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)

#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)