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Coach Verbal Aggressiveness and Athlete Satisfaction

Running head: Coach-Athlete Relationship

The Effects of Winning Percentage on the Relationship between Coach Verbal Aggressiveness
and Athlete Satisfaction

Katy Biagi
Dujuan Heath
Alexander Lagos
Dominick Mitchell
Sarah Rozenberg

Bryant University
1150 Douglas Pike
Smithfield, RI, 02917
kbiagi@bryant.edu

Coach Verbal Aggressiveness and Athlete Satisfaction

Abstract:

The purpose of this study was to determine if collegiate athletes level of satisfaction was
impacted by an increased use of verbal aggression by coaches based on their teams winning
percentage. Participants in this study consisted of student athletes from the four sports teams
at Bryant University. They were given a survey with questions adapted from Verbal
Aggressiveness Scale (Infante & Wigley, 1986) to examine athlete perceptions of coaches and
for the athlete satisfaction variable, we will be asking participants to record their answers to
the Athlete Satisfaction Scale (Reimer & Chelladurai, 1998). The results showed that the
winning team members had a positive correlation amongst each other, while losing teams did
not. In other words, winning teams reported higher satisfaction even with high levels of coach
aggression. The findings suggest that even when coaches utilize the negative communication
tactic, athletes who are members of that coachs team have an increased chance of reporting
higher satisfaction ratings. The study is limited in regards to sample selection, and method of
statistical correlation. Future research can conduct this study at a larger college with high
profile sports teams and on different levels including high school or recreation teams.

Introduction:
The life of an athlete has served as a communication research focal point for some time,
due to the unique actions, interactions, and relationships that occur within it. Athletes sacrifice

Coach Verbal Aggressiveness and Athlete Satisfaction

their bodies, time, and effort in hopes of gaining success. However, outsiders to the athletic
atmosphere cannot always see the process necessary to attain that success, and instead rely on
measurable statistics to gage success. Going beyond these simple measures, researchers attain
a more in depth analysis of an athletes life by looking at variables such as satisfaction,
motivation, fulfillment within the sport. This study will focus on athlete satisfaction. In basic
terms, athlete satisfaction, an affective response, is comprised of an athletes general feelings
of ones own performance, and then towards the team, the sport, and the coach.
Specifically, this study intended on comprehending the effect verbal aggression from
coaches had on athlete satisfaction. In some cases, specific contexts might call for the tactic of
verbal aggression to be used by the coach. However, even if coaches feel the strong need to
employ the use of verbal aggression to enhance a team or individuals performance, these
communication choices may come at the expense of sportsmanship and player satisfaction
(Kassing & Infante, 1999, p. 117). Athletes are usually victims of verbal aggression after
individual or team transgressions, such as mistakes or losses. (Sagar & Jowett, 2012). Tension
and anxiety on both ends of the coach-athlete relationship cause heightened emotions and
poor encoding, as well as decoding of the message.
Researchers have definitively identified a relationship between verbal aggression used
by the coach and athlete satisfaction. There is a negative correlation between verbal aggression
and athlete satisfaction (Kassing & Infante, 1999). Our study looked deeper into the correlation
between coach verbal aggression and athlete satisfaction, and hypothesized that extenuating
factors may skew the consistency of the usual negative relationship. Our research aimed to see
if a type of formulated resilience could maintain athlete satisfaction, regardless of heightened
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Coach Verbal Aggressiveness and Athlete Satisfaction

levels of verbal aggression from the coach. In other words, we are looking to see if a winning
record acts as a buffer for athletes, and in turn lessens the effect that their coachs verbal
aggression has on lowering their satisfaction.

Review of Literature:
According to most coach-athlete relationship theories, the success of coach-athlete
relationships is contingent on more than the coach merely having great knowledge of the sport.
Communication is seen as, the foundation upon which coaches build their team. (Johnson et
al., 2011, p.191). In addition to communication, dimensions of collective efficacy such as unity,
preparation, and ability, can offer insight to the quality level of coach-athlete relationship and
athlete satisfaction (Jowett, Shanmugam, & Caccoulis, 2012). By definition, coach-athlete
relationship is a two-way street, which requires the give and take of both parties. Athletes have
the want and need, to feel that their coach cares about them as a person; not just an athlete
who can help them win games and establish a successful athletic program (Johnson et al.,
2011, p. 191). However, if an athlete does not feel appropriate efficacy, the attempts by the
coach might fall on deaf ears. Communication is the vehicle between coaches expectations and
players performance.
The crucial role that communication plays puts it under great scrutiny. A multitude of
studies have been done on different aspects of communication within coach-athlete
relationships, in order to evaluate which elements promote positive relationships and which
elements hinder progress. According to previous research, effective communication consists of
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Coach Verbal Aggressiveness and Athlete Satisfaction

several strategies. Martin, Rocca, Cayanus, & Weber, (2009) tested a number of Behavioral
Alteration Techniques (BAT) and the effects on successful motivation and learning of athletes.
The referent power and expert power were positively related to these two elements. Referent
power refers to the receivers general feelings towards the source, while, expert power, Is
when one is perceived as knowledgeable and experienced (Martin, Rocca, Cayanus Weber,
2009, p. 228). In relation to our study, Turman (2006) transported Behavioral Alteration
Techniques into the realm of athlete satisfaction by finding that a positive relationship between
expert power, reward power and strictly athlete satisfaction.
Coaches can exert power over motivational strategies as well, which have been found to
be successful if employed correctly. Athletes being coached by a democratic leadership style,
perceived the motivational climate in their teams as more mastery type, they invested more
effort, enjoyed their sports more, and their task-goal orientation was higher (Baric & Bucik,
2009, p. 187). These democratic leadership styles utilized by coaches are among the leadership
styles that often engage in immediacy behaviors. Turman (2008) suggested that verbal
immediacy behaviors used often and well are significant predictors of high athlete satisfaction.
Other factors that increase athlete satisfaction fall under the category of affinity-seeking
strategies. Affinity-seeking strategies that were found to be positively related included assume
control, conversational rule-keeping, dynamism, and trustworthiness (Faro, 2010).
According to most, the verbal aggressiveness that coaches utilize affects athletes
affective feelings about the sport on multiple facets. With an observational study deemed as
inappropriate for the situation, survey studies have attempted to gauge the most accurate
perceptions of coaches from the viewpoints of athletes. Kassing & Infante (1999) employed the
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Coach Verbal Aggressiveness and Athlete Satisfaction

technique of asking participants, to the best of their ability, to think about the techniques
coaches used to get players to perform better, before answering the scales (Kassing & Infante,
1999). This study evidenced that when coaches resort to verbal aggression in hopes of
encouraging their athletes towards a better performance, their coaching image, from the
perspective athletes, transformed to being less credible and less satisfactory with a poorer
communicator style (Kassing & Infante, 1999). Elaboration by Mazer, Barnes, Grevious, &
Boger (2013) proposes that, the relationship between coach verbal aggression, athlete
motivation, and coach credibility may vary based on the sport, sport level (youth sport vs.
college competition). Ultimately, coaches who were less verbally aggressive were seen as
more caring, trustworthy, and their players were more motivated and satisfied with how they
were treated.
Relating to our research, Ruggiero and Lattin (2008) dig deeper into the effects of verbal
aggressive communication by coaches and how it is perceived by the athletes. The results
provide a greater understanding of how verbal aggressive communication can influence selfdoubt, self-pity and self-confidence of a player, as well as perception of a coach. Studies have
also highlighted that on top of the personally felt emotions for ones self as previously
mentioned, Coaches verbal aggression was negatively related to player motivation and player
affect for their coaches (Martin, Rocca, Cayanu, Weber, 2009, p. 236). Overall, verbal
aggression was negatively received by the athletes.
Sari examines the relationship between athletic coaches leadership behaviors and the
athletes satisfaction with how he or she is being coached. Results of this study yielded that
athletes are more self-determined when he or she is not satisfied with a coachs verbal
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Coach Verbal Aggressiveness and Athlete Satisfaction

aggression (Sari, Soyer & Yigiter, 2012). This relates to our study, showing that even without
satisfaction with a coach, an athlete is still able to push his or her self towards a goal, pointing
to the fact that athlete satisfaction is not completely contingent on verbal aggression by the
coach.
Autocratic leadership has historically been shown to lower athletes satisfaction. Baric &
Bucik (2009) point out that, athletes enjoy their sport less, invested less effort, and their task
and ego goal-orientation was lower, for athletes being coached under an autocratic leadership
style. While Turman (2003) determined that leadership style might shift for the worse over
time, for it was recognized by both players and coaches that less positive reinforcement
techniques occurred at the end of the season. Critical moments, such as end of the season
flights, require positive communication strategies. However, certain contexts might call for the
involuntary onset of verbal aggressiveness.
Sport teams undoubtedly experience breakdowns such as losses, individual player
mistakes, and miscommunication. Coaches, like any other human beings, experience affective
feelings and react either positively or negatively to these feelings. When coaches reactions
were negative to these incidents, athletes reported that they felt negatively about themselves
(Sagar & Jowett, 2012). Coaches also react to time sensitive situations. If coaches react
negatively, they will cause anxiety in the athlete, which is the reverse of athlete satisfaction.
(Johnson et al., 2011). Just as negative situations heighten sensitivity or familiarity to verbal
aggressiveness, positive situations might cancel out the negative communication style.
According to Mazer, winning teams may be less affected by a verbally aggressive coach when
such behaviors might influence a teams ability to win (Mazer et al., 2013, p. 209).
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Mazer briefly mentioned winning percentage as a buffer to the impact verbal


aggressiveness may have on an athletes satisfaction. In order to gain more knowledge on this
subject, we can look to similar relationships in different contexts. In the parent-child
relationship, it was found that perceived and self-report parent verbal aggression was
negatively related to, and perceived and self-report parent responsiveness was positively
related to, young childrens relational satisfaction with both mothers and fathers (Roberto et
al, 2009, p. 90). Negative communication tactics dissatisfied the subordinates, in this case
children, while positive communication tactics increased their satisfaction. Even further
beyond the family context, verbal aggression takes a toll on subordinates in the workplace.
Specifically, Verbal aggression by supervisors is related to the dissatisfaction of employees
(Madlock & Dillow, 2012, p. 604).
The life of an athlete has served as a communication research focal point for some time,
due to the unique actions, interactions, and relationships that occur within it. Athletes sacrifice
their bodies, time, and effort in hopes of gaining success. However, outsiders to the athletic
atmosphere cannot always see success, and are fantasized with measurable success such as
statistical analyses. One of the techniques to examine personal success of an athlete is by
gaging satisfaction of an athlete within the sport. In basic terms, athlete satisfaction, an
effective response, is comprised of an athletes general feelings of ones own performance, and
then towards the team, the sport, and the coach. In order to identify the relationship between
athlete satisfaction and the coach, our research aims to specifically manipulate an aspect of
coach communication, verbal aggression.

Coach Verbal Aggressiveness and Athlete Satisfaction

Subjectively, specific contexts might call for the temporary use of verbal aggression.
However, even if coaches feel the strong need to employ the use of verbal aggression to
enhance a team or individuals performance, these communication choices may come at the
expense of sportsmanship and player satisfaction (Kassing & Infante, 1999, p. 117).
Throughout the realm of sports, both individual and team, different coaching styles
demonstrate varying levels of verbal aggression. Some coaches are calmer with virtually no
verbal aggression, while others are more assertive, attempting to disguise verbal aggression as
tough love. Athletes are usually victims of verbal aggression after individual or team
transgressions such as mistakes or losses. Tension and anxiety on both ends of the coachathlete relationship cause verbal aggression and poor decoding of the communication.
Intention may or may not be behind the verbal aggression used. Our study attempts to identify
the relationship between different levels of verbal aggression use of coaches and the effect on
their athletes satisfaction. In addition, the research will try to isolate confounding variables
that might discount the simplicity of a relationship.

Rationale:
Humans have many different preferences in life, and react to different stimuli as well.
The demographic group of athletes, as a whole, have been analyzed in previous research about
communication. Specifically, our study is setting out if winning percentage has an effect on the
relationship between coachs use of verbal aggressiveness and athlete satisfaction. The coachathlete relationship hinges on the success or failure of the communication within it (Johnson et

Coach Verbal Aggressiveness and Athlete Satisfaction

al., 2011). Because of the importance of communication within the coach-athlete relationship,
more studies need to emphasize the healthy ways of going about achieving player satisfaction.
Recognizing which coaching techniques should be avoided, will help athlete satisfaction, and in
turn, the overall success of the team or sport. Past studies have also left confounding variables,
such as gender, up to interpretation. The conducting of this research is additionally justified by
our attempt to investigate the existence and prevalence of such factors. Ultimately, verbal
aggressiveness has been deemed a negative technique employed by certain coaching styles.
But as mentioned previously, rewards, specifically psychological rewards, could minimize the
effect verbal aggression has on an inferiors satisfaction (Hoffmans, 2013, p. 7). Therefore, this
study is hypothesizing that:

H1: Heightened levels of verbal aggression used by coaches have less of an effect
on lowering satisfaction among members of a winning teams than a losing
teams.

When an athlete indeed reports receiving a form of verbal aggressiveness from coaches,
they also self-identify with being less satisfied and less successful (Kassing & Infante, 1999).
Athlete performance suffers, leading to heightened emotions. Coaches may then engage in
more verbal aggressiveness, resulting in the vicious cycle ensuing. The results of our study can
develop more knowledge into what is currently known about coach-athlete relationships, and
what factors indeed effect it.

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Method

Research Design
The data collected for this study aimed to shed light on the hypothesis set forth, which
proposes that heightened levels of verbal aggression used by coaches have less of an effect on
lowering satisfaction among members of a winning team than a losing team. The data
collection will call for surveys to be disseminated to the participants in each group. Recorded
answers will show for a scale recording his/her own perceptions of his/her coachs verbal
aggressiveness, and then a scale recording his/her own answers for his/her own satisfaction
within the sport itself. Cross-sectional surveys with Likert-scales will allow the participants to
quickly reveal answers concerning different constructs within the measurement tool.
Specifically, we will be asking participants to record their answers to the Verbal
Aggressiveness Scale (Infante & Wigley, 1986) to examine athlete perceptions of coaches. The
twenty-item scale developed on a five-point Likert system (1, almost never true; 2, rarely true;
3, occasionally true; 4, often true; 5, almost always true), stands to measure the unproductive
conflict strategies utilized by members of a relationship. The lowest possible score of 20,
ranging to a score of 38 displays low verbal aggressiveness. A score of 39 ranging to a score of
58 displays moderate verbal aggressiveness. And finally, a score of 59 ranging to the highest
possible score of 100 indicates high verbal aggressiveness.

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For the athlete satisfaction variable, we will be asking participants to record their
answers to the Athlete Satisfaction Scale (Reimer & Chelladurai, 1998) in order to gage athlete
satisfaction within the sport specifically. The scale contains subscales aimed to examine
satisfaction with team outcomes and improvements, individual outcomes, and team processes.
The fifty-six-item measure with a seven-point Likert scale ranged from (1, 2, Not at all Satisfied;
3, 4, 5, Moderately Satisfied; to 6, 7, Extremely Satisfied). The Athlete Satisfaction Scale
attempts to gain insight into a wide spectrum of factors which contribute to an athletes overall
satisfaction with the sport in question. A final score of 56, the lowest possible score, to 112
states that the athlete is not at all satisfied. A score ranging from 168 to 280 reveals that the
athlete is moderately satisfied. And finally, a score ranging from 336 to 392, the highest
possible score, shows that the athlete is extremely satisfied. Ultimately, the higher the score,
the more satisfied the athlete is.
Lastly, in order to obtain important descriptive statistics, our study must question the
demographics of our participants. Simply put, we will inquire the sport, age and grade of the
participant. We have limited the participants to being exclusively male athletes.

Variable Specification
Verbal aggression, our independent variable, is defined as a destructive aggressive
communication trait that involves attacking the self-concept of another person in order to
stimulate psychological pain (Kassing & Infante 1999). Athlete satisfaction, our dependent
variable, is looked at as consistently reflecting athlete perceptions toward supervision, playing
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condition, teammates, and identification with the team (Turman 2006). For our study, a
winning team is classified as having a .750 or above 2013 in-conference schedule, while a losing
team is classified as having a 2013 in-conference schedule below .750. In order to control
external validity, we are keeping the gender of the athletes constant. With this in mind,
however, males are preconceived as having a higher resistance to verbal aggression than
females, so satisfaction among males may be higher to begin with. Infante hypothesized that
more argumentative individuals will be more likely to receive verbally aggressive messages in
an argumentative situation, and obtained support from male but not female message
sources (1984).

Sampling Method and Sample


Participants for consisted of 48 male student-athletes at a small northeastern university
with an NCAA Division I athletic program. The researchers sampled student-athletes from 4
different teams that all compete at the same Division I level. In order to conduct a complete
and accurate study, the researchers used two teams with winning records and two teams with
losing records. Winning and losing will be determined based on conference win percentage
in the same competitive year. The baseball team had a win percentage of .844, while the mens
lacrosse team had a win percentage of .800. The football team had a win percentage of .500,
while the mens soccer team had a win percentage of .643. To be considered a winning team,
the team must have had a win percentage of over .750. This is due to the fact that historically at
Division I level universities, teams that advance into the play-off portions of the season report

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winning percentages north of at least .750. With that being said, the winning teams were the
baseball and lacrosse teams. The losing teams were football and soccer teams.

Procedure
Initially, researchers gathered any willing participants of the pre-determined teams who
fell into the two categories of winning and losing. This was accomplished by soliciting the help
of the coaches, the captains, and the other leaders of the team. Then, a paper packet,
containing the survey was administered. Participants will first be introduced to a cover sheet
indicating the purpose of the study, participant confidentiality, as well as who can be contacted
if the participant has any questions. A signature from each participant was also required on the
cover page, and they must be at least 18 years of age. Participants were given instructions
informing them of how to record answers. Researchers will also emphasize their presence
during the survey to help with any confusion or ambiguity. They needed about ten to fifteen
minutes to complete the survey. Debriefing the participants included relaying to them what
scales were used, what the scales were measuring, and what the research study anticipates to
gain from the data collected.
The number of student-athletes goal was not met through the use of the massadministration in person, and the internet administration was utilized. Willing participants were
given the same cover page with the same indications, directions, and the same survey with the
same scale. The only difference was that there was not a researcher in their presence when the
participant has completed the survey.

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Results
A Pearson Correlation was run and revealed statistically different results between
satisfaction of winning teams and losing teams. The four teams we received data from are
mens lacrosse, baseball, mens soccer, and football. The frequency from mens lacrosse was 10,
or 15.4%. The frequency from baseball was 18, or 27.7%. The frequency from mens soccer was
2, or 3.1%, and the frequency from football was 35, or 53.8%. There were a total of 58
responses for the verbal aggression survey and 51 responses for the satisfaction survey. In
total, there were 48 valid survey responses. The 48 valid survey responses were split into
winning teams and losing teams, with 21 responses for the winning teams and 27 responses for
the losing teams. The alpha weight for verbal aggression was .421, and the alpha weight for
satisfaction was .973. There were 2 correlations run, one comparing the scores of the winning
teams, mens lacrosse and baseball, and the other comparing scores of the losing teams, mens
soccer and football. The correlation for the winning teams was .680. The correlation for the
losing teams was .06, and insignificant.

Discussion
Indications
Therefore, the results suggest that there is more of a correlation between higher verbal
aggression and higher satisfaction among winning teams than losing teams. There was no
significant correlation between the two variables being tested among the losing teams. These
results add to the body of knowledge already dedicated to the study of coach-athlete
relationships, as well as the study of verbal aggressions impact on satisfaction in general.
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Although not studied in depth, the results provide support for previous predictions, such a
winning teams may be less affected by a verbally aggressive coach when such behaviors might
influence a teams ability to win (Mazer et al., 2013, p. 209). Due to the low amount of
participants, and the low amount of valid online entries we could actually use, we had to
approach our hypothesis in a more analytical way rather than a statistical way. Basically, the
winning teams showed more of a correlation between higher levels of satisfaction and verbal
aggression, while losing teams did not. Granted we did not test to the extent desired, however,
we concluded that at least with our sample, the winning teams had more of resilience than
losing teams. Correlations were merely done between groups within each category, better
results would have been yielded if we tested the correlation within groups and then between
groups.
Limitations
Upon the conclusion of the study, we realized that there were definitely ways this study
could have been improved. First, our data collection procedure was completely flawed. Using
SurveyMonkey, we collected our data through online surveys in addition to our paper
hardcopies which were handed out to participants. The data collected via the hardcopies of the
survey was always usable because we oversaw the participants to assure they did the surveys
correctly and completely. Unfortunately, the online survey is where we ran into trouble. The
survey setup of SurveyMonkey doesnt allow the creation of an alternate option if the
participant decides not to agree to the consent form. It, then, shows the total number of
participants whom started the survey instead of showing the number of complete surveys. Also,
it does not eliminate the results of incomplete surveys, which skewed our results in the end.
That being said, we cannot blame our inconclusive results on technology alone. We did not get
enough participants to take our survey, which left us with a very small sample with which to

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work. This prevented us from reaching a conclusive result because we did not have enough
survey results to run the tests we hoped to run. On top of that, a lot of the surveys that we
collected were not completed, and thus critical questions were left unanswered. Second, our
results were unreliable because they were too specific. We did not gather data from a broad
enough sample so we could not formulate a conclusion that would be applicable to other
teams. This goes back to us not having enough participants from enough different teams. For
example, all but two of the participants from losing teams came from the football team. This
basically told us that the football players are not satisfied with their coach, but it does not give
us enough evidence to say that our data can be related to all losing teams.
Directions and Recommendations for Future Research
There are a few things that could have been done differently. The majority of our data
came from surveys taken by football players. We would recommend to find out the kind of
coach an athletic team has and if the players respect/like the coach or not. In our case, the
football team is not too fond of their coach. So all of the responses we got were biased
regardless of whether or not the coaches intention behind verbal aggression was to get the
best out of his players or not. Coaches of winning teams can get by with verbal aggression. We
discovered that coaches of winning teams can get by with verbal aggression. Seeing as though
football was not a winning team, this added to another reason as to why the players in our
study did not fit the kind of athlete we envisioned getting a response from.

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Conclusion:
Our research validated our belief that heightened levels of verbal aggression had less of
an impact on athletes of winning teams then those losing teams. Athletes of winning teams
were not affected much by their coaches aggression due to their satisfaction of being a part of
a winning team or other psychological rewards related to this fact. Perhaps, the feeling of
winning allowed participants to pay less attention to coachs aggression because it was
resulting in wins.

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