The current agenda of Sports Coach UK is very much focussed on raising the profile of the coaching profession and standardising practice; coach education is the pinnacle of this (Jones, et al, 2012). Coach education is important to youth sport and the working towards a more professionalised profession. A statistical analysis of coaches and coaching in the UK illustrated that in 2008, 2.2% (1,109,000 adults) of all UK adults consider themselves a coach yet only 53% hold a governing body qualification (Sports Coach UK, 2011). These statistics are arguably a cause for concern; it could be that those without a governing body qualification aren’t necessarily aware of the contemporary issues surrounding youth sport, specifically those related to safeguarding.
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Historically, coaching has been confined particularly to ‘grass-roots activity’ with a heavy reliance on the ‘good will’ of amateurs and volunteers which have helped develop the sector (Curtis et al, 2001). Up until the late 1960s and early 1970s, successive governments had an ‘at arm’s length approach’ to sport, governing bodies and coaching practices (Coghlan and Webb, 1990; Roche, 1993; Houlihan, 1997). It has been suggested that both parties appreciated this ‘at arm’s length approach’ as sports and their respective coaches felt a role of independence (Green and Houlihan, 2005). Due to the establishment of the GB Sports Council and policy documents, the 1970’s saw improved links develop between Government and sport. Although these documents didn’t necessarily make reference to the occupation of coaching; the relationship between sport and government was altered which in turn has encouraged the use of sport as a social tool (Roche, 1993).
The subsequent decade saw a more explicit focus on sports coaching with the progression of Government initiatives. Sport in the Community provided grants to governing bodies for the development of elite coaching and the UK Sports Council and the UK Sports Council put together a consultative document towards the development of coaching. Together these documents formalised the call for a more integrated direction (Taylor and Garratt, 2008).
More recently, there has been debate concerning the professionalisation of coaching and establishing a framework for a coaching profession (Sports Council, 1991; UK Sport, 2001; Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2002). For example, in the Vision for Coaching, UK Sport strongly recommended that the standards of coaching be elevated to those of ‘a profession acknowledged as central to the development of sport and the fulfilment of individual potential’ (UK Sport, 2001: 5). Following the publication of the government’s Plan for Sport (2001) came the establishment of a Coaching Task Force, set up to review the role of coaching and to tackle ‘the shortage of coaches, both professional and voluntary, and recognise coaching as a profession, with accredited qualifications and a real career development structure’ (DCMS, 2002).
Career development doesn’t necessarily always have to relate to the coach; Cassidy et al (2009) believe that in order to ensure athletes are aware of their achievements and goals. Therefore coaches must develop working relationships; they could do this by arranging regular 1-to-1 meetings which also encourages two-way communication. This is supported by that phenomena that, if an athlete feels valued they are more likely to train hard and perform well (Armour, 2011; Mallett et al, 2009).
Following recommendations from the Coaching Task Force Report, the United Kingdom Coaching Certificate (UKCC) is presently being endorsed in a number of sports. It is anticipated that the UKCC will become similar to a ‘driving licence’ within coaching and people will not be allowed to coach without it, comparable to the current requirements in Australia and Canada (Nash and Sproule, 2011).
It could be suggested that coaching and teaching have transferable components in relation to youth sport and both need sufficient communication skills to ensure learners continue to develop. Arguably teachers are given the resources to build on their communication skills and have acquired the theory behind such skills; coaches on the other hand have to develop these skills through learning from their mistakes and experience (Bush and Roberts, 2012). Teachers have the added asset of social status with which earns respect, they have all had to attend university and have undergone extensive assessments in order to obtain such qualification. Ofsted complete vigorous assessments in teaching by external assessors completing extensive inspections on teacher practice, this type of monitoring system could take place in coaching (Ofsted, 2013). It could be suggested therefore that if the coaching profession was to be a more formalised process with monitoring interventions throughout their career that the profession could gain a higher social status, this is supported by Cassidy et al (2009) who believe that regular assessments/observations from NGBs should take place to ensure the coaches are delivering quality sessions based on their education.
Sports Coach UK (2009) released an action plan which involved a monitoring and evaluation system to measure the impact of available development opportunities on coaches and participants. Their 7-objective action plan is hoped to be achieved by 2016. It could be argued that the action areas are achievable but with limited success as it could be suggested that it is too much too soon. Continued cohesive work with their partners however could help them in their tracks to success.
The growing association between coaching and wider health agendas provides opportunities for coaching to establish inter-professional relationships for example, Physiotherapists, and other specialists in their fields (Nieman, 1988). This has not gone unchallenged (Garrett, 2001; Nichols and Garrett, 2001) and, for many, concerns remain about the associated commercialisation of coaching practice, as the profession enters into the sport and leisure marketplace. Robinson (1999) has argued that professionalism and specialism have undermined the community and recreational focus of sport. This is supported by Houlihan (2008) who condemns commercialisation as an undesirable process as he believes that it takes away from the ‘essence’ of sport and has the ability to put pressure on young people to ‘fit-in’.
In conjunction with the shift towards professionalisation, working in partnership with national governing bodies of sport and key funding agencies, Sports Coach UK in 2006 developed a UK Coaching Framework (Sports Coach UK, 2006). The training of coaches is considered central to sustaining and improving the quality of sports coaching and the ongoing process of professionalisation. With improved coaching frameworks; Turner and Martinek (1995) argue that coaches will be better equipped to inspire and engage young people into a lifetime of physical activity and better health. Sports Coach UK has attempted to achieve this with the introduction of the UK Coaching Certificate (UKCC).
Hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games has further encouraged recruitment and support of current and future coaches (sports coach UK, 2006), while instantaneously creating motivation to develop a coaching profession with enduring qualities and a lasting presence within the Olympic Legacy. The agenda for widening participation in sport and provision of high-quality opportunities for children out of school (Northwest Regional Development Agency Research Unit, 2006) has prompted further investment in coaching as a means of enhancing the participation of the youth in sport at all stages of development (Kidd and Donnelley, 2000; MacPhail et al, 2003). Despite this, consultation with members of the public on how National Lottery Funding can be used to support a mass participation legacy from the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games indicates that 51% of respondents expressed concern over the continued lack of qualified coaches training and the awareness of development pathways (Sport England, 2011). It is evident that further investment in this area may be needed.
Green and Houlihan (2005) suggest that the professionalisation process can be seen as a key element in the ‘up-skilling’ of the coaching workforce and it could be considered critical if the occupation of coaching is to play a part in developing the health of the nation and increasing the longevity of participation in physical activity, as well as contributing to the success of our international athletes. It could be argued that there are many facets to the professionalisation of coaching, Taylor and Garratt (2010) outline the underpinning factors specifically related to youth sport in the development of coaching into a legitimate profession; the acceptance of standardised practice and education, ethical codes of conduct and career development pathways.
It is argued amongst some that the ‘professional coach’ will be constructed symbolically, by being both ‘reduced’ to a ‘corporate identity’ (through a UK-wide system of certification) and simultaneously ‘inflated’ to the ‘moral agent’ (Stronach et al, 2002), combining core moral purposes with objectives towards widening participation and promoting social inclusion. This variety of roles and identities widens the remit of coaching, but, at the same time, brings additional issues of confusion and tensions, with critics suggesting that coaches of the ‘new profession’ have been reduced to mere technicians through a loss of autonomy and increasing accountability (Hursh, 2005). Taylor and Garrett (2010) are in support of the professionalised profession but feel the standardisation which will be applied to the process will be too rigid and inflexible to suit all sports and the coaching framework.
Coach education programmes (e.g. NGBs and 1st4 Sport) are built on the idea that an individual can require sufficient knowledge to be an effective coach from a series of courses. These programmes tend to compartmentalise knowledge bases into units drawn from multidisciplinary topics (e.g. physiology, nutrition, psychology) This approach has been criticized as it can ‘de-skill’ a coach (Jones, 2000) and that it assumes that the knowledge is sequential, it could be suggested that expert coaches are able to do this as they have the experience to do so (it could be considered that they have acquired conditional knowledge) but unfortunately without potential follow-up workshops or mentoring programmes coaches with less experience may struggle to apply their knowledge in a practical situation (declarative/procedural knowledge) (Cushion et al, 2003 and Bush and Roberts, 2012).
There are four progressive stages aligned with the development of coaching expertise. Novice coaches focus on participant management, planning and organisation of coaching sessions in real-life situations. A competent coach is able to shift the focus towards the outcome of each coaching session and is able to adapt if things go wrong. Proficient coaches are able to anticipate problems and issues before they arise and they appreciate the individual needs of their participants, adapting in changing circumstances. An expert is often critical and self-reflective they will continually look to increase their extensive knowledge and are pro-active in seeking opportunities to develop (Bush and Roberts, 2012). This could be used as a self-analysis to ascertain where the coach feels he/she may be working at and what they could do to improve. It shows bench marks for progression and a criterion by which an individual can follow to aid their education and development.
These four progressions sit into Metzler’s model of knowledge categories. Declarative knowledge may reflect the novice coach as they are able to express their knowledge verbally but not necessarily able to interpret the information to suit individual participants. More abled coaches fit into the bracket of procedural knowledge with the ability to apply their knowledge before, during and after their sessions. The third strand where an expert coach will sit is within conditional knowledge that informs a coach regarding when and why to make decisions so that they fit a particular moment or context (Cassidy et al, 2009). The categories of knowledge may inter connect in relation the ability and experience of a coach, coach education is indeed important if coaches are to progress into the conditional knowledge section.
According to Metzler (2000), there is a strong relationship between all three types of knowledge; declarative knowledge is a ‘prerequisite’ for procedural and conditional knowledge. What this means is that a coach must have a basic knowledge of the sport of activity before they can attempt to run a practice session. Once the coach can operationalise the knowledge in one setting or with one group, conditional knowledge enables him or her to adapt the practice sessions to other settings and with other groups.
Although knowledge may set benchmarks for coach development; Curtner-Smith et al (2007) argue that occupational socialisation may determine how good or bad a coach may be. This perspective was defined by Lawson (1986), ‘all kinds of socialisation that initially influence persons to enter the field aˆ¦ later are responsible for their perceptions and actions as teacher educators and teachers’ (p. 107). It consists of acculturation, professional socialization and organizational socialization.
When considering the personal and social development (holistic) of participants however, MacDonald (2010) found that formally trained coaches were more effective than those that were informally trained. It is argued that a more professional and educated coaching workforce who consider the holistic approach is important to the development of youth sport. The holistic approach relates to understanding the whole person/participant. Without the use of such approach it can lead to higher drop-out rates and negative behaviours, an emphasis on tactical and technical in coaching neglecting the holistic approach may cause negative experiences amongst young performers. An important goal of any coach should be that of children walking away from a training session having had fun and enjoyment (The National Coaching Foundation, 2011).
The FA’s four-corner approach to their accredited level 1 coaching qualification embraces the holistic approach. Incorporating a balance of technical, psychological, physical and social skills within each training session develops the different areas of the ‘complete’ package for individual players. During the coach training, students are encouraged to self-evaluate their session to ensure each of the four corners has been applied to the session. The FA’s interpretation of involving the holistic approach endeavors to help children develop more than just their football skills, “we’ll help them to gain confidence, build self-esteem, learn to work as a team and improve their decision making” (The FA, 2011). This is in-line with the 5 C’s of coaching as developed from research conducted by Lerner et al (2005) by Sports Coach UK
“children and young people who score higher in the areas of competence, confidence, connection, character and caring thrive in comparison to their counterpartsaˆ¦ they make a more successful transition from childhood to adolescence and adulthood on their way to becoming fully contributing members of society” (The National coaching Foundation, 2011: 9).
It could be suggested that the 5 C’s for positive development in and through sport framework has the potential to improve the status of coaches as it incorporates many of the ideals that the teaching profession value; assisting every child and young person to thrive and become a successful adult (Lerner et al, 2005).
Cassidy (2010) suggests that the increasing professional development in sports coaching encourages holistic coaching. In addition Cassidy goes on to argue that holistic coaching “is mired in ambiguity and has the potential to become meaningless” (2010, p 439).
Sports coaches participate in a range of learning opportunities (informal to formal) that contribute to their development to varying degrees (Mallett et al, 2009). Irwin et al (2004) argue that regardless of the method of entry into coaching, it would appear that the technical aspects of coaching and the coaching culture are often acquired through observation of more experienced coaches. Using the work of Pierre Bourdieu, Cushion et al (2003) attempt to show how the “art of coaching” can be characterised as structured improvisation and how experience is crucial to structuring coaching practice. An examination of current coach education and assessment demonstrates that coaching practice viewed as a composite of knowledge has not specifically addressed the prevalent influence of experience on coaching practice.
There are advantages and disadvantages to the different approaches of knowledge construction. Nelson et al. (2006) provide a framework with which to consider the different contexts in which coaches can learn the appropriate domains of coaching knowledge. There are three broad contexts; Formal (e.g. NGB awards, HE courses), Non-formal (e.g. conferences, workshops), and Informal (e.g. coaching experience). Literature suggests that Non-formal is the most important approach to develop coaches into the more able coach.
These various contexts are evident within most UK sports coaching qualifications. Examination of the 1st4sport Level 1 award in coaching hockey shows that it involves a very informal approach to delivery. The majority of learning taking place in an interactive and practical environment. It could be suggested that this type of delivery is best suited for this team natured sport with a limited severity of injury to participants compared to some sports, e.g. rowing and gymnastics. The rowing coach education programme however is very different in the delivery, much more formal with face-to-face tutoring and internal assessments but with a better support network on completion of the course. To further improve these coaching courses it could be suggested they should take on board the aspects of the gymnastics Level 1 qualification. Although on a comparable level of qualification, it seems to offer a balance of formal and informal delivery. A slightly longer course with 1 day of theory followed by a two week break in which time the participant is expected to find a Gymnastics Level 2 mentor who will support the candidate in the practical theory implementation. The course finishes with 2 days of discipline-specific practical sessions. Despite this course having a more balanced method of delivery there is still room for improvement; there is more emphasis of support during the initial assessment compared with the support network on completion in the rowing.
MacDonald et al, (2010) illustrates that although formal training in the form of certification is effective for coach education, informal training (coaches interacting with each other) also proves to have a positive effect on youth development in relation to the holistic approach and their development of transferrable skills. The promotion of an environment that encourages coaches to work together and exchange ideas may foster the positive development of athletes. Mentoring programmes already exist in Canadian coaching systems and have proven to work so maybe such system could be introduced to the UK.
Issues in youth sport remain, particularly in relation to inclusion. Coaching could have more of an impact on youth sport if all were catered for, this would mean that coach education would have to include how coaches may overcome barriers that exist in society, e.g. disability, gender, race, ethnicity. In the UKCC framework for Badminton at level 1 and 2 they acknowledge that,
“aˆ¦all players (whether non-disabled or disabled) are different; the role of the coach is to understand each person’s strengths and weaknesses, and adapt their coaching accordingly” (Sports Coach UK, 2011).
It is evident that with the exception of football coaches, coaching in the UK suffers from a low public profile. This is in marked contrast to other countries, such as the US, where local high-school coaches are often known to the local community and where coaches are seen as pivotal to success at all levels of participation. The framework for coaching could take an approach similar to that of the teaching profession; with improved access to qualifications. Career development programmes for those already in the field, monitoring (similar to that of OFSTED present in schools) and regular workshops that allow coaches to meet, share experiences and resources (learning from each other), this would help improve the status of coaching which in turn could be used as a means to encourage young people to see the role in terms that are rewarding, i.e. socially rewarded and respected, and also valued as a career pathway. The decision to enter coaching could be more deliberate than is presently the case. Ultimately with a more accepted profession coaches will have the means (resources; qualifications) to deal with contemporary issues present in youth sport.