Thriving through relationships in sport: the coach-athlete attachment relationship

Louise Davis*, Daniel J. Brown, Rachel Arnold, Henrik Gustafsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


The aim of this research was to examine the contextual enablers associated with the occurrence of athlete thriving. One contextual enabler of particular interest is the relationships that athletes develop with significant others, including sports coaches. Outside of sport, research has found that relationships built on secure attachments can act as a contextual enabler for thriving across the lifespan (Feeney and Collins, 2015). Therefore, we aimed to extend previous research by examining (1) how athletes’ attachment relationships to their sports coach (e.g., secure, anxious, avoidant) enable or hinder thriving within sport, and (2) the mediating effects of basic psychological need satisfaction on the relationship between coach–athlete attachment and thriving. In total 290 Swedish athletes (138 female and 152 male) ranging from 11 to 46 years old (M = 18.46) completed a multi-section questionnaire measuring the main variables under investigation. Structural equation modelling showed significant predictive relationships existed between anxious and a secure attachment and thriving; however, a non-significant prediction was found for avoidant attachment and thriving. Furthermore, the results suggest that athletes basic need satisfaction fully mediated the effects of athletes’ secure, avoidant, and anxious attachment styles on thriving. The findings lend support to the contention that basic psychological needs satisfaction is an underpinning process variable through which social-contextual factors (i.e., coaches) can impact thriving (Brown et al., 2017). Future interventions aiming to promote athlete thriving may be enhanced by targeting coaching strategies and behaviors that facilitate positive secure relations as well as address and satisfy athletes’ psychological needs
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2022
Event16th European Congress of Sport & Exercise Psychology - Padova, Italy
Duration: 11 Jul 202216 Jul 2022


Conference16th European Congress of Sport & Exercise Psychology
Abbreviated titleFEPSAC 2022


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