The Impact of Authoritarian Coaching Styles on Athletes’ Anxious States


  • Shiloh Hagerty Millersville University – Shippensburg University, Joint MSW Program
  • Marc Felizzi School of Social Work, Millersvile University



sport social work, athlete anxiety, autonomy-supportive style coaching, authoritarian style coaching, self-determination theory


The competitive nature of sports can exacerbate an athlete’s anxiety state. Anxiety may impact an athlete’s cognitive and behavioral functioning, which in turn affects their performance. Athletes handle an increased amount of pressure and can be affected by an emotionally abusive or authoritarian style of coaching. Self-determination theory can serve as the underpinning for  two different coaching styles, authoritarian and autonomic-supportive, that can impact an athletes’ anxiety. An autonomy-supportive coaching style may reduce athletes’ anxiety and enhance the athlete’s wellbeing and athletic performance while an authoritarian style can induce and sustain athletes’ anxiety symptoms. Social learning theory provides awareness of how coaches internalize styles of coaching and offers interventions that can be used to instill a positive coaching style with athletes. Sport social workers hold unique qualities to provide effective interventions at the micro and macro level. At the individual level, sport social workers can utilize evidence-based interventions including CBT and mindfulness to reduce anxiety symptoms and teach coping skills. At the organizational level, sport social workers can provide education and awareness of mental health and teach autonomy-supportive coaching. Sport social workers are an integral factor to assuring a safe, positive environment in the athletic arena.


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Author Biography

Shiloh Hagerty , Millersville University – Shippensburg University, Joint MSW Program

Ms. Hagerty recently graduated from the Joint Millersville University-Shippensburg University MSW program She has had a lifelong interest in sports, and has been involved in athletics at a number of levels.