Coaching Knowledge and Success: Going beyond Athletic Experiences

By Carter, Adam D.; Bloom, Gordon A. | Journal of Sport Behavior, December 2009 | Go to article overview

Coaching Knowledge and Success: Going beyond Athletic Experiences


Carter, Adam D., Bloom, Gordon A., Journal of Sport Behavior


Since the early 19th century, coaches have played an important role in helping athletes develop and succeed in the sporting world (McNabb, 1990). Coaches perform various duties such as guiding the practice of skills, providing instruction and feedback, and monitoring learning and performance; all of which are designed to help athletes realize their potential. Furthermore, coaches fulfill multiple roles such as teacher, motivator, strategist, and character builder (Gould, 1987). For these reasons, it is not surprising that coaching has received extensive empirical attention in the sport literature (Gilbert & Trudel, 2004). In general, the research results have indicated that expert coaches relied on their education, organizational skills, experience, work ethic, and knowledge to further their coaching careers and successfully perform their job at the highest levels (e.g., Bloom & Salmela, 2000; Cote, 1998; Cregan, Bloom, & Reid, 2007; Cushion, Armour, & Jones, 2003; Erickson, Cote, & Fraser-Thomas, 2007; Schinke, Bloom, & Salmela, 1995; Vallee & Bloom, 2005).

In a study directly related to knowledge acquisition, Werthner and Trudel (2006) suggested that coaches acquired knowledge through mediated (e.g., attending clinics), unmediated (e.g., observing other coaches) and internal (e.g., reflecting on their experience) learning situations. They postulated that coach development was idiosyncratic and that successful coaches actively sought out these three different learning situations. Therefore, they concluded that a wide variety of learning opportunities were available for coaches to acquire and refine their coaching knowledge.

Werthner and Trudel's (2006) findings are supported by previous research which has highlighted a number of learning opportunities that appear to be consistent amongst expert coaches (e.g., Anderson & Gill, 1983; Bloom, Durand-Bush, Schinke, & Salmela, 1998; Cregan et al., 2007; Schinke et al., 1995). For example, Anderson and Gill found that many expert coaches acquired fundamental coaching knowledge while studying for an undergraduate degree in physical education. Similarly, expert coaches have been shown to have consistently gained knowledge through initial coaching experiences as head coaches at the high school level or as assistant coaches at the university level (Cregan et al., 2007; Schinke et al., 1995), as well as through mentoring by more experienced coaches during their careers (Bloom et al., 1998; Cregan et al., 2007). As such, expert coaches appear to have been exposed to similar experiential factors from which they may have developed and acquired important elements of their coaching knowledge.

A small body of research which has identified the career development patterns of expert coaches (e.g., Cregan et al., 2007; Erickson et al., 2007; Gilbert, Cote, & Mallett, 2006; Gould, Giannini, Krane, & Hodge, 1990; Schinke et al., 1995; Werthner & Trudel, 2006) has concluded that previous elite-level athletic experiences were viewed as a valuable source of coaching knowledge acquisition. For example, Schinke and colleagues analyzed the career progression patterns of elite Canadian University and Olympic team sport coaches and found that coaches passed through a number of developmental stages during both their athletic and coaching careers that provided them with the necessary knowledge and experience needed to reach the pinnacle of the coaching profession. More specifically, the coaches felt their elite athletic experiences helped shape how they trained and developed athletes, formed a coaching philosophy, and interacted with athletes. In another study, Gilbert and colleagues interviewed 15 successful coaches working at different elite levels within the United States and found that these coaches acquired a minimal threshold of athletic experiences (e.g., a minimum of several thousand hours or 13 years). They also found that expert coaches perceived themselves as having been 'above average' athletes during their playing careers, although this was often occurring at the highest levels of their sport. …

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