Loughborough University
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Understanding coaches' learning: process, practice and impact

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posted on 2014-10-10, 10:31 authored by Anna Stodter
Although it seems clear that coaches become effective practitioners through idiosyncratic combinations of learning experiences (Werthner & Trudel, 2009), little is known about how and why this occurs and impacts on coaching knowledge and practice (Cushion et al., 2010). This research sought to understand the processes and impact of coaches learning in the context of UK youth football coaching, specifically centring on a formal education course. The research process utilised a pragmatic and integrated perspective, influenced by impact evaluation frameworks (e.g. Coldwell & Simkins, 2011). A group of 25 coaches were investigated at different points over a period of a year and a half, using a mixture of semi-structured interviews, systematic observations, video-based stimulated recall interviews and course observations, to build up increasingly in-depth levels of data. Using the principles of grounded theory methodology (Strauss & Corbin, 1998) as well as mixed analyses of variance (ANOVA), changes in the knowledge use and practice behaviours of course candidates, and equivalent coaches not undertaking formal education, were compared. The course had subtle impacts on coaches knowledge conceptions in interaction with wider knowledge sources, yet impact on practice was generally demonstrated only in the areas of questioning content and individually directed coaching interventions. Mismatches between the espoused theory of the course and what the candidates actually perceived, as well as a lack of individualised support to overcome disjuncture (Jarvis, 2006) created barriers to learning, preventing integration of theoretical conceptions into altered coaching practice. A substantive grounded theory was generated to explain the underpinning double-loop cognitive filter and reflective feedback processes involved in coaches learning. The model demonstrated that practitioners learning, guided by existing biography and driven by a practical focus on what works , was heavily influenced by context. Meaningful learning connected knowledge with implementation in practice through reflection. These processes help explain uneven learning across individuals; addressing for the first time questions of what works , how , 'why', and for whom in coach learning (McCullick et al., 2009). Thus the results generate an understanding of coaches learning which can be practically relevant in fostering better opportunities to enhance the development of capable and creative coaches.


Part-funded by Loughborough University and the English Football Association



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


© Anna Stodter

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en

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