#coachlearninginsport: sharing ideas and practice



I had the good fortune to meet with a group of coach learning meddlers yesterday.


I mentioned meddling in an earlier post about #coachlearninginsport.


I like the possibilities suggested by Erica McWilliam for meddling in learning. In a 2005 paper about teaching and learning, she observes:


the idea of teacher and student as co-creators of value is compelling. Rather than teachers delivering an information product to be consumed by the student, co-creating value would see the teacher and student mutually involved in assembling and dissembling cultural products. In colloquial terms, this would frame the teacher as neither sage on the stage nor guide on the side but meddler in the middle. The teacher is in there doing and failing alongside students, rather than moving like Florence Nightingale from desk to desk or chat room to chat room, watching over her flock, encouraging and monitoring. (2005, 11)

She concludes her paper on unlearning pedagogy with this short paragraph:

I intend to save myself from another deadly habit of academic authorship – the deadly habit of summarising main points at the end of a paper. This will allow the reader to dispense with the deadly habit of needing to be reminded about them. In Bauman’s terms, the invitation is both to remember and to forget. (2005, 19)

I see this invitation at the heart of coach learning meddling. I see doing and failing as characteristics of this relationship too.


In our conversations yesterday, we explored how we might support coach learning journeys and practice at a time when high performance sport is generating specialist roles. The people in these roles, unless they are empathetic, can be overly driven by evidence-based practice.

I think we agreed as a group that whilst we could understand this imperative from a service provider’s perspective, it would be a relief to move beyond a short-term, quantitative measurement environment in order to support the coach in her or his relationship with athletes. This relationship is at the heart of play, games and sport.

Our conversation took a delightful twist when we started to explore how we might invite service providers to walk in coaches’ shoes. In sociological terms, we thought ‘taking the role of the other‘ would have an enormous impact.

On the way to the meeting, I had been listening to a discussion about the iOrchestra and the Universe of Sound:


an extraordinary free interactive digital installation, allowing you to explore an orchestra from the inside out as they perform Holst’s The Planets. Using giant visual displays, touch screens, unconventional projecting surfaces, movement-based interaction and planetarium-style projections, you can take part as musicians, conductors, arrangers and composers.

One of my colleagues at the meeting shared his discovery of the Empathy Museum. Roman Krznaric has written about his vision for the museum here.


an experiential and conversational adventure space to create a mass upsurge in empathic awareness, where you learn to see life from the perspective of people from different cultures, generations and social backgrounds.

This has some fascinating implications for coaching environments and teams, I think.

Another colleague at the meeting mentioned his profoundly moving experiences during and after a visit to Flanders. It is possible to follow an individual soldier’s story … and to have an insight into that soldier’s war. I was struck by how humbled my colleague felt about the learning opportunity he had and how moved he was by sharing it.

This gave us all time to reflect as it coincided with a minute’s silence for those murdered in Sousse.


Roman’s point is:


98% of us have the ability to empathise, but few of us put our full empathic potential to use. And as a society, we have made even less effort to harness the power of empathy to create fundamental change, from challenging prejudices and stereotypes to inspiring us to take action

We thought we might start this process in our coaching environments.


Photo Credits

Keith Lyons (CC By 4.0)

#coachlearninginsport: ethnography and learning experience


This is a second #coachlearninginsport post.

I have been fortunate to have seen a draft report on some research underway with Elite Coach Developers in the United Kingdom.

The report raises some important issues based, in part, on semi-structured interviews with twelve people in elite coach developer roles.

I have suggested in an earlier post that my thinking about what these roles are guides me to ‘learning’ rather than ‘development’. (A paper by Chris Trevitt, Anne Macduff and Aliya Steed (2014) on legal education and continuing professional learning helped me clarify my thoughts about learning as my focus. Their discussion about assessment and ‘warrant’ helped me clarify my thoughts about accreditation too.)

The UK paper proposes a continuum of tasks undertaken by elite coach developers (from people orientations through general tasks to system activities). In exploring a competency approach the authors of the draft report observe:

The three categories of professional attributes, professional knowledge and professional skills proved useful in helping to articulate and clarify the key competencies needed by Elite Coach Developers.

As I read the report, my thoughts turned to the potential of Elite Coach Learning Meddlers to partner coaches’ personal learning journeys. I use ‘meddler’ not in a pejorative sense but in the exciting pedagogical sense used by Erica McWilliam.

She argues that the meddler’s classroom is:

  • Respect rich
  • Structure rich
  • Conversation rich
  • Information rich
  • Challenge rich

The draft UK report has accelerated my thinking about how we support learning journeys. My work with twenty-one elite coaches has encouraged me to draw upon my interests in and experiences of ethnography and phenomenography to build a stories about and around their personal learning environments.


Thinking about meddling in coach learning took me onto the blurring of relationships between coach and coach developer.

Norman Denzin (2003) and his discussion of performance ethnography. In the Preface to his book, Norman observes:

We inhabit a performance-based, dramaturgical culture. The dividing line between performance and audience blurs, and culture itself becomes a dramatic performance. (p.x)

I am attending a meeting today of people who are passionate about coach learning. I am hopeful the idea of a meddler resonates with them. Each of them is involved in coach story building, sharing and telling.

I am saving a conversation about poetics for another time.

#WWC2015: Penalty shoot out Germany v France


I have been monitoring penalty shoot outs in a range of football competitions.

My most recent example is the penalty shoot out in the 2015 Women’s World Cup between Germany and France.

My record of the ten penalties taken can be found here.

The video I used to review the shoot out was not of high quality. From what I saw, all the penalties taken were goalkeeper independent.

Both teams were successful in their third and fourth penalties.

The team that took the first penalty won the shoot out. It was the higher ranked team too.

Photo Credit

FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 – Edmonton (IQRemix, CC BY-CA 2.0)