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The Professional Experiences and Work-Related Outcomes of Male and Female Division I Strength and Conditioning Coaches

Sartore-Baldwin, Melanie L.

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: March 2013 - Volume 27 - Issue 3 - p 831–838
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31825c2fd3
Original Research
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Sartore-Baldwin, ML. The professional experiences and work-related outcomes of male and female division i strength and conditioning coaches. J Strength Cond Res 27(3): 831–838, 2013—The purpose of this study was to investigate the professional experiences and work-related outcomes of male and female Division I strength and conditioning coaches (SCCs). Data were collected using multiple methods, first using an online questionnaire and second using semistructured telephone interviews. It was found that although SCCs generally felt supported, satisfied, and committed, several issues surrounding these constructs were present. Integrating the discussion of gender allowed for the implications of another salient social category within male-dominated professional field to be explored. Several implications and future directions are offered.

Department of Kinesiology, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina

Address correspondence to Dr. Melanie L. Sartore-Baldwin, sartorem@ecu.edu.

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Introduction

Within the intercollegiate athletics setting, a great deal of research has examined the experiences of the highly visible entities, such as sport coaches, administrators, and athletes, as they relate to personal and professional outcomes and gender (12,16). Absent from this literature, however, are examinations of the integral “behind the scene” units of athletic departments such as strength and conditioning coaches (SCCs). Intercollegiate SCCs occupy various roles in athletic departments and, as such, dedicate anywhere from 10 to 12 h·d−1 performing their numerous duties (21,29). Of these duties, the most important is their role in establishing and maintaining the physical well-being of the entire student-athlete population. Despite their dedication to athletes and their vital importance to an athletic department's sport programs, there exist few works addressing the personal and professional outcomes related to their profession. The purpose of this inquiry is to fill this gap in the literature and provide an insight into the hardworking professionals in the strength and conditioning field.

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Strength and Conditioning Research

The field of strength and conditioning has had a profound impact on college sport over the past 3 decades. Although primarily been investigated by focusing on the athletes who are being trained and the methods employed to train them, some works have examined characteristics and experiences of SCCs themselves. Descriptively, SCCs have been identified as a relatively homogenous group of professionals who are primarily men, white, and similarly educated (8,25,34). Looking beyond simple demographics, Massey et al. (26–29) have performed in-depth job analyses of SCCs within Division I and II football programs. Across Divisions, SCCs were relatively satisfied with their jobs. Within the study of Division I SCC, the SCCs identified most enjoying their interactions with student-athletes and the level of autonomy they possessed in implementing training programs (29). It was suggested that this autonomy perhaps made up for the heavy workload and long hours, as indeed these 2 aspects of the job were generally disliked, yet tolerated. Other aspects of the job that the SCCs disliked were their perceived lack of respect and legitimacy from others within the athletic department, the highly political athletic department atmosphere, and inadequate facilities (29).

Although Massey et al.'s (29) findings provide a bit more insight into the lives of Division I SCCs, they are very limited in scope. First, and as acknowledged by the authors, the findings are not generalizable and therefore do not provide a good overall picture of SCC experiences in the strength and conditioning field. Second, there is no acknowledgment of the experiences of women in the field. Although a strong majority of strength and conditioning positions are indeed occupied by men (e.g., 84.8% of Division I SCC are men [22]), there exists a sizable female population that is overlooked. Further, descriptive data and anecdotal evidence suggest that there has been a notable increase of women in the field during the last 25 years. Lapchick's 2010 Racial and Gender Report Card identified 85.9% of Division I SCC as male, a slight decrease from the 87.7% reported in 2008. As another example, of the 110 registered SCC on the National Strength and Conditioning Association registry, 9 are women. Two women also sit on the Board of Directors for the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association. Thus, there has been a small shift toward the inclusion of women.

The increasing presence of women as SCCs is important given the historically gendered nature of sport and sport organizations. The most recent report card from Acosta and Carpenter (1) provides a history of the pronounced presence of men working within intercollegiate athletic departments. Most recently, the authors found that 79% of all men's and women's intercollegiate sport teams had a male coach. Likewise, at the intercollegiate level, 72% of all head athletic trainers, 72% of all sport information directors, and nearly 80% of all athletic directors, were also male. Reaffirmed by Fink et al.'s (18) identification of the typical employee within intercollegiate athletic departments as a White, Protestant, able-bodied, heterosexual male, there is great cause to believe women may experience work differently than their male counterparts within athletic departments. Although some research has identified differential work outcomes in relation to gender of intercollegiate athletic department employees (e.g., coaches [15]), there is yet to be an analysis of the male and female SCCs.

Taken together, the presence of SCCs as a fundamental component of the larger, gendered intercollegiate athletic department has been overlooked in the literature. The intention of this study is therefore to incorporate this area of research into the literature by investigating the experiences of male and female strength and conditioning professionals within intercollegiate athletic departments, as related to psychological, personal, and professional outcomes. The purpose of this query is to provide a voice to these SCCs so that they may be better understood by entities both within and outside the athletic department. The theoretical lenses guiding this inquiry are presented in detail below.

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Theoretical Framework

The psychological relationship between an individual and the organization in which he or she works has profound theoretical and practical implications (46). Indeed, this relationship has been found to influence a variety of job-related and organizational behaviors such as satisfaction, commitment, absenteeism, and the like (2,32,35,37). The significance of findings such as these is twofold. First, outcomes such as these are essential for an organization's survival. Second, these outcomes have been identified and theorized using 2 different perspectives and processes: social exchange and social identity (46). The central tenets of these 2 perspectives are provided below.

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Social Exchange Theory and Organizational Support

Although social exchanges can be conceptualized as simple transactions, many researchers have focused on the complex, interdependent relationships that often form within these social exchanges (10). As such, they operate from the perspective of social exchange theory (SET). The fundamental premise of SET is that exchanges between 2 actors (e.g., individuals, groups, organizations) involve interactions, reciprocity, obligations, and resources (7). Social exchange is often operationalized as perceived organizational support (POS), or the employee's evaluation of the extent to which the organization (a) reciprocates exchange relationships, (b) values employee contributions, and (c) cares for employee well-being, the relationship that an employee has with an organization and his or her supervisor(s) informs a variety of work-related, psychological, and personal outcomes (17,35). Indeed, a great deal of research has identified the positive effects of employee perceptions of organizational support on outcomes such as job satisfaction, organizational commitment, job performance, and life satisfaction (35,36). Within the literature, research has examined the importance of perceptions of organizational support, as they relate to various outcomes, amongst coaches, employees, and administrators (15,20,32,43). To date, however, the perceptions of SCCs have been overlooked. It is hypothesized here that perceptions of organizational support amongst strength and conditioning professionals will predict positive work and personal outcomes.

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Social Identity

Although the reciprocal exchange between an organization and employee can profoundly influence professional and personal outcomes (35,36), so too might the degree to which employees consider their membership within an organization as being an important aspect of who they are, particularly within the sport context (44). That is, employees may identify with the organization such that their membership within it is a component of their overall identity (45). Such an occurrence, however, does not negate the other social identities that may be present within the work setting.

Referred to as organizational identification (4), the perceived oneness between the self and the organization has been positively related to outcomes such as job satisfaction, organizational commitment, job involvement, and job performance, and negatively related to turnover and intentions to leave (37,46). Indeed, the mechanisms by which employees come to identify with their place of work have been shown to have profound effects. Likewise, salient social group memberships within a workplace may also impact work and personal attitudes and behaviors. Within sport organizations, for example, individuals not identifying with the prototypical employee characteristics (i.e., White, Protestant, heterosexual, able-bodied, male) may experience different work outcomes than those who do identify with them (18). The implications of this prototype are quite profound, as research has found that group identification can be positively related to professional and personal outcomes such as job satisfaction, organizational commitment, job performance, and life satisfaction (37). Thus, the experiences of women employed within the traditionally male context of intercollegiate athletic weight room may differ from their male counterparts. Van Kippenberg et al. (46) noted that the greatest understanding of organizational behavior can be gained by integrating the social exchange and social identity perspectives.

In line with this, and in an effort to provide a more complete picture, this inquiry adopted both frameworks. Specifically, a mixed-method approach was employed to examine the professional and personal experiences of Division I SCCs. It was hypothesized that SCCs who held perceptions of organizational supportiveness would experience higher levels of job satisfaction and subsequent organizational commitment and life satisfaction than those who did not perceive supportiveness. Thus, job satisfaction was hypothesized to mediate the relationship between organizational support and subsequent professional and personal outcomes, relationships that has been demonstrated within the literature (15). It was also hypothesized that, as a result of salient social group identities and the gendered nature of sport-related coaching professions (24), male SCC would perceive more organizational supportiveness and subsequent outcomes than their female counterparts. The methods by which these hypotheses were tested are presented below.

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Method

Experimental Approach to the Problem

The population of interest was that of Division I intercollegiate SCCs. Of the 1,000 SCCs contacted, 741 began the online survey and 125 SCCs completed it. Members of this sample were predominately identified as male (83%), white (95%), and heterosexual (97%). Additionally, their average age was 35 years. The average number of student-athletes the SCCs saw each day was 88.

Follow-up telephone interviews were conducted with 17 past and current SCCs. Pseudonyms were assigned to these 9 male and 8 female SCCs whose average age was 34 and 30 years, respectively. Additionally, although these interviews focused on the same outcomes as the online survey, their secondary focus was to examine the presence of women within the field of strength and conditioning.

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Subjects

The population of interest was that of Division I intercollegiate SCCs. Of the 1,000 SCCs contacted, 741 began the online survey and 125 SCCs completed it. Members of this sample were predominately identified as male (83%), white (95%), and heterosexual (97%). Additionally, their average age was 35 years. The average number of student-athletes the SCCs saw each day was 88.

Follow-up telephone interviews were conducted with 17 past and current SCCs. Pseudonyms were assigned to these 9 male and 8 female SCCs whose average age was 34 and 30 years, respectively. Additionally, although these interviews focused on the same outcomes as the online survey, their secondary focus was to examine the presence of women within the field of strength and conditioning.

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Procedure

Upon receiving Institutional Review Board approval, the email addresses of all Division I head and assistant SCCs were collected. In total, 1,000 SCCs were surveyed via an electronic questionnaire. Although the men surveyed were randomly selected, the women, because of their limited number in the field, were purposefully selected. An initial email was sent to each SCC to provide advanced notice of the study, assure confidentiality and stressed the voluntary nature of participation. One week later, an email containing the link to the survey instrument was distributed. Follow-up notifications were sent out in an effort to maximize the response rate.

This initial questionnaire assessed demographic information, work relationships, attitudes, behaviors, and experiences related to their strength and conditioning duties. Specifically, items assessing constructs such as organizational support (POS) (17), job satisfaction (9), turnover intentions (9), life satisfaction (14), and organizational commitment (31) were assessed. There was also the opportunity for the participants to provide additional information regarding their work experiences.

Approximately 2 months from initial contact follow-up interviews were conducted with male and female Division I intercollegiate SCCs. As with the previous sample, random selection was used for the men who were asked to voluntarily participate. For the female participants, snowball sampling was employed. As part of the invitation to take part in the interviews, the SCCs were informed of the purpose of the inquiry, assured of their confidentiality, and informed of their ability to withdraw from the study at any time.

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Measures

Multiple methods were used to collect data from the participants. The utility of multiple methodological practices can be found in their ability to provide depth, breadth, richness, and in-depth understanding to that being studied (13). As such, data were collected using an online survey and telephone interviews.

The questionnaire consisted of several sections that, unless otherwise indicated, contained questions that were anchored a 7-point Likert-type scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). To assess perceptions of organizational support, Eisenberger et al.'s (17) Study of POS. This 36-item instrument included items such as, “The organization strongly considers my goals and values,” “The organization really cares about my well-being,” and “The organization cares about my opinions.” Reliability for this study was high (α = 0.94).

Job satisfaction was assessed using Cammann et al.'s (9) 3-item instrument. Questions included “In general, I like working here,” “all in all, I am satisfied with my job,” and reverse-coded, “In general, I don't like my job.” For this study, the reliability was acceptable (α = 0.84).

The 5-item Satisfaction with Life Scale (14) was used to assess life satisfaction. The instrument's items are: “In most ways my life is close to my ideal,” “the conditions of my life are excellent,” “I am satisfied with my life,” “So far I have gotten the important things I want in life,” and “If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.” The instrument's reliability was high for the current study (α = 0.90).

Organizational commitment was assessed using Mowday et al.'s Organization Commitment Questionnaire. Sample items from this instrument include, “I am proud to tell others that I am part of this organization,” “This organization really inspires the very best in me in the way of job performance,” and “I am proud to tell others that I am part of this organization.” Reliability was high for this study (α = 0.89).

The second data collection generated qualitative findings. Via open-ended responses and was through semistructured telephone interviews, the participants were asked a series of questions pertaining to their work duties and experiences, and asked to discuss gender within the strength and conditioning field.

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Analyses

Mean, SDs, and bivariate correlations were calculated for each survey variable (Table 1). Next, mediated regression analyses were performed to test the hypotheses that job satisfaction would mediate the relationship between perceptions of organizational support and organizational commitment and life satisfaction, respectively. For this analysis, the data were tested using the 4 conditions recommended by Baron and Kenny (6): (a) the independent variable must affect the dependent variable; (b) the independent variable must affect the mediating variable; (c) the mediating variable must affect the dependent variable; and (d) after controlling for the mediator, the impact of the predictor on the outcomes should no longer be significant (for full mediation) or should be reduced in strength (for partial mediation). Sobel's (39,40) determined whether the intervening variable carried the independent variable's effects to the outcomes. Significant t-values would indicate that job satisfaction is an important mediator.

Table 1

Table 1

The open-ended responses were coded by the author alone. Likewise, semistructure interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim solely by the author. A pseudonym was assigned to each participant to maintain confidentiality. Although data were analyzed throughout the entire research process, interview transcripts were analyzed both individually and collectively. Each interview was read in its entirety before next combing through paragraphs, sentences and words for the emergence of themes and subthemes. Consistent with the premise of inductive analyses, the individual experiences of each SCC were uniquely explored and analyzed before subsequently integrating them for a broader, yet contextualized, understanding (33). A “grounded, a posteriori, inductive, context-sensitive” (38) coding scheme was developed whereby working with the raw data transcripts allowed for inferences and code (i.e., category) generation. Further and in an effort to refine category formation, constant comparisons were made between the data segments and the codes as the data were examined. Finally, the interview data underwent several techniques to ensure its credibility and transferability (23).

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Results

Results from the mediated regression analyses can be found in Table 2. The findings revealed that Baron and Kenny's (6) first condition for testing for mediation was met, as POS was a significant predictor of the first outcome, organizational commitment (β = 0.737, R2 = 0.472, p< 0.001). The second condition was also met, as POS was a significant predictor of job satisfaction (β = 0.594, R2 = 0.258, p < 0.001). Job satisfaction also significantly predicted organizational commitment (β = 0.606, R2 = 0.364, p < 0.001), thus satisfying the third condition. Lastly, when controlling for job satisfaction, POS was a significant predictor of organizational commitment (β = 0.557, R2 = 0.574, p < 0.001), but the strength was diminished, thus indicating partial mediation. Sobel's (39,40) test was performed to assess the magnitude and significance of the mediation effect (Sobel = 4.505, p < 0.001).

Table 2

Table 2

When assessing life satisfaction as an outcome, Baron and Kenny's (6) 4 conditions were also tested. The POS was a significant predictor of life satisfaction (β = 0.703, R2 = 0.271, p < 0.001), satisfying the first condition. The second condition was also met, as POS was a significant predictor of job satisfaction (β = 0.594, R2 = 0.258, p < 0.001). Job satisfaction significantly predicted life satisfaction (β = 0.630, R2 = 0.288, p < 0.001), satisfying the third condition, and POS remained a significant predictor of life satisfaction when job satisfaction was entered as a mediator (β = 0.466, R2 = 0.359, p < 0.001). The diminished strength of POS, however, indicated that job satisfaction partially mediated the relationship between POS and life satisfaction. Sobel's (39,40) test for mediation also found job satisfaction as a mediator (Sobel = 4.234, p < 0.001).

The written responses from the open-ended portion of the questionnaire provided a better understanding to the survey data and provided additional insight into the experiences of the SCC, particularly with regard to gender. Systematically analyzed, the responses were first sorted, organized, labeled, and compared by the author alone (38). Through peer debriefing, an impartial second party was also asked to examine the data so that the themes revealed during the thematic analysis could be verified. After some discussion between the author and outside coder, 3 themes emerged: the need for intrinsic motivation, being misunderstood as a profession, and feeling undervalued within athletic departments. Several themes were also found within the interview data. Again first coded by the author alone, the data underwent peer debriefing as a way to establish agreement. As Schwandt (38) noted, peer debriefing allows for one to share “evolving attempts at describing and analyzing qualitative data to achieve some kind of consensual validation” (p. 222). After both coders independently reviewed the interview transcripts they met to discuss their thematic findings. The 3 main themes that emerged were gendered boundaries, former athlete identity, and the importance of mentorship.

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Discussion

The findings of this study demonstrate the importance of an employee's perceptions of organizational support, group membership, job satisfaction, and professional and personal outcomes. More specifically, they indicate the importance of support and collective identity among Division I intercollegiate SCCs. Empirically, it was demonstrated that POS was a significant predictor of organizational commitment both directly and by way of job satisfaction. That is, to the extent that the SCC's athletic departments were supportive, they were satisfied with their jobs and more committed to the organization. Likewise, POS was a significant predictor of life satisfaction both directly and by way of job satisfaction. Thus, perceptions of supportiveness led the SCCs to feel satisfied with their jobs and, subsequently, with their lives. These findings suggest that SCCs are generally pleased with their position within the larger athletic department system. A more in-depth analysis of these constructs provides additional insight.

Rhoades and Eisenberger identified procedural fairness, supervisor support, organizational rewards, and job conditions as the strongest predictors of POS. Although some of the antecedents to POS identified by Rhoades and Eisenberger (35) were identified by the participants as having been met by their departments, others were not. This may partially explain why the mean score for POS was not particularly high. Of these antecedents, those falling under the topics of organizational rewards and job conditions were mentioned most frequently as problematic, whereas those falling under the topic of supervisor support were identified as satisfactory. Many SCCs expressed the overwhelming belief that strength and conditioning is a field where, in general, SCCs are overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated. Nearly every SCC expressed the sentiment that they and their colleagues “do not get paid enough for their time.” Indeed, the long hours required for the job suggest that pay is always a salient issue. Despite the issue of pay, SCCs felt that, although the administration might not understand the science behind the strength and conditioning profession, they were generally trusted and given the autonomy necessary to carry out their jobs effectively.

Another area of concern expressed by the SCCs falls under the thematic category of role confusion. This is similar to the role stressor antecedent to POS identified by Rhoades and Eisenberger (35). This theme manifested in relation to the confines that SCCs felt in relation to the wants and needs of team coaching staffs. Many SCCs struggled with their role in each athlete's life, because they were unsure as to how much of a role team coaches wanted them to play. Research has demonstrated that the interconnected relationship between a coach and an athlete is uniquely special. Indeed, individual and team outcomes are diminished when conflict exists between a coach and his athletes (19). In relation to this strong relationship that often exists between coaches and athletes, many SCCs felt as though their role in the athlete's lives was unclear and, at times, had the potential to undermine the coach-athlete relationship. They overwhelmingly expressed a desire to be part of the athlete's training, and their total development. As one SCC said,

There is little reference to the impact we have on the emotional and maturational development of the athletes we work with. It is not in the ‘job description', but it is the primary means of satisfaction most of us gain from the long hours and the commitment to the job.

Another SCC noted,

We are the only coaches that are allowed to be with them all the time so we have a lot of influence in their lives; we teach them time management, respect, patience and focus.

Indeed, according to these SCCs, the roles that they play in athletes' lives are much more multifaceted than many would recognize.

As Cook and Rice (10) noted, one of the most consistent findings within the social exchange literature is that, as a result of the status and power differences of and between actors in various settings, unequal resource distribution often occurs within a system of exchange relationships. That many of the SCCs interviewed expressed discontent with pay and other possible antecedents of POS suggests that aspects of the reciprocal-exchange relationship between an organization and an employee are imbalanced. Specifically, it denotes a power differential within the network of exchange relationships present within athletic departments. Indeed, the theme of power issues emerged, specifically in relation to team coaches and administrators. A common sentiment conveyed was that because SCCs are behind the scenes entities within athletic departments, they fall quite low on the proverbial totem pole and thus are often overlooked by administrators during the decision making process. One SCC, who felt as though the value of his work was taken for granted, speculated about why SCCs are overlooked. In his words,

I don't know if it's because we do not have 100% control over the athletes, or because we are just “support staff,” or if people don't think that our job is important, or that they think they can have a good team without any other type of training.

Further, and perhaps also a result of their lack of visibility, there was also a common belief that some team coaches had difficulty “buying into” strength training programs. The result of “getting too involved” and “micromanaging,” when a team coach did not like what the SCC was doing or felt that he or she knew more about strength training for his or her athletes than the SCC (a common occurrence according to those interviewed), the SCCs often had to persuade the team coach to use the programs devised for the athletes. If persuasion did not work, however, the SCCs were left unable to aid the training of all of the athletes with their specialized knowledge—the fundamental purpose of their job! Despite this frustration, most SCCs viewed the process of persuasion as part of the job.

Despite indication that the exchange relationship between athletic departments and their SCCs might be imbalanced, the data collected using both methods show that SCCs are generally satisfied with their jobs and lives, and are quite committed to athletic department in which they work. Thus, they were motivated to continue in their chosen profession. In fact, when asked what characteristics are necessary to be successful in the strength and conditioning profession, motivation was commonly mentioned. Applying the social categorization framework (42,45), it is suggested that the primary source from which this motivation derives is from identity. Namely, many SCCs identified as former athletes and discussed entering the field of strength and conditioning because they derived a great deal of their self-worth and self-esteem from their athlete identity and, as such, are motivated to engage in the activities to maintain a positive social identity. The SCCs were also members of a larger sport entity (i.e., athletic program), which fostered the motivation necessary to continue to work toward establishing or maintaining the athletic department's positive image and their social identity. This rationale is consistent with Todd and Kent's (44) suggestion that group membership is particularly germane to job attitudes and outcomes within the sport context.

A second purpose of this study was to explore the concept of gender. In doing so, 3 main themes emerged within the interview data; increased presence of women within the field, knowledge and ability, and mentorship. Perhaps one of the most salient social groups within the sport context (30), these themes emerged both similarly and differently between male and female SCCs. For instance, both male and female SCCs expressed the belief that women are having an increasingly important presence in the field of strength and conditioning. Female SCCs, however, went on to say that although there is indeed an increased presence, women are still very much the minority and that advancement opportunities are scarce for women. As one women said, “Female strength coaches have no room to move up in the field.” Similarly, another female SCC stated that “a female can only go so high. Although additional inquiry is certainly needed to further explore this theme, it appears as though the intercollegiate SCC profession is similar to the other positions within intercollegiate athletic departments (i.e., gendered [11,18]).

Both male and female SCCs expressed the necessity to “practice what you preach.” Thus, if an SCC expects an athlete to strength train, the SCC must do the same and they must be able to demonstrate lifts to the athletes. Accordingly, this establishes “credibility” and “respect.” One female SCC who had successfully competed in weight lifting at the international level noted that once she demonstrated her own ability in the weight room, the athletes had no choice but to listen to her. Ability must also incorporate knowledge of energy systems, strength training, conditioning, and plyometrics, and perhaps more importantly the research that supports the use of these types of training. Education was a consistent theme through all interviews, because SCCs viewed it as being increasingly integral to the strength and conditioning profession. As one prominent female SCC put it, “education will move the profession forward.” Further recognizing the stereotypical misconception (i.e., big, dumb weight lifters, spotters, and personal trainers) of who an SCC is and what an SCC does, all of the SCCs expressed the importance of possessing an understanding of biomechanics, exercise physiology, anatomy, physiology, and so on. Possessing such knowledge was also identified as fundamental in increasing the credibility of the profession. As one female SCC indicated, using scientific evidence and research to “support your comments” will result in gaining the respect of athletes and coaches.

Perhaps the most prominent theme that emerged from the data was how the role of mentorship was integral to successes of female SSCs within the field of strength and conditioning. When asked about the factors that led them to their current positions, the women who were interviewed all mentioned a significant individual, male or female, whom had led them to the career. In many cases, this significant individual became a mentor and thus helped develop and guide the SCCs through the steps necessary to becoming a professional SCC. A common occurrence in the sport domain (41), the mentor-protege relationship has been found to positively impact outcomes such as job and career satisfaction (3). As Avery et al. (5) found, however, other psychosocial factors impact the extent to which benefits result from this relationship. Their examination of intercollegiate coaches revealed that female assistant coaches received less mentoring from a male head coach than did their male counterparts. Although not entirely generalizable to the current findings or the strength and conditioning field, the topics of sex and mentoring require additional inquiry.

As with any study there are limitations that must be addressed. First, despite contacting every Division I SCC with the hopes that each would take part, the response rate for this study was somewhat low. It should be noted that this low response rate was somewhat expected, as the time demands of SCCs are quite intense. There are various topics that may impact the constructs used in this study that should be addressed in future studies. For instance, discussions of POS often include the topic of work-family conflict (15). This is perhaps one of the most logical extensions to this study, as the nature of the strength and conditioning profession demands a great many hours dedicated to work. Additionally, other outcomes such as turnover intentions and withdrawal warrant research attention within this population, both in relation to the organization-employee exchange relationship and organizational and social identity.

Another potential avenue for future inquiry involves delving further into the topic of gender in the field of strength and conditioning. Although addressed here, there are several research questions that have yet to be asked. Future research would do well to ask these questions and subsequently investigate them using a variety of methods. As can be seen from this study, a great deal of information can be gained by using multiple methods. Finally, the duties and demands of SCC vary across the different levels of Division I schools. Likewise, there would be many differences within Division II and Division III schools. Additional inquiries within these populations would shed a great deal of additional insight on the work and professional experiences of intercollegiate SCCs. Again, multiple methods would be quite useful.

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Practical Applications

Taken together, the results of this study provide important insight into a population that has been largely overlooked by sport researchers. Indeed, while integral to the sport's primary constituents (i.e., athletes), and quite possibly the success of teams and sport organizations in general, the extant sport literature has yet to include the study of the work experiences of SCCs. Therefore, integrating them into the literature is the first contribution of this study. Providing a better understanding of the professional and personal work-related experiences of SCCs to both researchers and practitioners is also an important contribution. Specific to these findings, it would appear that there are several issues to which athletic administrators could better attend to their SCCs. Namely, administrators could help alleviate some of the aggravations expressed by the SCCs with regard to power and status by recognizing the important role that SCCs play within the athletic department at large.

Another contribution of this study is the focus on the gendered nature of the profession. Although not the primary focus, the findings here provide some insight and offer several avenues for future inquiry. For instance, although there are few women in the strength and conditioning field as a whole, there are even fewer occupying leadership positions. Further investigating the experiences of these women within the male-dominated profession of strength and conditioning could valuably contribute to the future advancement of women in the field. Lastly, these findings provide a theoretical contribution, as both the exchange relationship between an organization and an employee and the identities that an employee possesses were influential to work and professional experience (46). Thus, not only was the support of the athletic department an important factor for positive outcomes but also was the belief that the SCCs were contributing to and identifying with the collective interest of the athletic department.

The findings of this study provide an insight into the intercollegiate strength and conditioning profession. It was found that although SCCs generally felt supported, satisfied, and committed, there were multiple sources from which these attitudes manifest. Indeed, it was demonstrated that both the exchange relationship and social identity impacted the attitudes of the SCCs toward their respective athletic departments. Further, the discussion of gender within this domain allowed for the implications of another salient social category within male-dominated professional field to be explored. Limitations to this study notwithstanding, there are several implications and areas for future inquiry presented.

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Keywords:

satisfaction; commitment; support; gender

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