Long-term impact of the coach-athlete relationship on development, health, and wellbeing


Very interesting article entitled: “Long-term impact of the coach-athlete relationship on development, health, and wellbeing: stories from a figure skater.” I can’t see that it has ever been posted on FSU before, but apologies for any duplication if it ever has


Coaches have been shown to detriment athletes’ health, well-being and development. Knowledge of this long-term effect and what it means for athletes to live with such stories is under-explored. Using self-narrative, we examine the long-lasting impact of the coach-athlete relationship in the stories of a former figure skater, Fanny.

There is consensus that coaches play a fundamental role in developing child and youth athletes. Their coaching practices, training methods, and the relationships they build with athletes teach athletic skills, develop performance, impact personal development, and shape career pathways (Coakley, 2011; Gould, Collins, Lauer, & Chung, 2007; Jowett & Cockerill, 2003). In sports that demand early entrance and large amounts of training, such as women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics, and figure skating, the responsibility to develop athletes holistically is particularly important as it is common that child and youth athletes of these sports spend more time with coaches than parents and teachers (Côté, Salmela, & Russell, 1995). Artistic sport cultures are, however, documented to be dominated by coach authority, lack of athlete protection policies, narrow corporal and performance ideals, and a drive for perfection; in short, a context that places athletes at risk of harm (Cervin, Kerr, Barker-Ruchti, Schubring, & Nunomura, 2017; Lavallee & Robinson, 2007).

Some research shows that early specialisation sports can create positive development (Fraser-Thomas & Côté, 2009; Fraser-Thomas, Cote, & Deakin, 2005; Holt & Neely, 2011; Stirling, Cruz, & Kerr, 2012), including in artistic sports (White & Bennie, 2015). However, the majority of empirical literature, and in recent years frequent media reports and personal disclosures, tell of the negative impact artistic sports have on athletes. Research demonstrates that this impact can result in injuries and long-term impairment (Maffulli, Longo, Gougoulias, Loppini, & Denaro, 2010), eating disorders and body dissatisfaction (Barker-Ruchti & Schubring, 2016; Kerr, Berman, & Souza, 2006), and disempowerment and loss of self-esteem (Norman & French, 2013; Warriner & Lavallee, 2008). Ryan’s (2000) book Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, although not strictly empirical, is infamous for demonstrating the effects participation in US women’s artistic gymnastics and figure skating can have on athletes.


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Thanks for starting this thread, @Maofan7. There are a lot of non-artistic sports in which I have lost interest because of concussions (also a problem in skating) and concussions. Although eating disorders and various types of abuse have been fodder for discussions about figure skating for many years, they are increasingly making me wonder whether I can still follow the sport.


Well-Known Member
Great article. I wish there was similar research covering a larger sample.
Stories like this are exactly what made me cynical about the sport and pretty much took killed the enjoyment from watching it.
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