Toxic Coaching of Collegiate Student-Athletes: Burnout Mediates the Relation between School/Sport Conflict and Commitment

David Rusbasan – Marian University
Brian Collisson – Azusa Pacific University
Ericka Ham – Marian University

Collegiate student-athletes manage multiple, and at times competing, roles as both students and athletes. Whereas some coaches recognize student-athletes’ dual roles and actively help them navigate school and sport conflicts, others may engage in toxic forms of leadership. Thus, we hypothesized toxic coaching may adversely relate to the degree of role conflict, burnout, commitment, and school/sport performance reported among collegiate student-athletes. We also hypothesized role conflict would be adversely related to student-athletes’ burnout, commitment, and performance in school and sport contexts. To test our hypotheses, we surveyed 176 current or recent collegiate student-athletes via a snowball sampling method. Participants completed measures of their coach’s toxic leadership, personal role conflict, burnout, commitment to school/sport, and school/sport performance. A series of partial correlation and hierarchical regression analyses largely confirmed our hypotheses. As expected, toxic coaching positively predicted role conflict. Furthermore, toxic coaching and role conflict adversely predicted burnout, school/sport commitment, and academic performance. Neither toxic coaching nor role conflict were related to sport performance. Exploratory analyses revealed burnout mediated the relation between role conflict and commitment to one’s team and college or university. Implications for coaching and student-athletes are discussed.