Authors: Chuck Provencio1, Daewon Yoon1, Tiara Rose Johnson2, John C. Barnes, PhD1

1Department of Health, Exercise, and Sport Sciences, The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA
2Department of Educational Psychology, The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA

Corresponding Author:
Chuck Provencio
126 Johnson Center
Albuquerque, NM 87131

Chuck Provencio is a Ph.D. Candidate and Research Assistant at The University of New Mexico.

Role stressors in sport: A comparison of role stress and job satisfaction among sport providers.


Role stress occurs when individuals’ responsibilities are ambiguous or in conflict with their role expectations. Purpose: Using the theory of role dynamics (37), this study explored role stress and job satisfaction among sport providers (n = 195). The purpose of this study was to determine whether commonly education, training, and other variables impacted role stress, and whether role stress impacted job satisfaction among sport providers. Methods: The researchers used Bowling et al.’s (10) role stressors scale to measure role stressors and Spector’s (57) Job Satisfaction Survey to assess job satisfaction, along with demographic information, length of time in the role, level of education, and job training. Results/Conclusions: Findings indicated that education and job trainings were not significant predictors of role stress or job satisfaction, but other variables were found to be significant. Implications and recommendations for future studies are further discussed. Applications in Sport: These findings indicate that newer and younger coaches may require some support from sport managers. Additional applications discussed in the manuscript.

Key Words: organizational behavior, sport management, coach education


Individuals experience a wide range of stresses related to their jobs. One such stress is role stress, which can lead to negative outcomes like burnout (3), low job satisfaction (22, 46-47, 54), poor organizational commitment (46, 54), reduced effort (54), and poor job performance (32, 44). In addition, role stress can mediate the relationship between mentoring and job attitudes, causing mentorship programs to be less effective (39). This issue has been studied in a variety of settings, but limited research is available on role stressors among frontline sport providers.

Role stress describes the discrepancy between an individual’s expectations for the role and the actual activities required to fulfill their role in the organization, with each component describing a different source of discrepancy (37, 46, 53). As part of the theory of role dynamics proposed by Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, and Snoek (37), role stress is broken into three components: role conflict, role ambiguity, and role overload. Kahn et al. (37) recognized only role conflict and role ambiguity in their original writing, but role overload has been added in later reviews of the topic (46). Role ambiguity describes a deficiency of information necessary to perform the role, role conflict includes both contradictory and inconsistent information regarding the role, and role overload refers to a lack of necessary resources for performing one’s role.

This study seeks to understand the relationship between role stress and job satisfaction among a variety of different types of sport providers. For the purposes of the current study, the term ‘sport providers’ includes individuals who teach or coach sport in recreation, competition, school, or private organization settings. This study examined physical education teachers, school sport coaches, private sport coaches, group fitness instructors, and personal trainers who are currently administering sport or fitness instruction. This term and sample were adopted due to the ongoing debate over what constitutes a coach, with scholars agreeing only that the definition of ‘coach’ is too vague to pin down (18, 26, 35, 61). For sport managers, the amorphous nature of the term ‘coach’ does not negate the need to better understand individuals taking on frontline roles in their organization.

Studies of role stress in the sport population are noticeably absent from the literature. This is an important gap to fill as the number of people entering this field is noteworthy, with the Society of Health and Physical Educators boasting over 200,000 members (1), and 290,100 coaches (13) and 356,900 fitness trainers and instructors (14) working in the United States alone. The National Academy of Sports Medicine states on their website that they have provided education to over 1.3 million fitness professionals across more than 80 countries (45).

Assessing role stress in sport providers is of particular interest as their roles are often loosely supervised and require interaction with numerous clients who require customized experiences (17, 19, 34). As Rizzo el al. (53) note, chain of command and the principle of unity of command have strong implications for role stress. Chain of command, a part of classical organization theory, states that authority in organizations should flow from the top of the organizational hierarchy to the bottom (53). This definition would indicate that a frontline employee, someone that deals directly with the product or service being administered by the organization, should benefit from receiving direction from their superiors within the organization. As the individual’s role becomes accountable to more complex chains of command, role conflict and role ambiguity become more common (3, 10, 22, 37, 54). In addition to the directional flow of authority provided by chain of command, Rizzo et al. (53) point to the principle of unity of command, the idea that an employee is only directed by one organizational leader. The principle of unity should prevent multiple organizational leaders from influencing or directing an employee, thus preventing or reducing role stress (53). Sport providers may experience issues in this area as they may perceive their roles as accountable to participants, parents, organizational departments, fans of their teams, or other stakeholders who may express their own directives to the sport provider (17, 19, 34). Thus, for an employee who relies on direction from both client and organizational forces there is a tremendous potential for role stress.

The salience of role stress within organizational behavior and organizational psychology has prompted numerous studies. When searching for the terms “role ambiguity” or “role conflict” using the PsycINFO database, 1511 references between 2010 and the search date of March 17th, 2020 were provided.

Literature Review and Hypotheses

The seminal work on role stress is Kahn et al.’s (37) Organizational stress: Studies in role conflict and ambiguity. The theory of role dynamics proposed in the second chapter of his book provides the framework and terminology used moving forward with the current research. The theory of role dynamics states that a role is defined as the set of activities which an office may perform (37). Organizations depend on their members to perform their roles and the more complex an organization is, the higher their level of interdependence among those individuals becomes (37).

The duties inherent to a role are not restricted to the items laid out in a job description (37). A role is typically made up of the sent roles, which can include role pressures from superiors, peers, role models, and other sources. These role pressures are then interpreted by the individual in the office, resulting in a received role, which impacts the role forces (behaviors and motivations) of the individual. The role forces then exert pressure on the individual’s role behaviors. For the individual to demonstrate role behaviors, the action must meet two criteria. The first criteria is system relevance, meaning that they are within the role expectations (other actions, like socializing at work, do not meet this requirement). The second criteria is that the individual performing the activity must be an accepted member of the system in which they are operating.

Role behavior is also influenced by the individual’s role expectations (37, 46, 53). A role expectation is what the individual believes they should be doing as a part of their role. Role expectations are influenced through organizational trainings (33, 38, 55), perception of organizational support (48), education (2, 38, 55), and prior work experience (15, 25, 64). Expectations which become confusing, ambiguous, or overloading the individual are likely to create role stress (37, 46, 53). Thus, in the present study, the first set of hypotheses are:

H1: Sport providers who receive more frequent job training will experience lower levels of role stress.

H2: Sport providers with higher levels of completed education will experience lower levels of role stress.

Sport providers often perceive stresses related to the nature of their positions which tend to include multiple job tasks that carry substantial performance demands (18, 20, 26). In addition, sport providers may experience a lack a locus of control and a gap between their abilities and the demands of their position. These role stressors raise concern because they have the potential to affect the operation of the organization and the well-being of the coach (21). This prompts the first research question.

RQ1: Which factors (sport provider type, sport coached, age, income bracket, education level, job training frequency) will be significant predictors of role stress among sport providers?

Role Conflict

Conflicting pressures which make fulfilling one’s role difficult or even impossible are defined as role conflict (37). There are two categories of role conflict culminating in four types of role conflict: 1) sent-role conflicts (intra-sender conflict, inter-sender conflict, and inter-role conflict) and 2) person-role conflict. The first type of sent-role conflict is called intra-sender conflict, which occurs when a single member of the role-set delivers incompatible pre- and postscriptions (e.g., telling an individual to stay after their shift has ended and then becoming upset that they have too much overtime). Another sent-role conflict is inter-sender conflict, which ensues when directives contradict between two or more members of the role sets (e.g., the company handbook states that “employees should wear uniforms” while their direct supervisor states that the uniform is not necessary). Inter-role conflict, another sent-role conflict, arises from opposing role pressures from differing organizations (e.g., an employer may require overtime or evening hours which conflict with student’s need for study time). The other source of role conflict is persons-role conflict, a disagreement between the role expectations of an individual and their own personal beliefs or values.

Role Ambiguity

While role conflict deals with inconsistencies in the role pressures that one experiences, role ambiguity pertains to uncertainty related to the role (37). There are two categories of role ambiguity: 1) task ambiguity and 2) socioemotional ambiguity. Task ambiguity occurs when an individual is uncertain of their job-related functions and is further broken into three categories. The first is scope of responsibilities, in which the individual is uncertain of their rights, duties, and responsibilities. The second is called means-ends knowledge, in which the individual is uncertain of the necessary activities or best practices for completing their job. Priority of expectations is the last form of task ambiguity and sees the individual with a lack of understanding of how they should prioritize to meet the role expectations of their office (37).

Socioemotional ambiguity is divided into evaluation of performance and consequences of role performance. Evaluation of performance is when the individual is uncertain of how they are being evaluated. Consequences of role performance deals with situations in which there is uncertainty regarding the consequences of one’s performance (or non-performance), which could impact the individuals, their role set, or the organization.

Role Overload. One of the less explored iterations of role stress is the idea of role overload, which describes a deficiency of resources or time for the completion of tasks (6, 37, 46). This deficiency may take the form of physical resources (such as equipment or funding), cognitive resources (focus or knowledge), or even emotional resources (67).

Negative Consequences of Role Stress

Role stress creates opportunity for several negative outcomes that affect the individual and the organization. Ortqvist and Wincent (46) found eight major consequences of role stress prominent in the literature: emotional exhaustion, reduced personal accomplishment, depersonalization, increased tension, reduced organizational commitment, poor job performance, propensity to quit, and reduced job satisfaction.

Emotional exhaustion is described as an individual’s feeling of being emotionally drained or a state in which the individual has spent their emotional resources (46). Emotional exhaustion is considered as the primary manifestation of burnout, expressed when one has been overextended and feels that they have nothing left to give (27, 42). These researchers have found that individuals who are experiencing emotional exhaustion because of role stress are likely to experience lower job satisfaction, lower organizational commitment, decreased performance, and are more likely to quit their job.

Martinko et al. (41) stated that when employees internalize negative circumstances, they tend to ascribe these negative feelings toward themselves, leading to reduced personal accomplishment. While several studies have examined the various role stress facets with this construct, Ortqvist and Wincent (46) only found a small effect size between role ambiguity and reduced personal accomplishment, with the other two facets not showing significant relationships. Some individuals experiencing role stress will cope using depersonalization, a tactic in which the individual distances themselves from their job and peers (46). It is also described as being a dimension of burnout pertaining to interpersonal relationships (8). Role ambiguity and role overload were shown to have small but significant relationships with depersonalization, but role conflict did not have a significant relationship. This finding is somewhat surprising, as Benita et al. (8) found among teachers that lack of student cooperation and lower levels of support from principals and sense of community could predict higher levels of depersonalization. Tension deals with the anxiety that individuals have as it pertains to their work experiences (46). The three facets all had significant, positive relationships with tension and role conflict and ambiguity had medium effect sizes while role overload had a small effect size.

Organizational commitment is the degree to which an individual identifies with the organization’s mission (46). Organizational commitment has a significant relationship with all facets of role stress, and role ambiguity and role conflict have medium effect sizes while role overload has a small effect size.The employee’s ability to complete their job functions and the quality of the work that is done amounts to job performance. Ortqvist and Wincent’s (46) meta-analysis showed that most studies demonstrated a negative relationship between role stress and job performance, although a few had positive relationships. Only role ambiguity had a small effect size, while role conflict and role overload did not meet the minimum for a small effect size (46).The likelihood that an employee will vacate their position in the organization, which may include extreme methods beyond simply quitting, is known as propensity to quit (46). All three facets were significantly related to the propensity to quit, with role ambiguity and conflict having medium effect sizes and role overload having a small effect size. Job satisfaction is the attitude which individuals hold toward their working conditions. With 42 studies, this construct is the most studied consequence of role stress (46). All three facets had significant relationships with role conflict and ambiguity showing a medium effect size while role overload did not meet the requirement for even a small effect size (46).

Job Satisfaction

As the profession of sport coaching has increasingly been accepted and recognized as a legitimate area of academic examination (18, 21, 26, 61), job related issues have emerged. One such area of inquiry is job satisfaction, which has been characterized as the degree to which employees like their jobs and has an affective component that is based upon feelings of satisfaction and the perception of whether the job meets the needs of the employee (62). Job satisfaction is a social attitude that also involves cognitive dimensions (31). It is a manifestation of an employee’s attitudinal response to their job and has been found to be strongly related to employee absenteeism and turnover and the element of employee job satisfaction has been one of the most extensively studied subjects in human resource academic literature (57). Job satisfaction is also considered an emotional state of pleasure arising from job experiences and/or appraisals and includes the sense of achievement of goals that foster feelings of fulfillment by a sport coach (21).

There is a direct relationship between perceptions of job satisfaction and outcome variables such as personal well-being and productivity. Job satisfaction also plays a role in organizational commitment and employee turnover (21). Additionally, job satisfaction has been linked to a sport coach’s assessment of their own capabilities, knowledge, and job experience, each considered to contribute to increased job satisfaction (60).

Dixon and Sagas (23) studied the relationship between organizational support, work-family conflict, and the job-life satisfaction of university coaches. Jowett and Nezlek (36) examined the relationship interdependence and satisfaction with outcomes in coach-athlete dyads. More recently Dixon and Warner (24) developed a multi-dimensional model of coaching, including the dimension of satisfaction.

H3: Sport providers with higher levels of education will experience higher levels of job    satisfaction.

H4: Sport providers who receive more frequent job training will experience higher levels of job satisfaction.

The Job Satisfaction Survey

According to Bruck, Allen, and Spector (12), there are two basic ways of assessing job satisfaction: A global approach and a composite approach. The global approach is an individual, overall rating of an employee’s affective response to their job. The composite approach utilizes sets of sub-assessments into the different factors of job satisfaction. These two measurement schemes are typically only limited correlation relationships. This study uses the Job Satisfaction Survey (JSS), developed by Spector (57) as a means of assessing global satisfaction as well as the different subfactors of the construct. The JSS utilizes 36 items to measure nine different outcomes. The nine facets are pay, promotion, supervision, fringe benefits, contingent rewards, operating conditions, coworkers, nature of work, and communication.

The JSS has been used in previous sport industry research, including several studies in the field of athletic training. Job satisfaction research in the field of athletic training began in the 1980s when studies of burnout were conducted in the field. This study followed the job satisfaction research that began in the health care industry in the 1940s (62). Barnes, Marley, Shires and Shires (4) assessed the perceptions of preparation for their jobs held by athletic trainers working in professional baseball and compared that with perceptions of respondents’ job satisfaction using the JSS. Their results indicated that job satisfaction as a global measure, as well as with nine sub-facets, were associated with how well athletic trainers in the professional baseball setting perceive they had been prepared to conduct their technical and administrative duties. Thus, there was a positive relationship between how well prepared the respondent felt within their job duties and their level of job satisfaction. Terranova and Henning (62) found that there were no differences in job satisfaction based upon athletic trainers’ job title or position, but there was a relationship between each of the nine subscales of the JSS and intention to leave the profession of athletic training.

More specific to coaching, Ivanović and Ivanović (31) used the JSS to assess the relationships between certain personality characteristics and job satisfaction in soccer, basketball, volleyball, and handball coaches in Serbia. Past studies have explored a range of sport related positions and job satisfaction; however, this has not been explored among the different types of sport providers, prompting the second research question.

RQ2: Which factors (level of role stress, sport provider type, sport coached, age, income bracket, education level, job training frequency) will be significant predictors of job satisfaction among sport providers?


This study used a Likert-type questionnaire to analyze the level of role stress and job satisfaction across several sport provider roles. Other categorical factors like age, time in role, and education were analyzed.

Participants and Sample

Study participants were recruited using e-mail and social media campaigns, face-to-face communication, flyers, and word-of-mouth as well as snowball sampling. Individuals were included as participants in the study if they were 18 years or older, held a professional position as a sports provider, and if they completed all required items in each of the surveys included in the questionnaire.

The researcher’s intended sample size was 500 participants over the span of six months. By month three the researchers decided to end recruitment of participants because of the COVID-19 global pandemic that was starting to impact much of the United States. At that point, 946 individuals had been contacted with a 29% return rate. Of the 278 returned questionnaires, three were removed for not providing a waiver of consent and 80 were removed for not completing survey items within the questionnaire leaving the final number of participants at 195. An a priori G*power analysis was conducted to determine the minimum number of participants necessary for a large effect size. The analysis showed a minimum of 132 participants for ANOVA comparisons and 88 participants for regression analysis the researchers were satisfied with ending solicitation for participants.

Scales and Data Collection Tools

According to Jackson and Schuler’s (32) meta-analysis, about 85% of organizational stressor studies have utilized Rizzo et al.’s Role Ambiguity and Conflict Scale (63), a Likert-type scale with responses ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” on a seven-point scale. Future studies have confirmed that Rizzo et al.’s (53) scale has remained the most commonly cited measurement tool for studying role conflict and role ambiguity (10). In 2017, Bowling et al. (10) developed a new scale to address some of the existing concerns with Rizzo’s scale (i.e., validity, reverse coding issues, and redundant questions).

The current study utilizes Bowling et al.’s (10) twelve-question scale to assess the levels of role ambiguity and role conflict of participants. The scale is made up of six role ambiguity questions and six role conflict questions, each with three reverse coded items (as opposed to Rizzo’s scale in which all role ambiguity questions were reverse coded, and the role conflict questions are not). Bowling et al. (10) used reliability testing and other psychometric evaluations to ensure the validity and reliability of their scale and found that their scale was an improvement over the Rizzo et al. (53) scale.


Participants completed the survey through the web-based application QuestionPro via a web-link. The full survey included demographic questions, Bowling et al’s (10) New Role Stressors Scale, and Spector’s (57) Job Satisfaction Scale. Once the data collection period closed, researchers downloaded the data from QuestionPro, de-identified responses, and analyzed using the R software program.


Demographic information was collected on each participant’s region, gender, age, ethnicity, and income. In addition to these variables, data was collected to provide us with information on the individual’s sports position these variables included: provider type, type of sport, type of facility, teaching status, job status, time in role, and time in training. Descriptive statistics can be found in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Sport Providers Descriptive Statistics

  n % M SD Range Sk Ku   M SD Range Sk Ku
  North East 1 1% 34 NA 0 NA NA   132 NA 0 NA NA
  Mid-Atlantic 1 1% 45 NA 0 NA NA   105 NA 0 NA NA
  South East 13 6% 43.5 3.9 37-49 -0.1 -1.4   134.4 6.25 127-149 0.8 -0.16
  Mid-West 7 4% 44.9 4.5 39-52 0.29 -1.4   126.1 9.26 118-144 0.86 -0.85
  South West 149 76% 46 5.8 33-66 0.32 0.18   128.6 13.8 20-159 -3.7 25.72
  North West 1 1% 49 NA 0 NA NA   137 NA 0 NA NA
  West 23 11% 45.2 45 35-53 -0.1 -0.9   129.3 8.28 110-147 -0.2 -0.36
  Male 67 34% 46.4 5.7 33-59 -0 -0.4   129 8.24 102-145 -1 1.09
  Female 128 66% 45.3 5.5 34-66 0.49 0.72   128.8 14.6 20-159 -3.6 23.45
Age Group                          
  18-35 75 38% 47 5.3 34-60 -0 -0.4   129.3 8.95 102-159 0.2 1.23
  36-55 92 47% 44.3 5.4 33-58 0.21 -0.3   128.8 16 20-154 -3.8 22.35
  56+ 28 14% 46.6 5.7 41-66 1.44 2.3   127.9 9.36 98-143 -1.1 1.6
  White 144 73% 45.9 5.2 34-60 0.25 -0.3   129.5 10.5 72-159 -1.2 5.63
  Black 8 4% 45.9 4.9 39-51 -0.2 -1.8   125.6 13.4 105-146 0.01 -1.31
  American Indian   or Alaska Native 3 2% 43.7 6.7 38-51 0.23 -2.3   126.7 9.07 120-137 0.34 -2.33
  Asian 3 2% 47.3 4.9 44-53 0.37 -2.3   128 8.89 118-135 -0.3 -2.33
  Native Hawaiian   or Pacific Islander 3 2% 44.3 5.5 38-48 -0.4 -2.3   129 7.21 121-135 -0.3 -2.33
  Other 34 17% 44.9 7.1 33-66 0.6 0.5   127.2 20.5 20-152 -4.1 19.22
Level of Education                          
  Lower than   Bachelor’s 19 10% 44.8 5.7 35-53 -0.2 -1.4   130.5 9.45 112-152 0.18 0.02
  Bachelor’s 79 40% 46.1 5.9 33-66 0.48 0.52   128.1 8.87 102-154 -0.2 0.65
  Higher than   Bachelor’s 97 50% 45.5 5.2 34-60 0.2 -0.2   129.2 15.7 20-159 -3.9 23.18
Type of Sports Provider                          
  Physical Education   Teacher 38 19% 45.7 5.8 35-57 0.04 -0.9   131.5 7.69 117-150 0.07 -0.51
  Group Fitness   Instructor 1 1% 43 NA 0 NA NA   133 NA 0 NA NA
  Personal Fitness   Trainer 5 2% 45.6 3.8 40-50 -0.3 -1.7   128.2 6.06 119-135 -0.4 -1.59
  School Sports   Coach 134 69% 45.9 5.6 33-66 0.4 0.52   128.1 14.4 20-159 -3.6 23.51
  Private Sports   Coach 17 9% 43.9 5.1 34-53 -0.1 -1.2   129.5 9.77 110-147 0.02 -0.82
Teaching Status                          
  Teachers 37 19% 46 5.6 36-57 0.08 -0.9   131.4 7.78 117-150 0.1 -0.55
  Non-Teachers 158 81% 45.6 5.6 33-66 0.36 0.5   128.3 13.6 20-159 -3.6 24.95
Sport Type                          
  Individual Sports 77 39% 45.5 5 34-59 0.11 -0.3   127 11.1 72-150 -1.8 6.67
  Group Sports 118 61% 45.8 5.9 33-66 0.36 0.23   130.1 13.7 20-159 -4.3 33.28
Facility Type                          
  Public 46 24% 45.4 5.8 35-60 0.3 -0.2   129.7 8.85 112-159 0.46 0.9
  Private 67 34% 45.8 6.1 33-66 0.32 0.54   129.9 10 98-150 -0.9 1.13
  Not Specified 82 42% 45.7 5 34-58 0.27 -0.5   127.6 16.2 20-154 -3.9 22.73
Time in Role                          
  < 3 Years 61 31% 46.9 5.1 33-59 -0 -0.1   128.5 10.2 102-159 0.01 0.7
  > 3 Years 134 69% 45.1 5.7 34-66 0.49 0.51   129 13.4 20-154 -4.1 28.59
  Up to $19k 110 56% 46 5.2 33-159 0.01 -0.1   128.6 11.3 72-159 -1.1 4.91
  $20k – $39,999 13 7% 46.2 5.3 37-53 -0 -1.5   128.1 5.3 118-135 -0.5 -1.12
  $40k – $59,999 33 17% 45.2 5.6 36-57 0.3 -0.8   128 21 20-149 -4.1 18.22
  $60k – $79,999 29 15% 46.1 6.8 35-66 0.92 0.74   130.6 9.31 105-150 -0.5 0.53
  $80k + 8 4% 42.3 5.3 34-49 -0.1 -1.7   131 8.25 119-144 -0.2 -1.25
  Not Specified 2 1% 38 4.2 35-41 0 -2.3   130.5 9.19 124-137 0 -2.75
Frequency of Training                          
  Once p/ Month 36 18% 46.3 5.3 38-60 0.51 -0.3   131.4 8.01 118-150 0.31 -0.37
  Once p/ 3 Months 33 17% 45.4 6 37-66 1.16 2.04   128.8 21.3 20-154 -4 17.81
  Once p/ 6 Months 42 22% 44.9 5.3 33-55 -0 -0.6   128 11.6 98-159 -0.2 0.38
  Once p/ Year 59 30% 46.4 5.6 34-59 -0 -2.2   127.3 11.5 72-152 -1.8 7.17
  Once p/ 2 Years + 16 8% 42.9 5.9 34-56 0.42 -0.7   129 7.03 114-139 -0.5 -0.76
  Never 9 5% 47.9 4.1 42-53 -0.1 -1.7   133.1 6.83 124-147 0.61 -0.62
Job Status                          
  Did Not Specify 2 1% 50.5 0.7 50-51 0 -2.8   132.5 0.71 132-133 0 -2.75
  Additional Job 142 73% 45.4 5.6 33-66 0.34 0.35   128.4 14 20-159 -3.7 25.24
  Only Job 51 26% 46.1 5.5 34-60 0.32 -0.1   130.1 8.95 113-152 0.34 -0.42

To investigate each hypothesis a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted along with the appropriate assumptions-checking. For both RSS and JSS analyses the assumption of independence was reasonable because each participant completed the questionnaire individually and the residual plots confirmed this, displaying a random distribution of scores. For RSS the assumption of normality was also reasonable. While the skewness and kurtosis values varied, each group passed the Shapiro-Wilk test with non-significant results (p > 0.05) for all groups and with a large population (n = 195) we determined the validity of the Shapiro-Wilk results would not be compromised. For the JSS, the assumption of normality was not reasonable because the scores were skewed to the left. To correct for this a Kruskal-Wallis Test was performed, and those results can be found below. For both RSS and JSS, homogeneity of variance was verified using Levene’s test, which was non-significant (p > 0.05) for all groups indicating no statistically significant variances between groups.

Role Stress ANOVA Results

The first and second hypotheses questioned whether sport providers who received more frequent job training would experience lower levels of role stress and whether sport providers who completed higher levels of education would experience lower levels of role stress. ANOVA results found no significant differences between groups for either hypothesis. Frequency of job training [F (5, 189) = 1.56, p = 0.17] had no effect on the amount of role stress a sports provider experienced. In addition, the level of education completed [F (2, 192) = 0.45, p = 0.63] did not affect the amount of role stress they experienced as a sports provider. Role Stress ANOVA results are displayed in Table 2.

Table 2: RSS ANOVA for remaining IVs. Significance: 0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1

Source df SS MS F Pr(>F)
  Between Groups 6 234 39.07 1.278 0.27
  Within Groups 188 5749 30.58    
  Between Groups 2 353 176.39 6.015 0.00293
  Within Groups 192 5631 29.33    
  Between Groups 5 55 11.04 0.35 0.88
  Within Groups 189 5928 31.37    
Provider Type          
  Between Groups 4 65 16.13 0.52 0.72
  Within Groups 190 5919 31.15    
Facility Type          
  Between Groups 2 4 2.16 0.07 0.93
  Within Groups 192 5979 31.14    
  Between Groups 5 242 48.36 1.592 0.16
  Within Groups 189 5742 30.38    
Job Status          
  Between Groups 2 63 31.64 1.03 0.36
  Within Groups 192 5920 30.83    

Additional ANOVA Analysis for Role Stress

Since both hypotheses related to role stress yielded non-significant results, additional analyses were conducted for seven other independent variables. These variables included: region, age, ethnicity, provider type, facility type, income, and job status. For each of these ANOVAs all assumption checks were complete and found to be acceptable. The researchers found that age had significant differences between groups [F (2, 192) = 6.02, p = 0.003]. To further investigate age an orthogonal contrast was conducted to determine which age group was significantly different from the others, revealing that the “18-35” age group was significantly different from the “36-55” age group [F (1, 192) = 11.22, p = 0.00] indicating that individuals in the 18-35 age group experienced more role stress than the 36–55 age group. Effect size was also calculated for age groups using ETA squared where we found a medium effect size (η² = 0.06) indicating that 6% of the variance in Role Stress scores is due to age.

Independent t tests were used to investigate four additional independent variables: gender, teacher status, sport type, and time in role. For each t test, all assumption checks were complete and found to be acceptable. Results from these tests indicate time in role had a significant effect on role stress. Specifically, individuals who spent less than three years in their sports provider role (M = 46.93, SD = 5.12) experienced more role stress than those who spent three years or more in their role (M = 45.09, SD = 5.66); t(127.47) = 2.25, p = 0.03). Effect size was calculated for time in role using Cohen’s d where a small effect size (d = 0.34) was found, indicating 34% of the variance in RSS scores was due to the individual spending less than three years in their sports provider role. Role Stress t test results are displayed in Table 3.

Table 3: RSS T-test Results. Significance: 0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1

  n Mean SD tobs df p
  Male 67 46.4 5.66 1.33 130.27 0.18
  Female 128 45.28 5.48      
Teaching Status            
  Teacher 37 46.03 5.62 0.43 53.66 0.66
  Non-teacher 158 45.58 5.55      
Sport Type            
  Individual 77 45.48 4.96 -0.39 181.42 0.7
  Group 118 45.79 5.93      
Time in Role            
  < 3 years 61 46.93 5.12 2.25 127.47 0.03*
  > 3 years 134 45.09 5.66      

Job Satisfaction ANOVA Results

The third and fourth hypotheses addressed whether sport providers who received more frequent job training would experience higher levels of job satisfaction and whether sport providers who received higher levels of completed education would experience higher levels of job satisfaction. ANOVA results found no significant differences between groups. Frequency of job training [F (5, 189) = 0.7, p = 0.63] had no effect on the amount of job satisfaction a sports provider experienced. In addition, the level of completed education [F (2, 192) = 0.32, p = 0.73] had no effect on the amount of job satisfaction a provider experienced. Since the assumption of normality was not met for the JSS data, a Kruskal-Wallis test was conducted for each hypothesis. Each test yielded non-significant results (p > 0.05) indicating no effect on job satisfaction.

Additional ANOVA Analysis for Job Satisfaction

Since both hypotheses related to job satisfaction yielded non-significant results, additional analyses were conducted for seven other independent variables. These variables included: region, age, ethnicity, provider type, facility type, income, and job status. For each ANOVA all assumption checks were completed. Assumptions for independence and variance were found to be acceptable; however, the assumption of normality failed because the JSS distribution was negatively skewed. The Kruskal-Wallis test was used for each of the seven independent variables with non-significant results (p > 0.05) for each test, indicating that there were no significant differences in job satisfaction scores between any of the groups within each independent variable (see Table 4 below).

Table 4: JSS ANOVA for remaining IVs. Significance: 0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1

Source df SS MS F Pr(>F)
  Between Groups 6 1113 185.4 1.142 0.34
  Within Groups 188 30528 162.4    
  Between Groups 2 39 19.63 0.119 0.888
  Within Groups 192 31601 164.59    
  Between Groups 5 252 50.33 0.3 0.91
  Within Groups 189 31389 166.08    
Provider Type          
  Between Groups 4 363 90.65 0.55 0.7
  Within Groups 190 31278 164.62    
Facility Type          
  Between Groups 2 239 119.6 0.73 0.48
  Within Groups 192 31401 163.6    
  Between Groups 5 169 33.78 0.2 0.96
  Within Groups 189 31471 166.52    
Job Status          
  Between Groups 2 142 71.14 0.43 0.65
  Within Groups 192 31498 164.05    

Independent t tests were used to investigate four additional independent variables: gender, teacher status, sport type, and time in role. For each t-test all assumption checks were complete. The assumptions of independence and variance were found to be acceptable; however, the assumption of normality failed because the JSS distribution was skewed to the left. The Kruskal-Wallis test was used for each of the seven independent variables with non-significant results (p > 0.05) for all but one variable: sport type (p = 0.02). This indicates that sports providers who coached individual sports (M = 126.97, SD = 11.05) were less satisfied with their job than sports providers who coached group sports (M = 130.13, SD = 13.68). Effect size was calculated for sport type using Cohen’s d where we found a small effect size (d = 0.25) indicating 25% of the variance in JSS scores was due to the difference between individual sports and group sports. Job Satisfaction t test results are displayed in Table 5.

Table 5: JSS T-test Results. Significance: 0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.5

  n Mean SD tobs df p
  Male 67 128.99 8.24 0.1 191.93 0.92
  Female 128 128.83 14.64      
Teaching Status            
  Teacher 37 131.35 7.78 1.82 95.2 0.07
  Non-teacher 158 128.3 13.63      
Sport Type            
  Individual 77 126.97 11.05 -1.77 184.32 0.08
  Group 118 130.13 13.68      
Time in Role            
  < 3 years 61 128.54 10.16 -0.28 154.41 0.78
  > 3 years 134 129.04 13.38      

Regression Results

Research question one sought to determine which factors (sport provider type, type of sport, age, income, level of education, frequency of training) would be significant predictors of role stress. To investigate these questions, we conducted a regression analysis for RSS. Assumptions were verified for each of the variables independently and found to be acceptable. Table 6 displays the correlations for each variable.

Role Stress Regression Analysis

Linear regression was calculated to predict RSS based on all 13 independent variables. A significant relationship was found between RSS and age [F (2, 192) = 6.02, p = 0.00, R² = 0.05] indicating that 5% of the variance in RSS scores was due to age. More specifically when compared to the “18-35” age group sports providers in the category “36-55” age group reduced their score by 2.79 points those in the “56+” category reduced their score 0.4 points.

A significant relationship was also found between RSS and income [F (5, 189) = 1.59, p = 0.16, R² = 0.02] indicating that 2% of the variance in RSS scores was due to income. More specifically when compared to individuals in the “$0-$19,999” income bracket sports providers who were in the “$60k-$79,999” income bracket reported scores 3.77 points lower and those who “did not report an income” bracket reported scores 8.02 points lower.

Job Satisfaction Regression Results

Research question two sought to determine which factors (sport provider type, type of sport, age, income, level of education, frequency of training) would be significant predictors of job satisfaction. To investigate these questions, we conducted a regression analysis for JSS. Of the 13 independent variables only sport type was found to be near significance [F (1, 193) = 2.87, p = 0.1, R² = 0.01]; however, all variables failed the assumptions of linearity and normality because JSS scores were skewed to the left. To correct for this skewedness, we transformed the data three ways (cubed, logged, and square root) but none of these transformations were enough to pass assumptions for any variable and JSS. Figure 4 displays the histograms for the original JSS distribution and each of the transformations performed.

Figure 1. JSS distribution transformations


Role Stress and Sport Providers

Sport providers who receive more frequent job training do not experience lower levels of role stress than sport providers who receive less frequent job training. While the highest mean role stress score was with those who said they had never received job training (M = 47.89, n = 9), the lowest score was for those who responded that they received only job training once every two years or longer (M = 42.94, n = 16). With no significant differences between groups, the frequency of job training failed to predict role stress.

As Beauchamp et al. (5) note, athletes who are unclear about their role responsibilities become less confident their ability to execute their jobs in a team setting (5, 11). For sport providers this would indicate that knowing how to perform is critical to reducing role stress; however, sport providers in this study seemed to be comfortable with moderate levels of role stress (M = 44.67, n = 195), regardless of job training or education level. This suggests that either sport providers are resistant to role stress’s impact or that other factors may play a role in reducing or moderating the relationship between job training, education, and role stress.

One possible explanation for the job training’s lack of impact is autonomy satisfaction, as sport providers might have mixed perceptions of job training where some see it as an enhancement while others view it as infringing on their freedom to do their work as desired (7, 56, 65). This is a particularly problematic issue as studies of P.E. teachers have found that feeling supported by administrators can create a sense of satisfaction (16), while being unsupported can lead to low levels of satisfaction and even result in leaving the profession (66). It is unclear whether sport providers see job training as a form of inclusion or lack of trust.

Additionally, Washburn et. al (65) found that perceived mattering had a negative relationship with role stress. Richards, Washburn, & Hemphill (52) found that when P.E. teachers feel that they are doing something meaningful they tend to experience lower levels of role stress. Other studies have found P.E. teachers could develop this feeling of mattering in two dimensions, P.E. matters and teacher matters, in which P.E. matters is a sense that the subject of physical education is valued by those around them, and the teacher matters dimension being related to other’s valuing the person teaching (28, 50-51). This would indicate that the participants in this study may come from highly supported positions, which would in turn reduce their overall sense of role stress, regardless of job training.

Coaching education has also been a point of controversy, as some national sport governing bodies are imposing more stringent requirements for continuing education. While there is a well-documented perception that coaching education improves the quality of coaching (9, 19, 30, 40) and participant outcomes (29, 58), many sport providers prefer to learn from experience (19).

Findings contradict the researchers’ second hypothesis as well, showing that sport providers’ level of education was also not a significant predictor of role stress. This is a particularly interesting finding that seems to be unique to sport providers, as research has indicated that lower educational qualifications led to higher role stress among teachers (49), industrial sales representatives (43), and nursing students (59). This contradiction may be the result of sport providers relying heavily on on-the-job learning and experience as athletes, as opposed to formal education (19). University level coaching programs should pay particular attention to this as it would seem that sport providers do not have more stabilized role orientations based on their pursuit of education, which may indicate a curricular gap.

The only factors that did predict role stress in this sample were age and time in role. Role stress for those in the 18-35 years old category was significantly higher than for those in the 36-55 group. This would appear to be consistent with the importance of on-the-job learning and autonomy satisfaction, as younger professionals have not had the same time to “learn the ropes” and feel confident in their decision making without guidance or support. Younger (and therefore likely to be newer) sport providers might also be struggling to find their place beyond the boundaries of their institutions, working to establish their role among their peers, athletes, or in the broader sport network. As coaches remain in their position for longer, they form more stable role orientations within these settings and may begin to see themselves as more expert than rookie. Coaches in the younger category may also be struggling to transition from one role (athlete) to another (coach). This situation can be especially challenging as more established coaches recognize the athlete and may pose reminders that trigger the younger coach’s athletic identity, making it difficult to identify themselves in their new role.

Job Satisfaction and Sport Providers

Perhaps one of the most surprising outcomes of this study is the apparent lack of relationship between the components of role stress and job satisfaction. Contrary to the researchers’ third and fourth hypothesis, sport providers who had higher levels of education did not experience higher levels of job satisfaction that their peers with lower levels of education, nor were more frequent job trainings significant predictors of job satisfaction. Notably, the highest level of job satisfaction was among those who responded saying that they had never received job training (M = 133.11, n = 9) while the second highest job satisfaction scores belonged to those who receive training once a month (M = 131.44, n = 36)! The exceptionally high levels of job satisfaction among sport providers in this sample across all variables (M = 127.88, n = 195) presents a picture of an incredibly rewarding occupation.

Despite the inclusion of several demographic and job setting variables within the comparisons, only one factor was shown to be related to job satisfaction as a global measure: the type of sport coached. Those coaches who work primarily with team sports recorded significantly higher job satisfaction scores than those who coach individual sports (e.g., tennis). A couple of factors could explain this finding. First, coaching individuals appears to require more interpersonal communications between coach and player, making the relationship vulnerable to conflict, particularly if the coach is required to sort out feedback from the athlete while simultaneously interpreting input from others, such as parents and organization administrators. Additionally, coaches for individual sport athletes rarely coach only one player, forcing them to juggle the interests of several athletes simultaneously.

Contrast this situation with the typical team sport setting in a secondary school. Here, the coach is seen as an authority figure with a clear understanding that she/he is in charge of the team. While there are many more athletes involved, there is less of an interpersonal relationship with the coach. From an organizational theory perspective, team sports are hierarchies where the head coach is the CEO, the assistant coaches act as organizational executives, and the players are rank-and-file employees. Within this team sport hierarchy is a channel of communication that provides a buffer between the employee and CEO, one not found when coaching individuals. Perhaps this bureaucracy of communication allows for the coach to receive feedback in a manner that does not negatively impact her/his sense of locus of control or authority – as opposed to the direct nature of feedback found in coaching one-on-one.

Because of the hierarchical nature of team sports, the relationship is less egalitarian than coaching an individual athlete, perhaps giving the coach a position of power that provides a sense of control that could compel the coach to enjoy her/his position to a greater degree. Team settings allow for more interpersonal communication among the athletes as well, and in teams where clear role expectations are communicated horizontally players feel more confident (5), thus the coaches may not have their authority challenged by players who draw their knowledge from other sources. This result is not exclusive to athletes, as Schulz (56) found that academic staff experience a negative relationship between role stress and job satisfaction, where an increase in role stress led to a reduced sense of satisfaction with their job; however, this effect was mediated by organizational climate, specifically what he calls a “clan climate,” where staff felt supported and autonomous (p.474). Team sports could provide this sort of climate among players, which may translate to coaches feeling an increased sense of confidence in their abilities and thus job satisfaction.

Limitations and Future Research

While statistical corrections were made to improve the validity of the findings, the particularly strong positive skew of the JSS results made interpretation difficult and merits caution in the interpretation. Our data collection was also limited by the cancellation of many sport providers contracts and regular responsibilities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Further research in this area should continue this line of inquiry but with instruments, and perhaps scaling, that would enhance the ability to detect differences that truly exist.

In addition to these limitations, our research indicated that traditional demographic predictors of role stress and job satisfaction were largely inadequate. Future research in this field would likely benefit from examining more affective elements, such as feelings of importance and perceived organizational support, to better understand how role stress and job satisfaction manifest in the sport provider population. While additional research is still needed to better understand the relationships between role stress and job satisfaction, it should be noted that sport providers seem to be resilient, enjoying their job despite role stress.


Sport providers take part in a profession that is complex, challenging, and rewarding. Understanding what ultimately leads them to high job satisfaction is essential to improving the retainment of these professionals. Managers and other practitioners in the field should take from this study that those most vulnerable to role stress are young and new to the profession, so providing support and guidance is a major factor in the early parts of a sport provider’s career. Sport providers and those who are interested in the field should expect that they will experience moderate levels of role stress, but that they are still likely to enjoy their job.


While role stress does not seem to play a significant role in predicting job satisfaction, there were significant differences for young and new coaches. Providing additional support to these individuals may help to stave off the adverse effects of role stress, such as turnover and burnout. Sport managers should take special care to provide some mentorship opportunities and help to strengthen young coaches’ professional networks. This intervention may mean providing funding to attend conferences or just setting them up with organizational members that can provide some experience and insight. For coaches, these findings indicate that reducing role stress may just be a matter of time. Setting a goal to remain in a position beyond the first three years could be key to feeling a sense of normalcy and coaches should be prepared for some role stress during their early years.


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