Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Alison Doherty


The purpose of this dissertation was to explore the volunteer coaching environment using psychological contract theory. Psychological contract posits that volunteers and their organization have implicit and explicit expectations of each other, and the breach and fulfillment of these expectations impact volunteers’ attitude and intended behaviour.

Study 1 explored the content of volunteer coaches’ psychological contract, and influences to the development of it. Interviews with 22 coaches of team sports, representing different demographic factors were included. The results revealed that volunteer coaches possess both transactional and relational expectations. Variation was found by coaching tenure and level of play. Sources external to the club primarily influenced the content of the psychological contract.

Study 2 built upon the conceptual framework revealed in Study 1 by developing a survey measure to assess the content and fulfillment of coaches’ psychological contract, and the impact of fulfillment on coaches’ satisfaction, commitment, and intent to continue. A sample of 187 volunteer sport coaches completed an online survey. The results indicated that contract fulfillment positively predicted satisfaction, commitment, and intent to continue.

Study 3 investigated the content of sport clubs’ psychological contract. Focus groups were conducted with three sport clubs that had both recreational and competitive programming, and volunteer coaches. Sport clubs’ common expectations of themselves were fundamental resources, club administration, formal training, coach support and conflict resolution. Their common expectations of coaches were team administration, certification, assigned coaching role, team leadership, positive experience, and professionalism.