Mixing Methods in Assessing Coaches' Decision Making

Article excerpt

Mixing methods has recently achieved respectability as an appropriate approach to research design, offering a variety of advantages (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003). The purpose of this paper is to outline and evaluate a mixed methods approach within the domain of coaches' decision making. Illustrated with data from a policy-capturing study on coaches' decisions about an injured gymnast's participation in competition, the approach involves the concurrent collection of quantitative and qualitative data and a three-phase process of data analysis. It is argued that (a) the method described can provide additional insights into the factors involved in coaches' decision making, beyond those provided via quantitative or qualitative methods alone, and (b) mixing methods holds promise for coaching research more generally.

Key words: coach cognitions, injury, policy capturing, reasoning


Although combining different methods within one study is not new, explicit attention to the merits and principles of mixing quantitative and qualitative methods is relatively recent (Creswell, 2003; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998, 2003; Todd, Nerlich, McKeown, & Clarke, 2004). Teddlie and Tashakkori (2003) concluded that mixed methods is becoming the "third methodological movement." Attempts at creating typologies of mixed methods designs (for overviews, see Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003) showed that combining quantitative and qualitative methods can be done in a wide variety of ways (e.g., concurrent or sequential, with equivalent or dominant/ less dominant status) and for a range of reasons. Reasons include triangulation (seeking convergence and corroboration of results from different methods studying the same phenomenon), complementarity (examining overlapping but different facets of a phenomenon), development (using the results from one method to help inform the other), initiation (discovering paradoxes, contradictions, fresh perspectives), and expansion (seeking to extend the breadth and range of inquiry by using different methods for different study components; Greene, Caracelli, & Graham, 1989; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). In this paper, we aim to present one way of combining quantitative and qualitative methods to illustrate the possible application of mixed methods to coaches' cognitions and, specifically, their decision making. In so doing, we explore the efficacy and purposes of mixing methods to study coaches' cognitions and coaching research more generally.

Cognitive activity has been recognized as one of the foremost areas in understanding coaches' behaviors (Cote, 1998; R. L. Jones, Armour, & Potrac, 2004; Lyle, 2002). However, unlike the cognitions of other professionals, such as teachers or doctors (Elstein, Shulman, & Spratka, 1990), coaches' cognitions have thus far received limited empirical interest (Gilbert & Trudel, 2004). Cognitions generally refer to such mental activities as problem solving, judgment and decision making, planning, reasoning, and the generation, storage, and retrieval of knowledge (including declarative and procedural knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and values). Of these activities, those related to coaches' knowledge structures have, directly or indirectly, received the most attention. For example, the work of Cote and colleagues (e.g., Cote, 1998; Cote, Salmela, Trudel, Baria, & Russell, 1995) explicitly addressed the structure and content of coaches' knowledge, while a handful of other studies have focused on the ideological or practical content of coaches' knowledge in relation to actual behaviors (e.g., Saury & Durand, 1998; Strean, 1995). All these studies used qualitative designs, the latter combining interviews with behavioral observation.

Another approach to the study of coaches' knowledge has been to question coaches about their beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions in relation to specific issues. These studies have generally used quantitative, survey type designs to investigate a larger sample of coaches on a range of topics, varying from weight control and nutrition to psychological skills and doping (e. …