Coaches’ provision of structure for players’ competence development: Perspectives of professional soccer coaches and players in Norway

Kevin Nicol, Justine B Allen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Developing athletes’ actual and perceived competence is critical to enhancing performance and considered central to coaching. According to self-determination theory, the provision of competence-supportive structure is critical for psychological need satisfaction, optimal motivation, and well-being. Coaches use of structure such as providing clear expectations, instructional guidance, and feedback are well established coaching practices, however, little is known about how, and to what extent, these types of structure support or thwart players’ perceptions of competence, particularly in high performance contexts. Five head coaches working in the highest soccer league in Norway, and three players from each of the participating head coach’s squads (N = 15) participated in semi-structured interviews. Through abductive analysis, we generated five themes: structure to promote competence; coaching for competence development; relatedness support as a foundation for effective structure; freedom within structure is useful; and shared ownership of, and with, structure. The findings provide evidence that professional soccer coaches and players in this study desire and deliver structure. It is provided in an autonomy supportive way and built on a relatedness supportive foundation. This study contributes new insight to the importance of competence-supportive structure in coaching which coaches and those supporting the development of coaches may find useful.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Sport Coaching Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2 May 2024

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