Critically investigating the complex, emergent (non)influence of sport coaching practice

Nichol, Adam (2020) Critically investigating the complex, emergent (non)influence of sport coaching practice. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Sport coaches have long been recognised as influential figures in the development of athletes. Despite this, evidence concerning coaching practice and its influence on others (e.g., athletes) is fragmented. Often, work in this area has produced romanticised portrayals of coaches as powerful leaders, who are able to directly control the actions of followers (e.g., athletes). Similarly, athletes have widely been cast as subservient recipients of coaching practice who (in some cases) are portrayed as being capable of either wholly conforming with or resisting the requests of coaches. As such, researchers, practitioners and other stakeholders in the coaching context are left with little clarity to inform the often subtle, dialectical and emergent realities of their work. Indeed, the extended literature review and more focused systematic review of this thesis shows that research investigating the influence of coaching practice has typically been approached from a positivist perspective, frequently portraying athletes’ experiences of and responses to practice as passive, linear, consistent and homogeneous. The dynamics of relational and emergent interaction between coaches and others therefore remain underexplored. We lack more intricate and complex causal explanations of how, when, why, and under which circumstances practice is influential (or not). Thus, the significance and novelty of the present thesis resides in its attempt to develop insights into both the intended and unintended influences of coaching practice as complex interactions between primarily structural and agential entities. A methodological bricolage of participant observation, semi-structured interviews and stimulated recall interviews was adopted to address the research questions as part of a critical realist ethnography of a representative-level cricket squad in the UK. In total, 182 hours of observational data and 46 hours of interview data were collected. Data were generated (and analysed) using the Critical Incident Technique (CIT) in order to produce retroductive and retrodictive explanation of coach (non)influence. Following emic analysis, Jones & Wallace’s (2005, 2006) theory of orchestration and Elder-Vass’ (2007, 2010a, 2012a) emergentist theory of action, norm circles and the causal power of social structures provided flexible heuristic devices to problematise, extend and develop (new) coaching theory. Findings provide novel insights into the (non)influence of coaching practice. These encompass: a) the mechanisms through which coaches influence (or not) others, b) the means through which (i.e., how, when, why, and under which circumstances) coaches orchestrate by endorsing or enforcing norms in attempt to influence others (e.g., athletes, other coaches), c) the importance of noticing (inter)action which conforms with, deviates from, endorses or enforces normative standards (on the part of both the coach and the athlete) in bringing about (non)influence, d) the means through which (i.e., how, when, why, and under which circumstances) athletes orchestrate by
(simultaneously) conforming with and/or resisting attempts of (multiple) coaches to influence them. Overall then, this thesis contributes to and extends the embryonic body of work which considers the situated, temporal and unintended (multiple) influences of coach (inter)action. Further, it considers the role of both social structure and conscious reflexivity in this process. Studying the influence of coaching in this way presents stakeholders with empirically and theoretically driven accounts which better reflect the often subtle, unobtrusive and dialectical realities of (non)influence in practice. As such, findings may help to support and develop the sociological literacy of coaches and those within their relational networks. The thesis also contributes a theoretical and methodological approach which can be implemented to investigate influence within other contexts.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: sport coach, influence, ethnography, Elder-Vass, emergence
Subjects: C600 Sports Science
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2020 08:11
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2022 08:30

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