#coachlearninginsport: re-view



This is a fourth #coachlearninginsport post on Clyde Street.
I am writing it to follow up on two tweets from Bob Muir.

I am delighted Bob shared these two resources with me. I admire immensely the work of the staff at the Carnegie School of Sport at Leeds Beckett University.
One of my hopes in writing about coach learning is that I can learn with and through diverse communities of practice. The two resources shared by Bob have helped me think more about how I can conceptualise coach learning support in the context of discussions about coach education and coach development.

Two Papers


The first of the two papers Bob shared was a 2010 report on national and international best practice in Level 4 coach development. Bob was one of three authors of this report, the other two were Andrew Abraham and Gareth Morgan.
Eighteen people were interviewed in the study of best practice. There were visits to nine institutions as well.
Bob, Andrew and Gareth review coaching practice and suggest that:

it is a socially-constrained, dynamic and complex process that good coaches manage rather than control using a breadth and depth of knowledge to constantly make decisions that fit with long-, medium- and short-term goals. (2010:15)

I liked their use of the verb ‘orchestrate’ to characterise the adaptive work of coaching in the context of coaching as a cognitive decision making process. (As I was writing this post I received an alert to sport coach UK’s research summary on ‘orchestrating success’.)  I was delighted to see their reference to critical reflection too (2010:16).
In a detailed discussion of what constitutes a Level 4 coach, I did enjoy their exploration of coach behaviour and the construction of optimal learning environments (I noted their link to David Berliner’s work).
I wondered if this connection between behaviour and construction is characteristic of an expert pedagogy that is independent of accreditation level.
Section 5 of Bob, Andrew and Gareth’s report considers the development of Level 4 coaches. I enjoyed their discussion of coach educators’ roles (see section 5.3). These roles are of particular interest to me as I think about the meta-characterstics of coaching and coach learning support.
I see an enormous opportunity for the development of self-organising coach educator groups in this space.
During my recent visit to the United Kingdom I had the good fortune to be invited to attend four synchronous meetings of such groups as well as engage in lots of asynchronous correspondence. I see immense value in connecting such groups informally as one way to address how we might offer differentiated, personal support for coaches’ learning journeys.
This support does need to be sensitive to coaches’ readiness to engage with learning opportunities and reflection in and on practice. Increasingly, I see the transformation of a personal learning journey to be linked to how each coach deals with disturbances to their current practice. I am using ‘disturbance’ as another way of addressing the moves coaches can make through zones of proximal development. This disturbance can be coach led but here I am thinking about the place a coach educator as a meddler-in-the-middle might have in this journey.


The second paper Bob shared with me was a 2013 discussion of coach developers in the context of association football. This paper was co-authored by the Carnegie School of Sport and the Football Development Division of the Football Association.
The paper explores six domains that influence “the decision making of coach developers” (2013:176). These domains seek to understand:

  • Contexts
  • Coaches
  • Adult learning
  • Coaching curricula
  • Self
  • Processes and practices

The authors suggest that “explicit recognition of the thoughtful and intuitive demands” of the coach developer role allows for “more informed debate about the connection between theory and practice, thinking and doing, academic worlds and applied worlds” (2013:181).
I enjoyed their discussion of professional judgement and decision making in the context of coach education. Their work raises very important questions about how to articulate the coach educator’s role. I have chosen the verb ‘to articulate’ explicitly to indicate my thinking about how this role requires considered articulation within and between the domains the authors identify.


I received Bob’s tweets whilst I was in the middle of my most recent visits to twenty-one coaches. By happenchance, these visit to the coaches coincided with a number of conversations about coach learning support services with colleagues in a variety of sport contexts.
I see enormous opportunities for the integration of work Bob and his colleagues are undertaking with conversations about coaches’ learning journeys and their personal learning environments. It would be fascinating, for example, to learn of how the project with the Football Association (2013) is evolving and adapting to the domains identified.
The 2010 paper sent me off on a number of directions. One that was of particular interest was the suggestion that “good coaches manage rather than control“. I wondered if there is space here for leadership too. The twenty-one coaches I meet do lead and control whilst being mindful of the micro- and macro-political organisational contexts of their work.
Two of the twenty-one coaches I meet have lost their jobs in recent months despite demonstrating characteristics that would, in terms of the two papers discussed here, be regarded as expert pedagogy. Fortunately both have found new opportunities with other employers who recognise their virtuosity.
I do see learning rather than development at the centre of conversations about coach flourishing. Thanks to Bob’s alert, I am working hard to clarify why this is the case for me. In doing so, my thinking has been disturbed also by Chris Trevitt, Anne Macduff and Aliya Steed (2014). Whilst they were discussing issues surrounding the compilation of an e-portfolio to share a personal learning journey, they noted that this learning journey is:

A process ideally controlled and driven by the learner, though the extent to which any given individual feels comfortable and able to shoulder this initiative inevitably varies widely through time and from person to person, making the notions of active and repeated peer support, mentoring and expert coaching key.

I sense that differentiation is central to the arguments in the 2010 and 2013 papers discussed here. (See, for example: “the most effective coach education will come from taking an individualised approach” (2010:73); “Strives to recognize opportunities for self development and work toward personal goals” (2013:180).)
In my next post on #coachlearninginsport I will look at the role of ‘critical friendship’ in this learning journey approach.

Photo Credits

Kim Rosen (2015) Noticing People Notice.



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