intervention, involving eight European partners, who each implemented a community-based coach education program promoting psychosocial development and healthy lifestyles among children. As a consequence of the intervention, significant impact has been realised through the training of coach educators, delivery of workshops to community coaches, production of coaching resources, exchanges with FA staff and discourse among stakeholders about revisions to coaching practice.

Underpinning research

The published research underpinning this case study was conducted by Howard Hall between 1997 and 2008. This work, and that of eight international partners, contributed to the development of a conceptually-based coach education intervention that was grounded in both Achievement Goal Theory and Self-Determination Theory. Its specific aim was to enhance children's motivation and Promote Adolescent Physical Activity (the PAPA Project). The research by Hall helped to inform the conceptual basis for the intervention. It specified how coaches might influence achievement goals through the creation of empowering environments that would aid in preventing disaffection, dropout and burnout in youth sport. The research was influential in the creation of theoretically based coaching strategies and the development of resources that helped to promote adaptive motivation and prevent the emergence of maladaptive motivational patterns.

Hall's research was important in the design of the intervention as it examined motivational processes underpinning the exhibition of potentially debilitating patterns of cognition, affect and behaviour. Specifically, it focused upon how the meaning given to achievement through either dispositional goals or perfectionism influenced debilitating outcomes such as anxiety and burnout. Of the research referenced below, the study by Hall and Kerr (1997) was one of the first to provide evidence that both perceived ability and dispositional goals were important predictors of state anxiety for athletes as competition approached. In a follow up study, Hall and Kerr (1998) were able to further demonstrate that a combination of low perceived ability and a preoccupation with comparative or normative outcomes gave rise to potentially debilitating levels of cognitive anxiety. In addition to the endorsement of specific achievement goals, Hall, Kerr and Matthews (1998) also provided evidence that perfectionism was an important predictor of pre-competitive anxiety. The chapter by Duda and Hall (2001) from the Handbook of Sport Psychology reviewed the influence of achievement goals on both adaptive and maladaptive motivational outcomes, and provided both a conceptual explanation and supportive evidence for the way in which coaches may influence athletes' goals by creating either empowering or disempowering achievement environments. Within this chapter, perfectionism was also identified as a personality characteristic that appeared to be motivationally paradoxical, suggesting that while an important energiser of achievement striving, it had the potential to render athletes psychologically vulnerable. The paper by Lemyre, Hall and Roberts (2008) was influential in confirming those factors underpinning vulnerability. It identified that a motivational profile comprising ego goals, self-doubt and perfectionism, in conjunction with a controlling coaching climate, elevated the probability of burnout. A further important mechanism explaining the relationship between perfectionism and burnout was identified in research by Hill, Hall, Appleton & Kozub (2008) where they reported that contingent self-worth was a critical mediator of the association between perfectionism and burnout. In addressing these debilitating outcomes, Hall's papers point to the importance of working with coaches to create empowering coaching environments which are task involving and autonomy supportive, as these offer the potential to moderate the debilitating effects of ego goals and dispositional perfectionism on disaffection, drop-out and athlete burnout.

References to the research

Hall, H. K., & Kerr, A. W. (1997). Motivational antecedents of pre-competitive anxiety in youth sport. The Sport Psychologist, 11, 24-42.

Hall, H. K., & Kerr, A. W. (1998). Predicting achievement anxiety: A social cognitive perspective. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 20, 100-113.

Hall H. K., Kerr, A. W., & Matthews, J. (1998). Precompetitive anxiety in sport: The contribution of achievement goals and perfectionism. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 20, 194-217.

Duda, J. L. & Hall, H. K. (2001). Achievement goal theory in sport: Recent extensions and future directions. In R. Singer, C. Janelle, & H. Hausenblas (Eds). Handbook of Research in Sport Psychology (2nd Edition), pp. 417-443 New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

LeMyre, P. N., Hall, H. K., & Roberts, G. C., (2008). A Social Cognitive Approach to Burnout in Elite Athletes. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 18, 221-224.


Hill, A. P., Hall, H. K., Appleton, P. R., Kozub, S. A. (2008). The Influence of Perfectionism and Unconditional Self-Acceptance on Athlete Burnout. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 9, 630-644.


Details of the impact

How research underpinned impact

The research underpinning impact, conducted by Hall and other international partners from the PAPA project consortium, provided the conceptual foundations for the design of the PAPA coach education intervention programme. Impact was achieved as a result of delivering the four year EU funded research project. The PAPA project involved the design, implementation and testing of the coach education intervention which itself aimed to improve participation motivation and indices of both physical and psychological health in 10-14 year old children. The underlying research identified why and where in the motivational process it would be possible to intervene and have the greatest impact.

Research collaboration

The PAPA project was a collaboration between staff at eight partner Universities from five EU countries, which, in addition to Hall, included Joan Duda (University of Birmingham, UK), Bente Wold and Oddrun Samdal (University of Bergen, Norway), Isabel Balaguer (University of Valencia, Spain), Athanasios Papaioannou (University of Thessaly, Greece), Philippe Sarrazin and Jean-Philippe Heuze (Joseph Fourier University, Grenoble, France), Yngvar Ommundsen (Norwegian University of Sport, Norway) and Jaume Cruz (Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain). The partnership comprised leading researchers working in the field of sport motivation whose collective theoretical and empirical research conducted between1993 and 2009 informed the design and implementation of the intervention.

Main beneficiaries

The PAPA project was designed to impact a number of distinct user groups including coaches and administrative leaders in sport federations, PE teachers, EU policy-makers involved in youth sport and health promotion and young people across the EU. To date the PAPA project has impacted on local, regional and national FA administrators in five European countries. Impact on this group of stakeholders was initially facilitated through representation on the PAPA external Advisory Board, where the English FA Head of Coach Education was a member. Representatives from UEFA and WHO also sat on the Advisory Board, enabling dialogue on strategies for embedding the PAPA coach education programme into existing models of training. Impact on the FA and North Riding FA was achieved through coach educators who received PAPA coach education training. Coach Educators from five European countries have been direct beneficiaries of the PAPA coach training. Grass roots coaches were also beneficiaries along with 10-14 year old participants in teams competing in the five European countries.

Nature and Extent of Impact

The research has made a distinct and material contribution to impact by improving standards in training for youth football coaches. The research has guided the development of a theory based coach education programme, including the development of a coaching workshop, written resources to enhance professional practice and supporting web based resources located on a dedicated web-site. Coach education training delivery and implementation guidelines have been produced to support power-point slides and DVD clips for the workshop. The research underpinning the project influenced CPD training within the English FA, as the FA integrated the initial training of FA coach educators into the CPD training programme of each coach educator. In North Yorkshire three coach educators were trained and eight workshops were delivered to grass roots coaches. Across the EU, 41 coach educators were trained to deliver the coach education intervention. The research has also changed professional practice for grass roots coaches. Across the EU, 112 training workshops were delivered by FA coach educators and 1159 grass roots football coaches attended the workshops and received training. Those receiving training were themselves responsible for the coaching of approximately 8000 youth football players and findings from the PAPA project indicate the trained coaches had a positive impact on children's motivation and health behaviours. Practitioner debate has subsequently been informed by the research findings of the PAPA project, and various professional bodies are utilising the findings to define best practice. In this case, impact was achieved through a dissemination event held at St George's Park, Burton, where members of the FA Education Department, professional coaches from national FAs, representatives from WHO, UEFA, Sport Coach UK, national sporting governing bodies and representatives from various sports contributed to discussions on the implications of the research findings from the project. Brochures summarising the findings from the PAPA project were distributed and contributed to debate around best practice.

Evidence of Impact

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Report to EU Commission on PAPA project www.projectpapa.org
  2. Corroboration of CPD training for FA coach educators — FA Regional Coach Development Manager (North of England).
  3. Impact on National Coach Educators — FA Head of Elite Youth Coach Development.
  4. Impact on Regional Coach Educators — FA Tesco Skills Programme Leader and FA Tesco Skills Programme Leader.
  5. Impact on Grass Roots Coaches — Easingwold FC; The North East & Yorkshire Cerebral Palsy Centre of Excellence.
  6. Impact on English FA Coach Education — Head of FA Player Development and Research.
  7. Impact on Coaching Education — CEO, Sport Coach UK.
  8. Corroboration from local clubs where coach training was delivered — Chairperson, Brayton Belles FC.
  9. Testimonial focus group evidence outlining satisfaction with and impact of workshops delivered. www.projectpapa.org.