What Coaches Say Impacts Athletes’ Relationship with Food and Body

Coaches are extremely influential in their athletes’ lives. Research shows that coaches can impact athletes’ performance, their self-confidence, their motivation, how they understand support, and how they view themselves.

Coaches are extremely influential in their athletes’ lives. Research shows that coaches can impact athletes’ performance, their self-confidence, their motivation, how they understand support, and how they view themselves. Coaches can promote and encourage healthy and appropriate relationships with food, body, and physical activity by:

  • Refraining from commenting on an athlete’s appearance and weight
  • Replacing negative weight/body talk with praise about effort of skill
  • Talking about food as fuel that provides energy to play well
  • Being a role model for athletes by showcasing healthy, balanced eating behaviors & positive body image.

“Coaches have the power to help prevent disordered eating & combat the body image ideal upheld within the sport culture.” Arthur-Cameselle & Baltzell, 2012

Research also shows that coaches can negatively influence athletes’ body images and eating behaviors.

  • Coach communication involving body comparisons, critical comments, and unspecific, harmful expectations can increase the likelihood that an athlete develops an eating disorder
  • “Performance-related & body weight preoccupied coaching styles increase dieting, body image anxiety, and fear of fatness in athletes.”
  • Coaches can perpetuate harmful body image ideals

Learn more about suggested phrases coaches can say to help young athletes establish healthy relationships with food &body here.

Download a PDF of this document to share with the coaches in your life here.

For a deeper dive, visit the National Eating Disorders Association Website here.

References

  • Amorose, A. J., & Horn, T. S. (2000). Intrinsic motivation: Relationships with collegiate athletes’ gender, scholarship status, and perceptions of their coaches’ behavior. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 22(1), 63-84.
  • Arthur-Cameselle, J. N., & Baltzell, A. (2012). Learning from collegiate athletes who have recovered from eating disorders: Advice to coaches, parents, and other athletes with eating disorders. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 24(1), 1-9.
  • Biesecker, A. C., & Martz, D. M. (1999). Impact of coaching style on vulnerability for eating disorders: An analog study. Eating Disorders, 7(3), 235-244.
  • Muscat, A. C., & Long, B. C. (2008). Critical comments about body shape and weight: Disordered eating of female athletes and sport participants. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 20(1), 1-24.
  • Turman, P. D. (2008). Coaches’ immediacy behaviors as predictors of athletes’ perceptions of satisfaction and team cohesion. Western Journal of Communication, 72(2), 162-179.