An Experimental study of the Independent and Interactive Effects of ‘Coach Variables’ on the motivation and performance of Rugby ‘Forwards’
Rugby is a hugely popular international sport (UKRFU, 2006; USARFU, 2006). Two teams of 13 players each, play the sport by kicking, passing, or carrying a ball. In order to win a team must score more ‘points’ than its opponent. Points can be achieved by a ‘try’ (5 points) or a ‘goal’ (3 points). The former entails touching the ball to the ground beyond a line in the opponents half (more points can be earned by performing a ‘place kick’ or drop kick’ conversion). A goal involves kicking the ball over the opponents cross bar (in the form of a penalty kick or drop kick).
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It is essential that the players are motivated. Research has shown that player motivation is partly dependent on coach variables (Tammen, 1997; Allen & Howe, 1998; Cumming, 2002; Reinboth et al, 2004). In particular player aggressiveness, an important aspect of rugby, is influenced by coach input (Abd-Aziz, 1998; Guivernau-Rojas, 2001). Certain coaches are better able to ‘drive’ their players to victory than other coaches, for example by providing better feedback, frequent praise and encouragement, tactical advise, and corrective information.
How players perceive their coach is critical (Mavi, 2004). Social psychological on literature (Norman, 1976; Lui & Standing, 1989; Aronson, 1995; Eagly & Chaiken, 1993; Pornpitakpan, 2004) suggests that characteristics such as credibility, likeability, and trustworthiness, may significantly determine a coaches’ motivational effectiveness. For example, a likeable coach may be more effective at encouraging his ‘forwards’ (‘tight-five’/’front five’ and ‘loose forwards’) to achieve successful try’s and goals. A review of the relevant literature (e.g. ‘PsychINFO’, ‘Academic Search Premier’), revealed a paucity of rugby research in this area.
The study proposed here aims to evaluate the effects of coach variables – credibility, likeability, and trustworthiness – on the performance of rugby players, particularly the ‘tight-five’/‘front-five’ and ‘loose forwards’. Consistent with previous research on communicator variables (e.g. Pornpitakpan, 2004), the following hypotheses are proposed with respect to player/team performance:
- A credible will achieve more try’s/goals than a non-credible coach.
- A trustworthy coach will achieve more try’s/goals than an untrustworthy coach.
- A likeable coach will achieve more try’s/goals than a disliked coach.
- Interactions (two-way and three-way) between these coach characteristics will influence the achievement of try’s/goals.
The study will be set up as a field experiment. The setting will be the premises of several local rugby clubs.
The study will be based on a between-groups experimental design. There will be three independent variables: coach expertise (high/low/placebo/no treatment control), likeability (high/low), and trustworthiness (high/low). This will translate into a 4 x 2 x 2 between groups factorial design, using multivariate analysis of covariance (Coolican, 1994). Thus, in effect, there will be 16 experimental conditions. The dependent variables will consist of players reported motivation (after a match) and the number of successful try’s and goals during a match. Attempts will be made to control for important background variables, including player experience, weight, height, and, baseline motivational levels, and score history.
The sample will comprise several different teams of rugby players, recruited from schools, universities, and clubs in the local area. The target (i.e. minimum) sample size is 160 players, with at least 10 players per factorial cell.
Prior arrangements would have been made with team officials to substitute the original team coaches with a stooge coach. Players will be informed that a new coach will temporarily ‘substitute’ their regular coach, who is unable to attend due to a prior family engagement. Two or three stooge coaches will be used, one for each team. Manipulation of independent variables will occur as follows:
(Expertise): players will be informed by the researcher that their new coach is an ex-rugby player with either ≥10 years coaching experience or a newly qualified coach with <1 year experience, who just completed a Coach Development Programme (CDC) (USARFU, 2006).
(Likeability): Each stooge coach will act in either a friendly fashion (e.g. smiling, encouraging players), or an unfriendly manner (frowning, denigrating players).
(Trustworthiness): Players will be informed either that the stooge coach is getting paid a substantial amount of cash for this one-off job, or is working for free (Aronson, 1995, pp.80-81).
(Placebo): Players will receive irrelevant information about the stooge coach (e.g. where they live and marital status), who will act in neutral fashion (i.e. neither friendly or unfriendly).
(Control): No information will be provided about the stooge coach, who will try to act in a neutral fashion.
A self-report questionnaire will be used to collect baseline data from players on the following: perceived expertise, trustworthiness, and likeability of the stooge coach, and background variables including prior rugby experience, weight, height and score history. This questionnaire will also be used to assess current (i.e. pre-treatment) motivational levels and perform manipulation checks for each coach variable (i.e. expertise, likeability, trustworthiness).
The study will be carried out during a series of rugby matches played in the local area. A ‘Game Day Check List’ (USARFU, 2006) will be used to work out the most appropriate time to brief players. Prior to each match each participating rugby team will be randomly assigned to one experimental condition. Particular attention will be paid to the ‘forwards’ or ‘pack’ (i.e. players 1-8). Players will be asked to complete the baseline questionnaire, as part of a general survey on the profile and interests of rugby players in the UK. They will also be informed about the use of a substitute coach, and given the appropriate background information regarding expertise and trustworthiness. After each match players will complete the baseline questionnaire, and then be debriefed.
Data will be analysed using a multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA), performed on SPSS (Field, 2002). Background variables will be treated as the covariates (i.e. control variables).
A local Ethics Committee will review this project. It will conform to ethical guidelines of the British Psychological Society (BPS, 1993). Thus, the study will not involve any unnecessary deception, invasion of privacy, pain, injury, or discomfort, or violation of any legal requirements. Furthermore, all information collected from subjects will be strictly confidential.
The study will be conducted over a 12 month period.
Month 1: Pilot study
Month 2 to 3: Administration of Stimulus Materials & Data Collection
Month 4 to 5: SPSS Data Entry, Editing, and Analysis (MANCOVA)
Month 6 to 8: Write Up
Month 9 + : Dissemination of Findings
DISSEMINATION OF FINDINGS
Findings will be disseminated through conference presentations and Journal publications. It is planned that a paper will be presented at the 12th European Congress of Sports Psychology (4-7 September, 2007, Halkidiki, Greece). A paper will also be submitted to the Journal of Applied Sports Psychology or British Journal of Sports Medicine or International Journal of Sports Psychology, all of which are particular useful outlets for targeting academic audiences.
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