Moving towards interdisciplinary service teams in sport

Jamie Youngson has submitted his Master of Sports Science (Research) thesis for examination at the University of Canberra. The title of the thesis is Moving from Multidisciplinary to Interdisciplinary Support Teams in High Performance Sport: a Strength and Conditioning Perspective.

He has used insights gained from his experiences as a strength and conditioning coach in a variety of institutional and sport settings to explore how service support teams cohere around a coach’s vision for performance in training and competition.

His abstract is:

Collaboration between coaches, athletes, support staff and administrators to achieve performance outcome goals in international sporting competition is deemed important when designing and delivering athlete development programs. In this process, the coach needs to show leadership by clarifying roles, standards, values, and ideals, as well as establishing how the sports program should operate. Importantly, every stakeholder must align to these aspects for team effectiveness to be established and maintained. The aim of this thesis was to examine the relationships between coaches, athletes and support staff, and how they influence the quality of task execution – within and between services and domains. Two qualitative studies were conducted to respond to this aim.

Factors relating to coaching, organisation, servicing and athlete management were investigated to understand how athletes achieved performance optimisation in training and for competition. Participants in Study 1 were expert coaches (n=6), high performance managers (n=6), strength and conditioning coaches (n=4), and elite athletes (n=3). All had experienced success in Olympic or in professional sport. Semi-structured open-ended interviews were conducted at the Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, Australia. Results indicated five key themes relating to effective interdisciplinary practice, namely, (a) High Performance Coaching Attributes, (b) Planning, (c) Managing Multidisciplinary Teams, (d) Managing the Athlete, and (e) Sport Governance. Using an inductive analysis process, these components were developed into a model (High Performance Team Model) conceptualising how coaches, multidisciplinary staff and athletes can achieve optimal performance through effective collaboration and cooperation.

An autoethnographic exploration of the interdependency between leadership and the effectiveness of strength and conditioning support in high performance sport was carried out as Study 2. The author’s reflections built upon socio-cultural work in order to illuminate the complex and dynamic relationship that existed between me, the author as a strength and conditioning coach, and sports coaches I have worked with during my time spent in high performance sport. Data were drawn from episodic memories, emails (received and sent), and past reports during my thirteen years as a high performance strength and conditioning coach. The narrative presented here hinges on my perceptions of coach as leader, and my expectations that clear direction is required for effective strength and conditioning servicing. Specifically, failing to establish a plan and define roles and responsibilities can result in confusion and conflict, and can be detrimental to the athlete’s performance. I present the case for a deliberate focus on coherent and integrated planning and programing in high performance sport. I conclude the thesis with a consideration of interdisciplinary support teams.

It has been a pleasure for me to be involved in Jamie’s research. He raises fundamental questions about the coaching process and the servicing of that process.

His work has emphasised for me the investment of time required to build a team with a shared mission. It underscores the importance of transparency in communication. Crucially, he invites us to consider how flourishing service teams are able to address the entanglement of leadership and followership that occurs in teams with disciplinary expertise.

The bonus part of the thesis is Jamie’s considered use of autoethnography to contextualise the research context, process and outcomes. This approach provides an excellent way to share his authorial voice and lifeworld.

Photo Credit

Jamie Youngson (Sykes Vox Pop)

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