Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Practical Knowledge in Expert Coaches: On-Site Study of Coaching in Sailing

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Practical Knowledge in Expert Coaches: On-Site Study of Coaching in Sailing

Article excerpt

The study of expertise in coaches is a recent development in the sport sciences (Woodman, 1993). Two types of considerations are examined. First, because the implications of sports competition and the means allocated to preparing for top-level performance are so great, it has become necessary to improve our knowledge of the conditions ensuring the effectiveness of the coaching process to design reason-based coaching methods (Douge & Hastie, 1993). Second, the proper design of methods and regulations for educating and licensing coaches requires a better understanding of the knowledge and skills developed and used by coaches recognized as the most effective in the field (Martens, 1987; Salmela, 1996). In the light of these considerations, the coaching process is regarded as the work of a professional, in such a way that the coaching activity can be studied using models in ergonomics, and the competence of the best coaches can be studied using models of expertise (Chi, Glaser, & Farr, 1988; Ericsson & Smith, 1991).

In every job, the working individual must comply with a specific set of constraints, and to better understand the worker's actions, these constraints must be analyzed (de Montmollin, 1986; Rasmussen, 1986). We contend that the activity of an individual in any real world situation must be analyzed by accounting for the constraints defining the task at hand. The task activity model (for a review, see Fleishman & Quaintance, 1984) was chosen here both to analyze the constraints of a coach's task and to describe the knowledge elicited during this "adaptative" type of activity. This model was developed and has been used extensively in the field of work psychology. Apart from minor variations proposed by various authors, the basic core of this model postulates that all work activity can be analyzed as a set of constraints with respect to (a) the goal and subgoals pursued by the individual, and (b) the physical and social conditions for reaching those goals (Leontiev, 1975; Rasmussen, 1986). These constraints which define the task affect the nature of the activity required for adaptation. The activity is defined as the set of behaviors, operating strategies, and knowledge brought into play by the individual to fulfill the task requirements. One example is an airplane pilot, for whom the task constraints include a diversity of goals, uncertainty in the environment in which the task takes place, a narrow margin of tolerance for error, a large quantity of information to process at once, substantial time pressure, and an externally defined pace. A contrasting example is a house painter's task, in which the constraints include a network of subgoals with a shorter span, little or no uncertainty, a higher margin of error, self pacing, etc. As such, the space within which an activity occurs is delineated on the one hand by the task characteristics which define the range of possibilities, that is, acceptable work strategies, and, on the other, by the individual's own means, defined in terms of skills, knowledge, and decision making abilities (Rasmussen, 1986).

The coaching model proposed by Cote, Salmela, Trudel, Baria, and Russell (1995) offers a schematic representation of the overall task of any sport coach. The goal is to promote the development of an athlete's performance through executing specific training, competition, and organization tasks (called central components). However, this model is too general, because the actual task of a coach cannot be totally defined or specified in advance. Furthermore, coaches must cope with ill defined problems (Simon, 1973) that differ substantially from the well defined tasks ordinarily examined in the study of expertise (Chi et al., 1988; Ericsson & Smith, 1991). Cote et al. (1995) characterized coaching as being subjected to a high degree of uncertainty about available information, possible operations, and existing constraints. Conducting a training session, for example, essentially requires adapting to constraints which can be likened to those described in teaching (Durand, Perez, Saury, & Soler, in press), that is, multidimensionality, simultaneity, uncertainty, publicity, and historicity (Doyle, 1986). …

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