Date of Award

Spring 4-19-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Counseling & Psychology

First Advisor

Susan Gere, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Peiwei Li, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Gary Senecal, Ph.D.


High school sports are the most popular extracurricular activity in the United States. Coaches serve as gatekeepers to team culture and influence student athletes’ experiences in those sports. Team cultures influence performance and well-being outcomes. Those outcomes are not inherently beneficial and have caused harm to some student-athletes. Guided by a constructivist approach paired with grounded theory analysis, this study investigates how high school coaches in New England perceive the role of team culture in promoting student-athlete well-being and performance. Thirteen head varsity athletic coaches from New England schools took part in interviews via Zoom to share their thoughts on building team culture, supporting their student-athletes, and improving their coaching practice. Findings pointed to a need for coaches to understand themselves, develop an understanding of the relationship between well-being and performance, and recognize how to build healthy team environments. A sense of themselves includes reflection on their sport origin story, understanding how the impact of their family contributed to them becoming a coach, and having a clear sense of their coaching philosophy. Well-being is supported by cultivating conditions of psychological safety: managing conflict, encouraging speaking up, and building trust, buy-in, and relationships with student-athletes. Healthy team cultures emerge from healthy leadership structures, multidirectional communication, clear expectations, and trusting relationships. Coaches would benefit from professional development and dialogue on self-awareness, relationship building, culture building, and social justice issues.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.

Number of Pages