How to account for performance?


Biography plays a fundamental role in how each of us observes and records performance. In addition to our practices of observation, each of us negotiates how we integrate theory into our practice.

In my own case, I am mindful of how my qualitative turn has impacted on the ways in which I see performance and how I build my narrative around it.

I think this is why I am so attracted to descriptive -analytic and analytic narrative accounts of performance. Many years ago, I was introduced to the work of William Anderson. In this post I outline some of his work as an important contribution to accounts of teaching and coaching.

William Anderson

Back in 1971, William Anderson wrote about descriptive analytic research on physical education teaching (link).

In his introduction, whilst at Teachers’ College, Columbia University, William noted “many persons appear to be turning to descriptive research because it seems to be attacking some of the problems which have plagued past research”.

He added that the principal concern of the descriptive process “is to collect accurate descriptive records of events in actual classrooms and to analyze these records in a way that enables a better understanding of the events”. These records ” provide a picture of real world events (classroom interaction) which lead to a deeper understanding of the teaching process”.

William concludes “even a modest descriptive research effort promises to bring closer together the enterprise of research and the job of teaching”.

Seven years later, William developed his work on descriptive analysis in his study of behaviour in the gymnasium. His 1971 and 1978 papers inspired a generation of researchers in physical education including Michael Metzler, Stephen Siverman, Judith Placek, Judith Rink and those with a particular interest in Academic Learning Time–Physical Education (ALT–PE).

He had a formative impact on me too as I sought to extend his observations to the interaction between observations of coaching and athlete performance with changes in coach behaviour and understanding. Amongst many issues he raised was the place od systematic observation of coach behaviour (link).


I do have the opportunity to return to primary sources as a reflect on the process of observation. In the case of William, I believe that the issues he addressed in the 1970s are fundamental to our quest today. For me, they are part of a praxis that seeks to integrate theory and practice and enables conversations about coaching.

Photo Credit

Nick Croft on Unsplash

My Project

Back in June 2008, I started writing this WordPress blog (link). I had written on other blogs before and had first dipped my toes with Geocities in the late 1990s.

In 2008, I was emboldened by CCK08 (link) to explore thoughts openly about learning in a digital world. I had not considered that what I wrote would be of interest to any other reader. It was framed by the delight of thinking out loud.

This delight in thinking out loud led me to explore many ways to share openly through emerging cloud resources. Many of these accounts remain and include wikis, talks, slides, documents and data. I was even naive enough to start Facebook pages for some of my units.

Another preoccupation of mine has been the linking of ideas about learning, coaching and performing enriched by my formative experiences of social sciences, teacher education, human movement studies, performance analysis and analytics. This has led me to think deeply about how ideas are formed in social contexts. Many of my posts are about how performance analysts and their collaborators emerged at particular times and particular places and constructed knowledge.

My blog at Clyde Street continues to be my platform for this sharing. I hope to add many more posts to the 1800 produced already. My new guide is the R community that is providing exciting ways to share openly and my old guide, the ever inspiring, Stephen Downes (link).

It has been fascinating how this project has emerged and changed.

Photo Credit

Blue sky thinking (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

#coachlearninginsport: our game?



The word happenchance delights me. It brings together coincidence, serendipity and synchronicity for me.

Some time ago, I came across Seth Baker’s approach to Happenchance:

Happenchance is for anyone who wants to do things better: creative people, adventurers, travelers, wanderers, and dreamers. Anyone who won’t settle for the status quo, who wants to rise above mediocrity and conformity, and do something exciting, amazing, or engaging.

This site is for people with an open and relaxed attitude towards life.

  • People whose passion and interests take them in new and unexpected directions.
  • People who don’t mind trying new things.
  • People who aren’t afraid of failing.
  • People willing to embrace chance and serendipity.

I believe that by making our own luck, embracing chance, and working hard, we all have the opportunity to make our lives richer, more satisfying, and more fun.

By happenchance, I have come across a rich seam of ideas of late prompted by the mob at myfastestmile. Through them, I have been introduced to the remarkable Sporticus.



Overnight, I saw this alert

I thought it was an outstanding reflection on the conversations stimulated by the recent #relearn meeting in Marlow hosted by myfastestmile.

In his post, Sporticus discusses a conversation with a former pupil, Josh, on a train. Josh played rugby for Sporticus’s school and was coached by him. Josh’s story told by Sporticus includes this:

Josh finished by saying that he stopped playing because he no longer wanted to play my game. MY GAME. We shook hands and parted at Paddington, but that train journey made me start to question many of my approaches I had to both teaching and coaching. I no longer wanted it to be MY GAME, I wanted to ensure it was their game. I wanted to see if there was another way, one that didn’t make children fall out of love with THEIR GAME.

This is a great story to share. I have been thinking all day about how as a meddler-in-the-middle I might be part of a process of building OUR GAME as a teacher and a coach.

This does involve  a concerted attempt to engage in meta-learning (learning about learning). I think storytelling is a great way to do this. I see the creation of OUR GAME as a wonderful co-operative venture.

As a teacher and coach, I aspire to have a compelling story to share. The older I become (and perhaps more experienced in life matters), the more I want to be part of the co-creation of the game that is inclusive, exciting and sensitive to personal differences.

It has an OURNESS about it.



In the late 1980s, I was completing my PhD in Physical Education. I decided to craft my thesis as a collection of stories about five teachers in two schools.

I was fortunate that at that time John van Maanen was writing about writing in anthropology. One observer wrote of John van Maanen’s approach:

His goal is not to establish one true way to write ethnography, but rather to make ethnographers of all varieties examine their assumptions about what constitutes a truthful cultural portrait and select consciously and carefully the voice most appropriate for their tales.

Sporticus’s story of Josh and the reflection prompted by their meeting is a great example of John van Maanen’s confessional tale. I have been fascinated how this kind of approach has produced autoethnographic accounts in the last thirty years.

Sporticus ends his post with these two sentences:

The start of that journey started with a story. What’s yours?

My response is to share a story that helped me think about OUR GAME.

May I introduce you to Anush and basketball fever?



This story created a significantly long conversation in my PhD viva voce examination. My examiner wanted to know if this was a fictional account. I produced my fieldwork diary for the lesson and the storm passed.

It is a lesson enabled by an expert pedagogue. Anush is one of the pupils in the lesson.

This is the introduction to it:


The story appeared in print in 1992. The reference is:

Lyons, K. (1992). Telling stories from the field? A discussion of an ethnographic approach to researching the teaching of physical education. Research in physical education and sport: Exploring alternative visions, 248-270.


Bob helped me understand how the craft of teaching could create a most wonderful world of learning. His clarity enabled all his mixed ability classes to flourish.

Real Learning

Just after I received Sporticus’s tweet, I noticed an alert from Jay Cross about Real Learning. I think his video (3 minutes) might be a good way to end this post about stories and OUR GAME.

Al, Andrew and Mark at myfastest mile and Sporticus have made my day by nudging me towards my own reflection on learning. I am hopeful that my sense of learning resonates with them and has affinities with Jay’s views.

An inescapable OURNESS.

Photo Credits

Adelaide Oval (Jack Tanner, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

#relearn (Andrew Gillott)

Autoethnography (St. Blaize, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Red Basketball Hoop (Acid Pix, CC BY 2.0)