Coaching and Pentimenti



I have a fascination with the language we use to describe coach performance in sport.
I think this language is enhanced and developed by looking at other domains.
A BBC Art program set me off thinking about pentimenti and how these might help us describe and account for changes in performance.


Pentimenti are alterations in paintings “evidenced by traces of previous work, showing that the artist has changed his or her mind as to the composition during the process of painting”.
The BBC program looked at the provenance of the Salvator Mundi painting as a lost Leonardo Da Vinci work of art.
The process of authentication included scanning macro X-ray fluorescence analysis. This revealed an original painting beneath the final version.
This prompted me to think about the availability of detailed performance data to demonstrate the impact a coach can have on performance.
A post by Christina (2012) raised the importance of looking carefully at changes in performance too. She noted:

… sometimes you don’t need sophisticated instruments; sometimes the underlying image is very obvious looking at the final piece.  This was my experience with Pablo Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist” and the ghostly woman’s face in the top center of the painting.  Looking at it from the side and letting the light graze the image, you can see the depth of her face very clearly.


More detailed investigation through x-ray reveals

The Old Guitarist has even more layers to it.

Long Term Coach Development

I have a passionate interest in coach development. I think about coaches’ learning journeys and how they might and can flourishing.
I like the possibility of expressing transformation of coaching behaviours in art terms. Each coach has a way of being in the world and communicating her or his vision for sport. I sense that even in the most mature form of a coach’s behaviour there are elements of an earlier canvas.
Art uses the term ‘pentimenti’ to express the changes in a canvas. I do think that in sport we have a variety of ways of uncovering layers of a coach’s development.
We are awash with remote data and with performance analysis. We have opportunities for systematic observation of coaches in action.
Perhaps the intersection of sport and art provides one way to contemplate the provenance of coach development.

Photo Credits

Joan Gamper Trophy (Tsutomu Takasu, CC BY 2.0)
Who’s looking at who? (Wouter de Brujin, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


  1. Hi Keith, very interesting post as always. Just quick note to say working on systematic coach behaviour software tool (Coaching Analysis Intervention System) with Loughbrough Universtiy (Dr Chris Cushion) at moment. In pilot phase now but will keep you posted on any progress. It has lot of potential and evaluation due by September this year. Hope all is well. Graham

    • Hello, Graham. I am delighted you found the post. I was thinking of you, Chris and CAIS when I wrote ‘systematic observation’ 🙂
      I am fascinated by the spectrum of observation from blink to gaze to looking closely and systematic observation.
      I do look forward to the outcomes of the pilot (I have seen some emerging papers). all well here and with you I hope.


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