The Development of Coaching Effectiveness and Implications for Youth Development
I’d like to first and foremost thank the organizing committee of this congress for inviting me to share my work with you today: Miguel González, Yolanda Barbeito Manteiga, and Marc Cloes. Second, I’d like to acknowledge the support and feedback I’ve received from colleagues who have reviewed drafts of this presentation, including Pierre Trudel, Jean Côté and Jenelle Gilbert.
SLIDE 1] Good morning. My name is Wade Gilbert and I am a professor in the department of Kinesiology at California State University, Fresno. The focus of my presentation today is on the development of coaching effectiveness and implications for youth development.
[SLIDE 2] I’d like to first and foremost thank the organizing committee of this congress for inviting me to share my work with you today: Miguel González, Yolanda Barbeito Manteiga, and Marc Cloes. Second, I’d like to acknowledge the support and feedback I’ve received from colleagues who have reviewed drafts of this presentation, including Pierre Trudel, Jean Côté and Jenelle Gilbert. Third, I’d like to thank all of you for attending this presentation this morning. I am eager to share my thoughts with you and I look forward to hearing your ideas about the questions I will pose today.
[SLIDE 3] If I asked you to think of examples of ‘good’ coaches, what examples would come to mind? Are these people examples of ‘good’ coaches? I’m certain that anyone could offer a response to this most basic question. What then if I asked you to tell me about how these coaches became ‘good’?
[SLIDE 4] Answering these two fundamental questions will be the focus of my presentation today; 1) What is ‘good’ coaching? and 2) How does one learn to become a good coach?
[SLIDE 5] Since graduating from the University of Ottawa in 1999 and working at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) and California State University – Fresno I have devoted much of my career to answering these questions.
[SLIDE 6] Before we proceed, it is important to note that although this presentation is about effective coaching, all of the data and literature we have on the topic of ‘good’ coaching leads us to one overriding conclusion: the foundation of good coaching is teaching. In fact, many of the most effective coaches thought of themselves first and foremost as teachers. This is the common bond that links a John Wooden or a Toni Nadal to an effective youth sport coach in any sport setting around the world. Put simply, good coaches in any setting are good teachers.
[SLIDE 7] I would like to share a brief video clip in which legendary American basketball coach John Wooden illustrates this key point. For those of you not familiar with coach Wooden, he was voted the coach of the 20th century by many media outlets and his approach to coaching is the foundation for almost every North American book written on coaching in the past 30 years. Although he had an incredible record of achievement – coaching his teams to 10 national titles in 12 years, including 7 in a row – he is perhaps even better known for his relentless commitment to teaching and learning.
[SLIDE 8] In this video clip coach Wooden – who at the time was in his 90’s – explains in his own words how he always considered himself first and foremost a teacher. [VIDEO CLIP] “I often hear you say, ‘when I was teaching at UCLA’, and I noticed a lot of times people ask you, ‘Where you a teacher as well as a coach?’ So I was wondering if you could just tell me what does that mean when you say I was teaching at UCLA and you don’t say I was coaching at UCLA? Well, if you are just coaching I think it is different from actual teaching, and I felt that I was always a teacher. I think I followed the laws of learning in basketball, or baseball or tennis or whatever I taught in terms of sports through the years as much as I did teaching a youngster how to parse a sentence or something in English classes I taught. I think we got away from the fact that coaching is like coaxing them to do something. Teaching is showing them how to do it and getting it to the point where they would do it automatically. So, I always considered myself a teacher rather than a coach, yes. And I tried to teach by example too, I think that is important too. Way back in the 30’s I picked something up, you may know who wrote it: ‘No written word, no spoken plea can teach our youth what they should be, nor all the books on all the shelves, it’s what the teachers are themselves’. That made an impression on me in the middle 30’s and I’ve never forgot it. Although I’ve said everyone is a teacher, everyone, everyone is a teacher. When I speak to groups I say, everyone of you is a teacher to someone. Maybe it is your children, maybe it is a neighbor, maybe it is someone under your supervision in some other way. In one way or another you are teaching them by your actions.”
[SLIDE 9] Starting from the understanding that good coaching is teaching, I have organized today’s presentation to provide a chronological review of the scientific evidence we have related to answering these two fundamental questions: 1) what is good coaching? and 2) how does one become a good coach? I want at this point to acknowledge the limitations of my presentation today, mainly that I simply don’t have time to recognize all of the significant contributions made by scholars around the world who provided insight into answering these two questions. Naturally I will focus on projects that I personally have collaborated on, and as a result will miss some important contributions by others. However, I’m excited to share with you that I am co-editing the inaugural Handbook of Sports Coaching that will be published in early 2012. This comprehensive text will include 40 chapters on a wide range of sports coaching topics from authors around the world. This intent of this text is to provide a critical and thought-provoking discussion of what we know about sports coaching.
[SLIDE 10] These two simple, yet fundamental, questions have taken on increasing importance in recent years. We are witnessing a rapid professionalization of sports coaching. With this increased emphasis on the professionalization of sport coaching, there has been a corresponding increase in the scholarship of coaching science. In 2004 Pierre Trudel and I published a report based on an annotated bibliography of coaching science that spanned the years 1970-2001. We found 610 English language research articles on sports coaching, covering a wide range of topics spanning coach behaviors, cognitions, characteristics, and career development. Recently a graduate student (Sandrine Rangeon) and I updated the coaching science bibliography to 2008 and found nearly 1,000 articles.
[SLIDE 11] This slide shows the number of English research publications on coaching science annually since 1970. Notice the rapid increase in the past few years.
[SLIDE 12] Let us now turn our attention to what we have learned about the first question; What is ‘good’ coaching?
[SLIDE 13] I will start the review with what is widely considered the original study on effective coaching, published in 1976 by Tharp & Gallimore. These authors followed up this study with an in-depth qualitative analysis of coach Wooden’s instructional effectiveness in a 2004 publication. In the original study Tharp and Gallimore coded 15 practices in 1974, coach Wooden’s final season of coaching – one in which his team won their 10th championship. Their coding revealed a master pedagogue.
[SLIDE 14] This is a graphic of the original results table published in the 1976 Tharp and Gallimore study. What is striking is coach Wooden’s teaching economy. The largest behavior by far is ‘instruction’, and when coupled with other forms of instruction such as ‘reinstruction’, ‘modeling’, and ‘hustles’ fully 75% of his practice behaviors were devoted to some form of instruction.
[SLIDE 15] Tharp and Gallimore added another dimension to their study of coach Wooden by re-analyzing old and new data 30 years after the original study was completed. Their in-depth analysis of these multiple data sources allowed them to conclude that the real key to coach Wooden’s unprecedented success was his detailed planning. It was not uncommon for coach Wooden to spend three hours planning for a single practice. Other important findings included coach’s teaching economy and the hallmark of his instructional approach which was later termed a ‘Wooden’. ‘Woodens’ were brief interventions in which the coach would first model the correct way to perform the skill (positive modeling), then demonstrate the error that was made (negative modeling), followed immediately with another demonstration of how to perform the skill correctly (positive modeling).
[SLIDE 16] The tendency of successful coaches, across coaching contexts, to focus on instruction and teaching behaviors has been found in numerous systematic observation studies that have used variations of the original behavior coding scheme created by Tharp and Gallimore to study coach John Wooden.
[SLIDE 17] Around the same time that the Tharp and Gallimore study sparked research on coaching behaviors, Smoll and Smith were launching a three decade line of intervention research designed to teach youth sport coaches how to become effective teachers in sport settings. Their ground-breaking work continues to this day, and the latest iteration of their coach training program is referred to as the Mastery Approach to Coaching, or MAC.
[SLIDE 18] The Mastery Approach to Coaching emphasizes the psychology of coaching and coach-athlete interactions. The focus is on helping coaches create what they refer to as a mastery climate. What is a mastery climate? A youth sport setting in which the emphasis is put on controllable factors. This approach is strongly influenced by coach John Wooden’s teaching philosophy. The objective is to help learners focus on their effort and preparation for performance. Another cornerstone of the MAC is increasing self-awareness for coaches – what I will refer to later as self-reflection. They have recently packaged their lifetime of research on this topic under the umbrella of their Youth Enrichment through Sports (YES) initiative.
[SLIDE 19] One of the more active lines of research on ‘good’ coaching that followed was led by John Salmela in the 1990s in Canada. Under his guidance a group of researchers used qualitative retrospective interviews to develop a comprehensive portrait of ‘good’ coaching in elite sport across a wide range of individual and team sport settings. They produced a long list of publications from this line of research covering a diverse array of topics including coach characteristics, development, the coaching process and mentoring to name just a few. A summary of this work is provided in the 1996 book ‘They Call Me Coach’. Perhaps the most influential publication of this research line was The Coaching Model, published by Cote and colleagues in 1995.
[SLIDE 20] Based on a recent review of the coaching science literature completed by Sandrine Rangeon and I, the Coaching Model is the most influential conceptual framework in coaching science today. This diagram represents a mental model of the coaching process as described by elite gymnastics coaches. The three central components of the coaching process – competition, training, and organization – are directly influenced by three peripheral components – coach personal characteristics, athlete personal characteristics, and contextual factors. All six of these components influence the primary goal of coaching – in this case to develop athletes. This model was later validated in team sport contexts such as ice hockey and soccer.
[SLIDE 21] Yet another approach to learning about ‘good’ coaching is the expertise approach adopted by Schemmp and colleagues in the United States.
[SLIDE 22] Through their research with expert coaches, physical education teachers, and renowned sport instructors – most notably in golf, they have identified three features that appear to clearly distinguish expert from novice coaches. Their work demonstrates the importance of extensive and varied coaching and sport experiences for developing coaching knowledge and skills. One type of knowledge in particular seems to take prominence for Schempp and colleagues, what they refer to as strategic knowledge – knowing what to do and when to do it. The third and most developed feature in their framework is coaching skill.
[SLIDE 23] Schempp and colleagues describe eight distinct coaching skills that appear to differentiate the expert from the novice sport coach. These include planning, prediction, intuition, observational analysis, communication, automaticity, problem solving, and self-monitoring.
[SLIDE 24] As can be seen with this diverse body of research, the quest for defining and explaining ‘good coaching’ has been shaped by many diverse conceptual frameworks and perspectives. As a result it has proven difficult to organize and present a simple and coherent framework that adequately captures the essence of what is known about coaching effectiveness. In recent years several scholars have created overarching frameworks for making sense of this literature, most notably John Lyle’s model of the coaching process and Thelma Horn with her working model of coaching effectiveness.
[SLIDE 25] Recently I have collaborated on the development of two additional conceptual frameworks for making sense of what we know about quality sports coaching. The first one, co-authored with Jean Cote, is referred to as the integrated definition of coaching effectiveness. The second one, referred to as the Pyramid of Teaching Success in Sport, is the result of a collaboration with a group affiliated with legendary American coach John Wooden. I will now take a few minutes to explain each of these frameworks and the role I see them playing.
[SLIDE 26] First, let’s review the integrated definition of coaching effectiveness.
[SLIDE 27] Recently Jean Côté and I conducted a comprehensive review of literature related to coaching, teaching, and sport expertise – including all of the literature that I have discussed today. In other words, we went on a quest for evidence-based clues on how to create a valid and comprehensive definition of ‘good’ coaching. We realized any definition that was too general would not provide value to the field. We also realized that any definition that was too specific would miss the purpose of the exercise – to succinctly define what we mean when we speak of ‘good’ coaching.
[SLIDE 28] One of the things we found in our review is that many diverse terms have been used to describe ‘good’ coaches. Some examples include quality, expert, experienced, model, great, successful, transformative, award-winning, master, virtuoso, and effective. A prime example of this is evident in a recent issue of the International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching [2009, 4(1)] that contained no less than five separate research articles related to ‘good’ coaching. Each study used a different label to describe their sample and no two studies used the same criteria to identify their participants.
[SLIDE 29] After careful scrutiny of the literature Jean and I crafted many versions of a definition for coaching effectiveness. We tested our emerging definitions with sport stakeholders around the world for one year before we submitted a manuscript. Our final draft – which we labeled the integrative definition of coaching effectiveness – was accepted for publication in late 2009 in the International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, and reads as follows: The consistent application of integrated professional, interpersonal, and intrapersonal knowledge to improve athletes’ competence, confidence, connection, and character in specific coaching contexts. We believe this definition is both sensitive to the vast array of literature that informs this topic and also provides a practical framework for research and intervention. I would like to take just a few moments to explain the three components of this definition – coaches’ knowledge, athletes’ outcomes, and coaching contexts.
[SLIDE 31] The first type of coaches’ knowledge is professional knowledge, which includes sport specific knowledge and how to teach it. This comprises declarative and procedural knowledge. Interpersonal knowledge focuses on the coach’s ability to connect and communicate with sport stakeholders. Lastly, intrapersonal knowledge addresses a coach’s level of self-awareness, introspection, and openness to learning. Collectively these three types of knowledge encompass the knowledge required to become an effective sport coach.
[SLIDE 32] The second component of the integrated definition of coaching effectiveness represents the potential outcomes for participants of organized youth sport. These outcomes are based on outcomes described in the positive youth development literature. Competence refers to the performance and training skills acquired through sport participation. Confidence refers to one’s internal sense of positive self-worth. The ability to bond with others is labeled connection. Lastly, character encompasses characteristics like integrity and moral courage.
[SLIDE 33] The third and final component of the integrated definition is the context in which one coaches. We have selected the four contexts identified in the Developmental Model of Sport Participation put forth by Jean Cote and his colleagues. This framework covers youth sport participation from initial entry – typically around the age of 5 or 6 in most sports – to late adolescence. The research on talent development clearly shows that different stages of development require different kinds of coaching. In this particular framework we have identified four types of coaches – participation coaches for children, participation coaches for teens and adults, performance coaches for young adolescents, and performance coaches for older adolescents and adults.
[SLIDE 34] The integrated definition of coaching effectiveness and expertise could be represented graphically like this. The different types of coaching knowledge are used to teach a range of athlete outcomes in context-specific ways. This is what we refer to as an integrated approach to defining coaching effectiveness. The integrated definition of coaching effectiveness provides a conceptual framework for organizing the research and literature we have on ‘good’ coaching. The definition seems to resonate with a wide range of sport stakeholders and holds promise for future research in the area of coaching effectiveness. In fact, I’m aware of at least four ongoing doctoral studies testing components of the integrated definition. These studies are being conducted in Australia, Canada, England, and the United States.
[SLIDE 35] I would like to take a few moments now to share with you a second conceptual framework that has just completed and will be published in a few weeks. This framework is referred to as the Pyramid of Teaching Success in Sport. This framework is an attempt to provide an applied tool for capturing and teaching the personal qualities and characteristics needed to become a successful teacher in sport settings; in other words, an effective coach.
[SLIDE 36] The Pyramid is inspired by coach John Wooden’s original Pyramid of Success. Whereas coach’s original Pyramid of Success was designed for the learner, our new Pyramid of Teaching Success in Sport is designed for the instructor. A group of us who collectively have worked with, studied, and played for coach Wooden wanted to create an applied tool grounded in the timeless principles of quality teaching that coach Wooden so effectively implemented, that could be shared with other coaches and those who train coaches. The group includes Swen Nater, who won 2 championships playing for coach Wooden and then played 10 years in the National Basketball Association; Ron Gallimore, the UCLA professor who conducted the original study on coach Wooden’s teaching behaviors; Mark Siwik, the executive director of a new national non-profit in the United States called BeLikeCoach, dedicated to improving the teaching capacity of youth sport settings; and myself. Over the past 3 years we consulted with coach Wooden while creating drafts of this new Pyramid, and we are now confident that the Pyramid captures the essence of effective teaching in sport settings.
[SLIDE 37] Here is the Pyramid of Teaching Success in Sport, as it will be published in a few weeks in the Journal of Sport Psychology in Action. The bottom three rows correspond well with the types of knowledge we identified in our integrated definition of coaching effectiveness. The bottom row captures interpersonal knowledge – the ability to connect and bond with others. The second row captures intrapersonal knowledge – self-awareness and reflection. The third row captures professional knowledge – the ‘what’ and ‘how’ to teach effectively. The fourth and fifth tiers include three qualities resting on the 3 levels and 12 personal qualities that support it in the Pyramid. Lastly, we have crafted a definition of teaching success that reinforces that effective coaching rests on a commitment to athlete learning. We define success for those who teach in sport as peace of mind resulting from the self-satisfaction in knowing that you have made the effort to ensure that all those under your supervision learn how to reach their potential in sport and beyond. I present the Pyramid of Teaching Success in Sport, and the integrated definition of coaching effectiveness, to you not as final ‘answers’ to the question of ‘what is good coaching?’. Rather, I encourage you to view them as evolutions in the ongoing quest to better understand how to answer this important question. The two frameworks are complementary, one providing guidance for research on effective coaching and one providing guidance for training effective coaches.
[SLIDE 38] What have we learned about answering our first question – What is good coaching? We see that there has been at least 40 years of sustained, and growing, research on the science of sports coaching. From a review of this literature, and evidence from other domains such as education and business, it is clear that the foundation of good coaching is quality teaching. The body of research shows what quality teaching looks like in sport settings. We also have benefitted from recent attempts to organize the literature on good coaching. From the most recent example we see that coaching effectiveness can be defined by three components – coaching knowledge, athlete outcomes, and coaching contexts. Coaching effectiveness and expertise must be viewed as setting specific. That is, ‘good’ coaching by definition must be framed by the context in which the coaching is to occur (for example, youth sport, elite sport, etc.). Lastly, effective coaches across contexts demonstrate a keen self-awareness and commitment to lifelong learning.
[SLIDE 39] The second question that we will address today is an extension of the first question. In the first question we ask ‘what’ is effective coaching. In the second question we ask ‘how’ does one become an effective coach? This really is a developmental question, one in which we focus on the process of becoming.
[SLIDE 40] Historically the topic of coach development has not been an active area of research. In fact, when we completed our review of coaching science published between 1970 and 2001, we found only 15 research papers on coach development. This has changed dramatically in recent years. We completed a citation network analysis using 141 articles published in 2007 and 2008. We coded the articles and their reference lists and found that ‘coach development’ was in fact the most active and influential area of scholarship in coaching science today.
[SLIDE 41] The first study in English that I could locate on this topic was published in 1977 by Massengale and Farrington.
[SLIDE 42] They examined the influence of playing experience – specifically the centrality of the position played – on coaching employment and career mobility in American college football. Their analysis of the profiles of 869 coaches found that playing position did have an impact on employment and career mobility. Although only a slight majority of coaches played central positions (53%), nearly two-thirds of the head coaches played what would be considered ‘central’ positions as college football athletes, even though central positions account for only 36% of the football playing positions.
[SLIDE 43] Early research on coach development also looked at the educational, or developmental, needs of sport coaches, but with an emphasis on coaches in elite sport settings. Perhaps the first study to approach coach development from this perspective was published in 1982 by Krueger and Casselman.
[SLIDE 44] They surveyed elite level American and German track and field coaches and found some differences in developmental backgrounds, yet many similarities in educational needs. Both groups ranked items like pedagogical ability and coaching experience as their top reasons for success, and identified self-experimentation as a key strategy for learning new coaching knowledge.
[SLIDE 45] A similar study was conducted nearly a decade later in the United States by Gould and colleagues. They surveyed 130 coaches of elite sport across 30 different sports.
[SLIDE 46] They found that experiential learning – what we might now call learning in informal learning situations – to be the most influential type of learning situation when developing one’s coaching style. Yet 97% of the coaches indicated that formal types of learning situations such as coach education programs were important contributors to their coaching knowledge. Coaches also indicated that they were extremely knowledgeable of their sport, but less knowledgeable of sport science in general – or what Abrahams and colleagues have recently referred to as the ‘ologies’ of coaching (pedagogy, psychology, physiology, etc.).
[SLIDE 47] Shortly after the Gould study appeared a group of scholars in Canada used qualitative interviews with elite basketball coaches with the intent of mapping the stages of development for elite team sport coaches. This study was instrumental in that it was the first to plot a potential developmental pathway for becoming an elite level coach. They found seven distinct career stages.
[SLIDE 48] Typically all elite coaches progressed from early sport participation to elite levels of sport participation. Once their athletic careers were over they then proceeded through why we might call a ‘coaching ladder’, starting with novice coaching in youth sport settings through progressively more competitive sport settings culminating in their positions as elite international sport coaches. I’m not aware of this type of study being replicated across other sport settings, but related research on coach development shows us that coach developmental pathways don’t uniformly follow this linear progression. However, it is clear that sport coaches typically accumulate many hours – sometimes thousands – as sport participants prior to ever becoming a coach. I will share some of our research on this topic a bit later in the presentation.
[SLIDE 49] It was right around the time of the Schinke and colleagues’ study, the mid 1990s, that I started to focus on exploring how coaches learn through these types of developmental experiences, and then later on systematically charting coach developmental experiences. Most recently I have been working on trying to apply what we have learned about coach, and teacher, experiential learning to creating ongoing professional development experiences for sport coaches. In the next few minutes I will share what my colleagues and I have learned from these perspectives about becoming an effective sports coach.
[SLIDE 50] Pierre Trudel and I certainly were not the first ones to suggest that reflection was a key learning mechanism for becoming a better coach. However, we may have conducted one of the first studies specifically examining the mechanics of reflection in a youth sport setting. We used Donald Schon’s theory of reflective practice as a conceptual framework for studying how model youth sport coaches learn to coach through experience. We conducted in-depth case studies of six model youth sport coaches in ice hockey and soccer.
[SLIDE 51] We found that coaching issues, or problems, do indeed trigger a reflective conversation in effective coaches. Once a situation was determined to be problematic and worthy of reflection – the process referred to as issue setting – a cycle of reflection was engaged that included three separate yet interrelated processes – strategy generation, experimentation and evaluation. If the strategy was deemed effective at resolving the issue, the reflective conversation for that particular problem was terminated. If the problem persisted, the coach would continue to generate and experiment with coaching strategies until (a) the problem was solved, or (b) the problem was not relevant anymore. The entire reflective process was situated within a coach’s role frame, or how they viewed their role as a youth sport coach.
[SLIDE 52] Across studies now we repeatedly see the importance of reflection, or intrapersonal knowledge and a commitment to continuous improvement, on becoming an effective coach. I return to coach John Wooden to illustrate the critical need for constant reflection. He often liked to reinforce the importance of reflection and a commitment to continuous improvement by saying ‘what matters most is what you learn after you know it all’.
[SLIDE 53] In 2002 Jean Cote and I created a protocol to systematically document coach developmental activities. Cliff Mallett in Australia eventually joined us and we created an in-depth structured interview guide for charting a coach’s lifetime of sport-related developmental activities. We have since tested this protocol with a wide range of coaches in Australia, Canada, and the United States and we are aware of at least one other published study in Singapore that has used the protocol. Today I will show you some of the key findings from the most recent study I completed using this methodology, which was published last year. We have shifted our focus from simply documenting developmental profiles to trying to find associations between specific developmental activities and coaching success.
[SLIDE 54] This table shows the data we recently collected with high school basketball coaches in the United States. You will notice that on average the coaches accumulated 3,600 hours of athletic experience, with half of that being basketball specific. You will also notice that the basketball coaches were better than average athletes, having been starters 91% of the time. From a coaching perspective, we can see that they rarely coached individual sports – almost all of their coach development is in team sports. We also get a sense of the time commitment required to coach at this level with coaches reporting an annual mean of 516 hours coaching during practices and on administrative duties, but only 28 hours of time annually in formal coach education.
[SLIDE 55] This table shows the data we recently collected with high school cross-country and track & field coaches in the United States. You will notice that on average the coaches accumulated 3,300 hours of athletic experience, with nearly 3,000 of that being running specific. You will also notice that these coaches were better than average athletes, having been starters 99% of the time. From a coaching perspective, we can see that their coach development is not sport specific – many seasons spent coaching other individual sports and team sports as well. We also get a sense of the time commitment required to coach at this level with coaches reporting an annual mean of 478 hours coaching during practices and on administrative duties, but only 19 hours of time annually in formal coach education.
[SLIDE 56] Our recent study was the first to attempt to find associations between developmental activities and some measure of coaching success. For coaching success we used different levels of team accomplishments – ranging in ascending order of difficulty from league finalists to California state finalists – no small feat in a state of 35 million people. The data clearly show a trend of significant positive associations between time (both hours and seasons played) as an athlete and later success as a coach. Interestingly it isn’t total time invested in sport that seems to matter most, but rather time invested in the sport they now coach. We also see a trend in significant positive associations between skill level as an athlete and later success as a coach. We feel we have just begun to scratch the surface with this protocol and will conduct additional studies to keep digging deeper in our quest to learn what types of developmental activities appear to be most helpful in learning how to become an effective coach.
[SLIDE 57] Given that coaches repeatedly indicate that they value practical experience over coach education, and they spend the vast majority of their time ‘learning on the job’ so to speak, the possibility of creating ongoing professional development opportunities for sport coaches has been the topic of some recent literature. Just in the past year I’ve worked closely with Ron Gallimore and Pierre Trudel on trying to identify the common elements across successful teacher and coach development initiatives. We summarized our findings, and suggestions, in a recent article published in the Journal of Coaching Education. We have found that learning communities have great potential to facilitate continuous improvement in sport coaching contexts. A learning community, like a community of practice, is a group of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis.
[SLIDE 58] There is substantial evidence to suggest that a learning community approach to ongoing professional development will make a significant, durable, impact on improving the effectiveness of coaches and sport settings. First and foremost, the primary value of a learning community approach is that is starts with coach and athlete needs. This is what I refer to as a ‘needs-based’ approach to professional development. There is ample evidence in the motivation and learning literature to show that people act on needs. Second, we are not suggesting that the learning community approach replace coach education programs. Quite the contrary, learning communities are a natural complement to formal coach education. In fact, coaches need the knowledge base that is acquired, refined, and reinforced in formal coach education programs in order to be in a position to contribute to a learning community and reflect on their practice. Third, our decades of research on how coaches learn to coach repeatedly shows that coaches give priority to the learning that occurs in action – experiential learning. Learning communities simply provide the infrastructure needed to nurture and support this experiential learning. Lastly, although rare, there are a few examples of long-term studies using a learning community approach to teacher development that have clearly shown improvements both in teacher effectiveness and student achievement outcomes.
[SLIDE 59] Recent reviews of this body of literature found that five components are needed in order for a learning community to operate effectively. These components are (1) stable settings dedicated to improving instruction and learning, (2) job-alike teams, (3) published protocols that guide, not prescribe, (4) trained peer facilitators, and (5) unrelenting commitment to working on learning goals until tangible gains are evident. In the recent article prepared by Ron Gallimore, Pierre Trudel and I we explain in detail each of these five components and how they could be applied in a typical youth sport setting.
[SLIDE 60] What have we learned about answering our second question – How does one become a good coach? We see that historically there has been very limited research on the topic of becoming a good coach, but it is now among the most active research streams in our field. The long held assumption that self-reflection is critical to becoming an effective coach has now been supported in research with coaches across coaching contexts, and we even have started to unpack the process of reflection. We also have direct evidence now to support the common belief that there is a correlation between time spent as an athlete and later success as a coach. In fact, sport coaches typically spend many thousands of hours as athletes before they ever formally assume the role of coach. Lastly, we are beginning to experiment with ongoing professional development protocols – or learning communities – that complement traditional coach education programs.
[SLIDE 61] Answering these two fundamental questions has been the focus of my presentation today. I have shared with you some of the key literature that provides us with insight into how to answer these questions, including recent projects on which I’ve been working. Thank you very much for attending this session today. I look forward to hearing your feedback and learning about work you have done that may help answer the two questions I focused on today.