With the coach as a catalyst education through sport possible? The initial results of an intervention performed on 48 soccer coaches in the Netherlands.
ABSTRACTIntroduction: in the Netherlands 95% of 6 to 11-year-olds and 92% of 12 to19-year-olds participate in sport. About three-quarters of these young participants are enrolled in organized sport. Politicians and policy makers in the Netherlands wish to further increase that percentage. They are convinced of the notion that organized sport has several positive effects on pupils (social and moral behavior). Although there has been no scientific evidence for that assumption yet, variables have been noted in research literature such as ‘the sporting climate’ and ‘the coach’ that could act as a catalyst for social and moral development through sport. The potential variable ‘the coach’ will be the focus in this study. An intervention for soccer coaches has been developed. Method: 48 coaches were involved in this study.
This research employed a mixed method research design with data collected from the coaches by way of both quantitative and qualitative methods. We conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews; and open-ended questionnaires and standardized questionnaires (GSE, UCL) were administered. Results: the training was generally very well received. The coaches used the newly learned skills during their soccer practice. The results of the quantitative research showed us that there was a statistically significant increase in General Self Efficacy (GSE) and active approach (UCL) during the course of the training program. Discussion: because the group of coaches in this study only consists of 48 participants we have to view the results critically. Keeping the better-equipped soccer coach in the key position can be a catalyst for positive contribution to education through sport.
In Europe an average of 38% of the total population participate in sports activities on a weekly basis (Tiessen-Raaphorst & Breedveld, 2007). The rates in the European countries vary between 80% in Finland and 20% in Portugal. In the Netherlands 52% of the total population participate in sport every week. With regard to youth, 95% of 6 to 11-year-olds and 92% of 12 to 19-year-olds participated in sport in 2008 (Breedveld, Kamphuis & Tiessen-Raaphorst, 2008). About three-quarters of the young participants are members of a sports teami (Breedveld et al., 2008). Although the amount of current sports participation is rather high, politicians and policy makers in the Netherlands and other European countries still wish to increase that percentage, particularly among young people (see also VWS, 2003, Janssens et al., 2004). They are convinced of the notion that organized sport has several positive effects on pupils.In 2004, the European Year of Education through Sport was established to emphasize the potential positive effects of participation in sport (Janssens et al., 2004). The arguments made by the European Parliament for instituting such a year are as follows: participation in organized sport has a positive influence on people with respect to social and moral behavior. All participants have to obey the rules and accept certain norms and values. This includes, for instance, ‘respect for others’. Sport participation contributes to general education by allowing children to develop physically and socially (European Parliament, 2004). These claims are often mentioned in politics and media. Politicians and policy makers seem to be convinced that involvement in sport stimulates the development of good sporting behavior. This includes ethical decision-making and enhances moral behavior (Stoll, 1995).
The European members of parliament (2004), politicians and policy makers all seem to believe that organized sport has a positive contribution to education. It is probable that it positively influences the moral and social development of children. The question is whether this is purely a conviction or if this conviction is also based on scientific evidence? In order to explore if there is evidence to support the above-mentioned conviction, nine reviews about social and moral development through sport were studied. The primary search for the reviews was a comprehensive search of scientific databases (for example Eric, Scirus) with keywords1 or parts of those keywords. Secondly, reviews were gathered from the University of Utrecht library. The nine reviews found provided sufficient evidence of social and moral development through sport. These reviews were published between 2004 and 2009. The original sources on which these reviews were based were also studied in order to ensure the accuracy. The reviews showed a lot of overlap.A complete overview (table 1) gives a clear picture of the sources. We analyzed the results by summarizing the focus of the studies they reviewed (looked for overlapping themes and recommendations). A recommendation made by all of the authors of the nine reviews is that with regard to the development of pro-social and moral behavior, the sporting climate’ and ‘the coach’ are seen as a possible catalyst for developing social and moral behavior (see last row of table 1).
Table 1 reflects the findings.
Table 1. With the coach as a catalyst education through sport possible? The initial results of an intervention performed on 48 soccer coaches in the Netherlands.
To summarize there is still no convincing conclusive evidence about the contribution of sport participation to the moral development of children and youngsters (see also Arnold, 1994). The conclusions concerning social development are similar to findings for moral development. There is no positive evidence about the contribution of sport participation to the social development of children and youngsters.
On the other hand the authors of the reviews see possible (positive) influence from ‘the sport climate’ as well as from ‘the coach’. Both are seen as potential variables (catalyst) for promoting social and moral behavior (education). In this study we want to explore the potential of the ‘coach’ as seen by the authors of the nine reviews. We choose the ‘coach’ because we see similarities between both secondary school teachers and sports coaches as educators. Due to the nature of their role, teachers of all subjects are required to contribute to the social and moral development of the children. The education policies and curriculum documents in many European countries, including the Netherlands, promote the social and moral development of young people as a cross-curriculum goal and place that goal at the center of the educational process (see for example, Green & Hardman, 2005; Ministerial Onderwijs en Wetenschappen, 2006; Pühse & Gerber, 2005; Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 2007).Because of the assumption of similarities between the work of teachers and coaches, research will be developed where the coach is in the key position for contributing to the education (socially and morally). Round table sessions with soccer coaches, policy makers, professional soccer players and professional soccer coaches were organized in order to gather information necessary for the development of the intervention. We asked the coaches about potential problems or difficulties in and around the soccer area. Almost all of the coaches mentioned problems in handling conflicts between young players and conflicts with parents of the players. The coaches said that they sometimes just ignore a conflict situation because they don’t know how to manage it. In continuation of this study we present an intervention designed to provide the coach with specific skills and present the initial results of the effects of the intervention on the coaches.
The intervention and the underlying frameworkThe aim of the intervention, therefore, was to provide the coaches with the professional skills necessary for feeling competent about handling ‘difficult’ situations like conflicts that arise in and around the soccer field. The training program (intervention) that we developed is underpinned by the framework of Bandura’s social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1977, 1991, 1999). This theory states that behavior is dynamic. Behavior has been viewed as a result of interaction between the person, the behavior and the environment (all three influence each other). Someone can behave very differently in various environments.
In the training program the effect of the (pedagogical) climate is explained (the climate where players can develop). The coaches became better equipped to promote that environment. For example, a coach must not allow cheating and has to create a “fair-play” environment. Another important aspect of the social cognitive theory is that people (coaches) learn by doing and by modeling. The content of the intervention (all of it) is transferable to the coaching practice (with the players). With regard to soccer, the coaches are teaching the players by modeling, a dynamic, constructive process. The power of modeling is well documented (Bandura, 1986). The intervention, therefore, is developed to influence (by modeling) the coach. The assumption is that the trained coach will positively influence the development of the players (see Forgatch & DeGarmo, 1999). For example: during the training program the soccer coaches discuss the language in and around the soccer field and define the boundaries (structure) with regard to what language will and will not be tolerated (intervention). After this structuring takes place with other coaches during the training program (intervention), they repeat this process on the field (soccer) interacting with their soccer players.The training program is designed around two main lines. The first one is an educational strategy consisting of: ‘structuring’, ‘stimulating’, ‘ignoring’, ‘isolating’ and ‘communicating’. First of all the coaches are informed about how to structure good behavior (how to make rules together with the players and with the parents.). Secondly, the coaches work on the positive effect of stimulation (compliments, showing interest in good behavior). The third component of the educational strategy is ignoring (when possible) negative behavior of the player(s). The fourth is isolation: for example to give a time-out when the behavior of the soccer player requires this. The last of the educational strategies is communication: the coach gives every player some personal attention in order to build a good relationship. Through the short individual talks the coaches are able to create trust (Gravesteijn & Diekstra, 2007). This first main line is designed to prevent ‘difficult’ situations. When a player has to be isolated (one of the educational strategies) the rational-emotive therapy framework (Ellis, 1962) has been used because the social-cognitive learning theory has little or no specific program that is aimed at the influencing of thinking processes. The (automatic) thoughts have to be influenced when a change in behavior is desired (Bandura, 1977). This understanding and, when necessary, change in behavior of the players is the purpose of the second main line. A schematic representation of this line is illustrated below:
Situation + (automatic) Thoughts --> Feelings (emotion) + Behavior (Ellis, 1962)In the intervention different didactic approaches were used, for example presentations, discussions, exercises and role-plays (observing, modeling and training). The use of different didactic strategies is important considering the value of interactive teaching techniques seen in SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) and SFL (Skills for life) programs (Diekstra, 2008). The intervention consists of a training program of five three-hour sessions. Five sessions is probably the maximum considering the perspective of volunteers (soccer coaches). At the same time the five evenings allow for the learned skills to be applied and to become more permanent (see Wilson & Lipsey, 2007).
MethodForty-eight coaches (out of 69) were involved in this study. These 48 coaches participated in all of the sessions of the intervention (5 X 3 hours). The 48 coaches are comprised of seven women and 41 men (15% women and 85% men). Their ages range from 18 to 64 years old. The mean age is around 43 years old. The educational background of the participants is diverse: from secondary school to university. All of the participants have a day job (three are still following a professional course) and work as coaches in their free time.
This research is of a mixed method research design (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004). The data has been collected by using quantitative and qualitative methods. A mixed method approach has been employed because it provides a more diverse and complete picture (Sammons, P., Day, C., Kington, A. Gu, Q., Stobart, G., & Smees, R. 2007). In-depth, semi-structured interviews in combination with open-ended questionnaires have been used to determine the opinion of the coaches about the effects of the training. We conducted five interviews with coaches randomly chosen from the group of 48 in order to gain deeper insight in how the training has been received. In the second place, data has been collected with the use of an open-ended questionnaire. The purpose of the open-ended questionnaire was to confirm, challenge and possibly add to the findings of the interviews. The questions in the open-ended questionnaire were parallel to the topics that comprised the interviews. Twenty randomly chosen coaches filled in the open-ended questionnaire. The interviews and open-ended questionnaires took place after the intervention.The quantitative effects of the training were also assessed using standardized questionnaires: the Utrecht Coping List (UCL) (Schreurs, Van de Willige, Brosschot, Tellegen & Graus, 1993) and The General Self Efficacy Scale (GSE) (Jerusalem & Schwarzer, 1992; Bandura, 1977: translated by Teeuw, 1994 unpublished). The General Self Efficacy Scale consists of 10 items. This scale measures the coaches’ belief in their personal abilities to reach their aim. This questionnaire is used in several studies and shows an internal consistency Cronbach’s Alfa between.75 to .90 (Jerusalem & Scharzer, 1992). Several studies also show that the validity is satisfactory (Schwarzer, 1993). The UCL consists of 47 items and measures seven, the following variables: active approach, palliative reaction, avoid, searching social support, passive reaction pattern, expression of emotions and handling reassuring thoughts. The internal consistency of the scales is reasonable to good. The Cronbach’s Alfa is .67 to .84. (Schreurs, 1987; Sanderman & Ormel, 1992). The validity of the UCL is reasonably positive (Sanderman & Ormel, 1992; Schaufeli & Dierendonck, 1992; Oldewinkel et al., 1992). The UCL is scored on a four-point scale. The standardized questionnaires (GSE and UCL) were held before and after the intervention.
ResultsThis paragraph describes the initial results of the intervention. We start with the results of the indepth interviews and open-ended questionnaires. The results of the interviews and the open-ended questionnaires will be presented together as the questions of the open-ended questionnaire are parallel to the topics of the interviews. The questions leading to the results of the qualitative section focus on: How did you in general receive the intervention? What is your opinion about the used didactical approaches? What can you say about the chosen content of the intervention? Can you use the trained skills in the soccer practice? Do you have suggestions to improve the intervention or are some theme’s lacking in the intervention?
How did you in general receive the intervention? What is your opinion about the used didactical approaches?Many positive remarks with regard to the actual training program have been made, such as: “A very good, clear training program where I learned a lot.” ”The evenings were prepared very well and there was an open and positive climate.” “I learned a lot in the evenings and I can transfer the skills to my soccer practice.” Some of the quotes are already answering another question. In general the soccer coaches were very satisfied with the intervention. The coaches also gave their opinion about the different didactic methods used in the intervention. Some of the remarks show that the interactive way of working, such as doing exercises and role-plays promotes a lasting impression. “There were some presentations illustrated with practical football situations, but also group assignments.” “The combination of using video and different instructors made the evenings very informative, there were no boring moments.” The use of different didactical approaches is received well by the soccer coaches. In almost all of the interventions there were coaches of more than one club together. The result is interaction between coaches of the two clubs. This got attention in the interviews and open ended questionnaires. For example: “There was a lot of good interaction. I noticed that some problems are not only at my club, but across the board”. The opinions and experiences of other coaches were valuable. There was an open atmosphere; one in which I enjoyed learning.” In general the intervention, including the use of different didactic approaches, has been very well received. Remarkable was the positive reactions about the cooperation between the coaches of different soccer clubs.
What can you say about the chosen content of the intervention? Can you use the trained skills in the soccer practice?Examples of responses are: “The central educational strategies: structuring, stimulating, ignoring, isolating and communicating were new to me but very effective in my work as a coach.” “The introduction of the framework to understand and change behavior (situation, thoughts, feeling, and behavior) was easy to understand and very constructive”. “A lot of behavior can be built on irrational thoughts, which explains a lot of the problems that arise”. “I am already using the content in relation to a boy I removed from the line up (time out) because of his behavior.” The last quote is an example of the using the content in the practice of the coach. There were more examples: “I am still searching for the attitude when I am in discussion about the behavior of a soccer player”. ”I am not only using the skills of the 4 G [framework of Ellis] in the soccer practice but also in my daily job”.
Summarized the feedback of the coaches with regard to the content and the two main lines was positive and we see the first signs of the content (knowledge and skills) being used during practice with the players. Although the content of the intervention was new for them, it was understandable and for some coaches already usable. There were other quotes about the content and level of using in their soccer practice: “Before the training I was reacting to the players primarily when a conflict arises and now, after the training I start thinking what can be the reason of the behavior of the player”. “I am discussing more with the soccer players, I want them to think about what they do and not only act”. The content is used on different ways by the coaches. But a lot of them already are working with the content (with their own interpretation) in their soccer practice.
Do you have suggestions to improve the intervention or are some theme’s lacking in the intervention?The last topic is regarding whether they felt certain themes were lacking or if they have suggestions for improving the intervention. There were suggestions: “I would like an evening where the training takes place on the soccer field with the players”. “I want to see more in actual practice, examples of how they can use the learned skills”. “When possible start on the field and if there is a problem then we can go back to the classroom to discuss what can be done as a solution before getting out on the practice field again to try it”. The suggestions are very clear. There were no new themes brought forward. However, the coaches would like more real practice in the intervention and examples of how the skills work in practice. They want examples of the content of the framework of Ellis in the training. To summarize the qualitative part of this research, the interviews and open-ended questionnaires show that in general the intervention has been received well and the use of different didactic methods is appreciated. The content gives them the tools to handle ‘difficult’ situations that arise in and around the soccer field, and it is not difficult to understand. Necessary improvements to the intervention would have to include practical activities and giving the coaches the opportunity to learn how to deal with the two main lines during soccer practice. After looking at the qualitative results, the focus now turns to the standardized questionnaires (UCL and GSE). The reliability of the scales of the closed questionnaires (Cronbach’s Alpha) used in this study: The General Self Efficacy .89; Active approach .86; Palliative reaction .79; Avoidance .73; Looking for social support .88; Passive reaction pattern .72; Expression of the emotions .78; Handling reassuring thoughts .69. The results of the reliability are consistent when taking the criterion of .70 (Nunnally, 1978). Compared with the reliability of the norm tables of the GSE and UCL the Alpha’s are at the same level.
Table 2 will give an overview of the effect sizes of the scales used in this study.
Table 2. With the coach as a catalyst education through sport possible? The initial results of an intervention performed on 48 soccer coaches in the Netherlands.
There has been a statistically significant increase in General Self Efficacy during the course of the training program, t (46)=5.53,p.001. The mean score of the coaches on General Self Efficacy Scale increased from 31.15 (s=3.41) to 33.30 (s=3.76). Before the trainin the mean of the coaches General Self Efficacy Scale was at the same level as population mean given by the norm table corresponding age and gender group (Jerusalem & Schwarzer, 1992; Bandura, 1977: translated by Teeuw 1994, unpublished). At the end of the training program coaches scored above the population average. Analysis of UCL scores showed a statistically significant increase in the active approach score between pre-test and post-test, t (46)=3.05,p.005: Before the training program the mean score of the coaches was at an average level indicated by the norm table of UCL (Schreurs, Van de Willige, Brosschot, Tellegen, & Graus, 1993) and after the training program the coaches scored at a high level. There were no statistically significant differences between pre-test and post-test on other scales of UCL. Summarizing the quantitative results, the UCL and GSE questionnaires show the desirable direction of differences in means before and after the training program. The coaches were more confident about their way of solving problems (coflicts) after the training program. They were better able to look at a situation from all perspectives, make an overview of issues and work on a solution in a goal-oriented fashion, with faith in their ability to solve the problem.
DiscussionIn this research the effects of an intervention for Dutch soccer coaches are measured. From the literature we can conclude that practicing sports does not generally contribute to the development (for example socially and morally) of the players. On the other hand the literature gives direction for further research. There are two noted variables that can work as a catalyst for contributing to the development of the players, the sporting climate and the coach. In this study we choose the coach as a factor that can stimulate the development of the young soccer players. The aim, after the round table sessions, is to develop an intervention that can contribute to the further professional development of the coach. The content of the intervention is built around the identified ‘difficulties’ expressed by the Dutch soccer coaches at the round table sessions. We built the intervention on the theoretical framework of Bandura’s social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1977, 1991, 1999).
From the interviews and open-ended questionnaires we can summarize that the chosen direction of the intervention correspond with the ‘difficulties’ expressed by the Dutch soccer coaches. The coaches are generally very satisfied with the intervention and the content has been well developed. Further research and development is needed with regard to the wishes of the coaches to allow for more practical work during the intervention and examples of how to deal with issues such as conflicts. More research is also needed with regard to how the coach handles conflicts on the soccer field (before and after the intervention). The standardized questionnaires used give direction (same direction as in the interviews and openended questionnaires) on the professional development that was expressed in the interviews. The significant increase in General Self Efficacy and active approach during the course of the training program. The coaches had more confidence in their way of solving problems (conflicts) after the intervention. They were better able to look at a situation from all perspectives, make an overview of the issues at hand and work on a solution in a goal-oriented fashion with faith in being able to solve the problem.The significant effect of the active approach correlates with feelings of self-esteem and functioning adequately (Schreurs et al., 1993). The effects of the self-efficacy, when the score is high, is an influence on preparing action and choosing more challenging tasks (Bandura, 1997). Additionally, the high score on self-efficacy correlates with high self-esteem. So the two significant effects are not coincidental. The professional development of the Dutch soccer coaches is moving in the desired direction. Because the group of coaches in this study only consists of 48 participants, we have to be careful when drawing conclusions. The results are hopeful and point to further analysis of the data and continued research with the coach in the key position working as a catalyst for educating players by means of participation in sport. Keeping the better-trained soccer coach in the key position can be a catalyst for a positive contribution to education (through sport).
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