An examination of the philosophies, behaviours and practices present within grassroots soccer, considering the perspectives of coaches and coach educators

Hooper, David Neil (2020) An examination of the philosophies, behaviours and practices present within grassroots soccer, considering the perspectives of coaches and coach educators. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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The aim of the presented thesis was to explore the varying perceptions of coaching philosophy, behaviours and practice, held by grassroots soccer coaches and coach educators. The purpose of the study was to gain an insight into the philosophical considerations of grassroots soccer coaches, and how this was portrayed in their coaching practice. The research holds importance as there is currently an absence of philosophical thought in terms of coaching philosophy, with research spending minimal time exploring the axiological, ontological, epistemological and ethical viewpoints of coaches (Hardman & Jones, 2013). Due to this lack of clarity, coaching philosophy is not reflected in practice leading to a detached approach to coaching (Lyle & Cushion, 2017). Furthermore, there is a lack of work focused on the prevalence of folk pedagogies and limits of reflective practices within grassroots soccer coaching which the study aimed to advance.

To begin to address this gap, research was undertaken within the context of grassroots soccer coaches. The research lasted over a period of three years, and consisted of a systematic review of literature, grassroots coach interviews, systematic coach behaviour observations and coach educator interviews. A mixed-method approach was taken, utilising a pragmatic theoretical framework. Data of a qualitative nature was analysed using thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006), whilst the observational data was analysed using the Coach Analysis Intervention System (CAIS: Cushion, Harvey, Muir & Nelson, 2012).

The main research findings outline that grassroots soccer coaches were not necessarily forthcoming in placing their philosophic enquiry highly in their role as a coach (Cushion & Partington 2014; Cushion et al., 2003). Furthermore, what was evident was an apparent disconnect between their discussions and intended practice. It seems that an understanding of philosophy might help grassroots coaches to develop a more consistent approach to their coaching. To lead the grassroots coaches towards this, coach educators should bring attention to what matters to said coaches, with the aim of delivering philosophically aligned coaching practice (Nash et al., 2008). The practical observations found that a prescriptive approach to coaching was dominant with the grassroots coaches, suggesting that the coaches are delivering practices that do not align with recommended, and age-appropriate, activities (Ford et al., 2010). For example, the coaches utilised a higher number of behaviours relating to instructions (46%) compared to questioning (29%), which may be useful information for coach educators to be aware of. Furthermore, the role of reflection was not highlighted by grassroots coaches as a useful activity in terms of connecting their philosophy to their practice, nor to develop overall as coaches. When discussing such considerations with the coach educators, there was a disparity between the acknowledged importance of reflection, and the time spent in a formal learning environment, meticulously teaching reflection with the grassroots soccer coaches. This suggests that minimal consideration is given by grassroots soccer coaches who graduate from coach education courses, due to their lack of understanding with regards to critically considering knowledge they are taught and how this can be transferred into their own practice (Buysse et al., 2003). Findings also highlighted philosophical differences held between coach educators and grassroots coaches, outlining the need for coach educators to provide individual support coaches during their coaching journey to ensure engagement and progression.

A recommendation, therefore, would be to place more emphasis on reflection to further enhance and continually develop grassroots coaching, whilst providing further movement away from the prescriptive past of coach education. A greater focus on the role of reflection would provide the learner with an opportunity to be autonomous in their development, by critically examining their philosophic viewpoints in conjunction with their coaching behaviours and practices. This would lead to the overcoming of problems and issues associated with their coaching, whether that be their philosophy, practice or their process. Furthermore, opportunities have been presented throughout the thesis highlighting the role grassroots coaches play in young soccer participants lives and therefore the need for The Football Association to retain coaches and provide a support network for their development.

The collective findings of this thesis may provide coaches, coach educators and policy makers involved within grassroots soccer with clearer insights into the support required for those coaching within this setting. Recommendations from this thesis include that coach education provide greater clarity regarding coaching philosophy and the transference of such considerations into practice, along with the role reflection can play in the fostering, applying of philosophical concepts and critical evaluation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: sport coaching, coach education, coaching philosophy, coaching practice, reflective practice
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: 20 Jul 2021 07:59
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2022 14:30

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