New research investigates the different mentor roles taken on by sports coaches

White, J. S., Schempp, P. G., McCullick, B. A., Berger, B. S., & Elliott, J. M. (2017). Mentoring relationships in sport from the protégé’s perspective. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 15(1), 152-168.

Summarized by Julia Mancini

Notes of Interest: This article explores the effectiveness of the functions and roles in mentoring relationships of sport coaches by looking at the effectiveness of the roles performed by mentors as influences by the protégés. Research investigating this mentoring dyad could help to inform more meaningful coaching education programs.


Introduction (reprinted from the Abstract):

This study explored mentoring relationships in sport from the perspective of the protégé. The project was guided by contemporary mentoring theories as framed by Kram’s Mentor Role Theory (Kram, 1985). A convenience sample of 230 volleyball coaches was recruited for this study. Data were collected using the Coaches Mentor Role Instrument (CMRI) (Schempp, McCullick, Berger, White, & Elliott, 2014). Quantitative methods indicated significant mentor role differences based on continuation of relationship, participation in a formal mentor programme, and gender. The participants perceived their mentors as most effective in the roles of acceptor, friend, role model and challenger.


Implications (reprinted from the discussion and conclusion):

The results revealed that the participants’ mentors were perceived by their protégés as effective in both the roles and functions they undertook in their mentoring relationship. It was concluded that both the psychosocial support and career support functions of mentors were perceived to be effective factors in the mentoring relationship, but one function was not significantly more effective than the other.

This would suggest that for individuals with an interest in coach mentoring (i.e. protégés, mentors, administrators), attention be given to providing relevant and pertinent information to protégés in terms of both their career navigation and the necessary psychosocial support to aid in their professional development.

Out of the eleven possible mentor roles, there were four mentor roles that were regularly rated as most effective by coaches in three different sports as well as athletic administrators (in no special order): a) acceptor, b) friend, c) role model and d) challenger. These findings also suggest that the effectiveness of these relationships is dependent more on a deep personal connection between mentor and protégé rather than a strictly formal, professional relationship. It was also found that the longer the relationship lasted, the greater the perception of mentor effectiveness in almost all categories.

While female protégés in this study rated their mentors significantly higher on the career coach role than male protégés, gender was not significant in the mentor rating for the remaining nine roles. The data seemed to indicate that females were receiving similar, if not better, mentoring than their male counterparts as it related to the roles mentors play in the relationship among volleyball coaches.

Mentors taking on the vital role of mentoring a protégé are advised to become proficient in career and psychosocial functions, paying attention to the four roles mentioned previously. This can be attained by attending a class, reading books or research papers, attending a trade convention or learning from colleagues.

Given the potential for professional development and the promising findings of this study and others, it appears future research will provide important insights and benefits for those concerned with mentor relationships and programmes. Understanding successful mentoring relationships involving female mentors and protégés, specifically within a sports coaching context, will help us understand how to provide female sport coaches with the best mentoring experience possible.

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