Friday, 4 November 2011

Coaching - Tradition or Modernisation

This is a short post and is taken directly from a coaching journal - Learning a new method: Teaching Games for Understanding in the coaches’ eyes.  Amongst the various books, journals and other sources of information I have read, some just seem to make more sense to me than others and this article is one of those that just stands out and connects with my own thoughts and views on coaching.  I have highlighted the points that 'stood out' for me. 

Extract from Article
Coaches’ knowledge and actions are both the product and manifestation of a personally
experienced involvement with the coaching process; they are linked to the coach’s
history and both are attributable to how they were learned (Cushion 2006). Coach learning,and therefore knowledge and practice, remains largely based on experiences and the interpretation of those experiences (Cushion, Armour, and Jones 2003; Cushion 2006;
Gilbert and Trudel 2006). This is despite the implementation and availability of formal
coach education programmes. Indeed, formal coach education remains largely ad hoc
and low impact in comparison to coaches’ wider experiences and subsequent collective
understandings (Nelson et al. 2006; Gilbert and Trudel 2006). Consequently, coaches’
resulting practice is ‘guided primarily by tradition, circumstance and external authority’
(Tinning 1988, 82; see also Williams and Hodges 2004). Indeed, coaching has established
a ‘traditional’ pedagogy or practice that is characterised by being highly directive or autocratic, and prescriptive in nature (Williams and Hodges 2004; Potrac and Cassidy 2006).  This perspective is supported by behavioural research that has tended to find ‘instruction’ as the largest behaviour utilised across a range of sports including soccer (e.g. Miller 1992; Millard 1996; Kahan 1999; Cushion and Jones 2001; Potrac, Jones, and Cushion 2007). In addition, coaches’ practice tends to be underpinned by a linear, process-product approach to learning, where ‘skills’ are to be mastered first and form the basis for games play (Cassidy,Jones, and Potrac 2009).

This has been brought into stark relief in a recent study of elite youth soccer players.
Williams, Yates, and Ford (2007) studied 27 youth coaches, working at three different
levels of performance from elite academies to competitive clubs. The research looked at
81 different practice sessions with players aged between U9 and U16. While there were
differences in practice activities between performance levels, across the entire sample
almost 50% of practice time was spent in physiological training (i.e. warm-up, cooldown,
conditioning, stretching activities) and technical practice (i.e. repetitive drills and
grid work focused simply on technical development under no pressure). In contrast, a relatively small proportion of time was spent in practicing skills under pressure in possession,and small-sided games.

Changing established coaching practice can be problematic particularly as, not unlike
physical education (Cushion, Armour, and Jones 2003), coaching lacks a critical tradition,
and coaches are more likely to be seen sticking with ‘safer’, ‘tried and tested’, traditional methods that prove their knowledge and expertise (Potrac, Jones, and Armour 2002; Coakley 2004; Jones, Armour, and Potrac 2004; Cushion, Armour, and Jones 2006;
Cushion and Jones 2006; Potrac, Jones, and Cushion 2007; Cushion 2007, 2008, 2009).
‘The consequence of such action is that athletes are, in turn, increasingly socialized into
expecting instructional behaviours from coaches, and thus resist other coaching methods’
(Potrac, Jones, and Cushion 2007, 40) as these are deemed consciously, or subconsciously,
to be associated with performance accomplishment. Thus, practice becomes an historical and traditional thread where experiences are a powerful, long lasting, and continual influence over pedagogical perspectives, practices, beliefs and behaviours (Cushion 2008,2009). The main driver for practice therefore becomes tradition or uncritical inertia (Fernandez-Balboa 1997; Cushion, Armour, and Jones 2003).


  1. Fascinating article with findings which a) I completely agree with and see everyday, i.e. "traditional" coaching, and b) are shocking in that the new wave of coaching focuses so much on skills at the exclusion of SSGs. Did not see that coming!

    I feel "traditional" coaching holds too many players back and limits development. However, it cannot be overturned without education and replacing long-held beliefs with scientific-based methods and results. There will also need to be an overhaul of "traditional" coaches if they do not change.

    What journal article was this post based upon? Could you recommend any articles re: the modern coaching methods discussed above?


  2. Look for:
    1.Teaching Games for Understanding,
    2.Non-linear pedagogy,
    3.Ecological psychology.

    I am goalkeeping coach from Poland, applying above.

    here is some stuff: