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Cushion, Armour, Jones 2003

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  COACH EDUCATION215215 Coach Education and ContinuingProfessional Development:Experience and Learningto Coach Christopher J. Cushion, Kathy M. Armour,and Robyn L. Jones Research over the last decade has demonstrated that it is experience and theobservation of other coaches that remain the primary sources of knowledgefor coaches. Despite this, coach education and continuing professional devel-opment fail to draw effectively on this experience. Using the work of PierreBourdieu, this paper attempts to understand how the “art of coaching” can becharacterized as structured improvisation and how experience is crucial tostructuring coaching practice. An examination of current coach education andassessment demonstrates that coaching practice viewed as a composite of knowledge has not specifically addressed the pervasive influence of experi-ence on coaching practice. Drawing on experiences from the educational field,we examine how coach education and continuing professional developmentcan utilize mentoring and critical reflection to situate learning in the practicalexperience of coaching. Until recently, although the importance of coaching to athlete developmentand national sporting success was increasingly being realized (Sports Coach UK,2002), there was little agreement as to a future strategic direction for the burgeon-ing profession. A recent commissioned report (“The development of coaching inthe United Kingdom,” 1999) brought this situation into stark relief and, subse-quently, initiated a process whereby the government-funded Sports Strategy Coach-ing Task Force recommended the development of National Occupational Stan-dards (NOS) for coaches working within the high performance environment. The   QUEST, 2003, 55 , 215-230© 2003 National Association for Physical Education in Higher Education Christopher J. Cushion is with the Center for Coaching and Performance Science,Department of Sport Science at Brunel University, Uxbridge UK. E-mail:Christopher.Cushion@Brunel.ac.uk. Kathy M. Armour is with the Department of PhysicalEducation and Sport at Loughborough University, UK. Robyn L. Jones is with the Depart-ment of Education at the University of Bath, UK.  216CUSHION, ARMOUR, AND JONES standards will, in turn, offer a foundation for the proposed New Coaching Certifi-cate and the improved National and Scottish Vocational Qualifications (N/SVQs)and, hence, form a base for the future of coach education within the UK. Thegovernment’s commitment to this process has been underlined by its allocation of £100 million to the World Class Performance Program in response to recommen-dations by the related Cunningham Report (2000), which considered coach educa-tion to be a crucial element in improving sporting standards.This investment has kicked off a broad consultative process into establish-ing the NOS for coaches, with pedagogical and particularly sport scientific knowl-edge destined to play leading roles (Sports Coach UK, 2002). Although the natureof the consultative process is welcome, if we are to develop imaginative, dynamic,and thoughtful coaches, we must widen the search beyond the “usual suspects” of content knowledge that has traditionally informed coach education programs. If we don’t, we run the risk of simply getting a souped up version of the same, aproduct that has recently been criticized by coaches and scholars alike as lackingrelevancy (Jones, Armour, & Potrac, in press; Saury & Durand, 1998). Alterna-tively, to develop a credible, practical, yet thoroughly holistic coach educationprogram, we need first to better ascertain the complex nature of coaching andcoaching knowledge itself before examining issues such as what constitutes con-tinuing professional development for coaches and devising ways to incorporate,develop, and improve it.Coaching is both an individual and a social process, which, because of itsvery nature, is inextricably linked to both the constraints and opportunities of hu-man interaction (Jones et al., in press). Indeed, at its heart lies the constructedconnection between coach and athlete within the wider structure of sport that isitself vulnerable to differing social pressures and constraints (Armour & Jones,2000; Cross, 1995; Cushion 2001; Tinning, 1982). Any activity that involves hu-man beings is a complex multivariate, interpersonal, and contested one, contestedat the levels of meaning, values, and practice (Cross & Lyle, 1999). Such pro-cesses, of which coaching is one, often appear unique and idiosyncratic (Lyle,1999, 2002), with the actions of coaches seemingly driven by impulse and intu-ition resulting in the profession being described as an “art” (Woodman, 1993). Infact, this recourse to art form is really a misnomer for “the under-investigatedpractice of coaches” (Lyle, 1999, p.12). Indeed, in bypassing problematic and in-tegrative elements of a coach’s role, which are often perceived to comprise the artof coaching, it could be argued that previous work in the area has oversimplified avery complex process (Cushion, 2001; Jones, Armour, & Potrac, in press; Lyle,1999, 2002). A particularly problematic yet significant element in this respect iscoaches’ knowledge. Although those who claim coaching an art would have usbelieve that good coaches are “born and not made,” such a view is increasinglyoutmoded, with experts’ knowledge in many fields (and how it is acquired) cur-rently being the focus of considerable investigation.While coaching is undeniably complex, coaches and what they do remain atthe epicenter of the process. This paper considers the development and nature of coaching knowledge and practice through the medium of coaches’ experiences,both formal and informal. It attempts to understand the relationship between theconscious and subconscious development of experiential knowledge and its im-pact upon coaches’ professional development and practice. Through critical  COACH EDUCATION217 examination of this relationship, the effectiveness of existing coach educa-tion is considered and recommendations for new forms of professional devel-opment made. Coaching and Experiential Knowledge In a review of the development of coaching as a profession, Woodman (1993)confirmed the assertion that the key to improved coaching lies with coach educa-tion and development. This view, allied with an expansion in sport participation(Gilbert & Trudel, 1999; Weiss & Gould, 1986), has resulted in the implementa-tion of coach education programs worldwide (Campbell, 1993; DeKnop, Engstrom,& Skirstad, 1996; Gilbert & Trudel, 2001). Yet, coaching experience and the ob-servation of other coaches remain primary sources of knowledge for coaches andcoaching (Cushion, 2001; Gilbert & Trudel 2001; Gould, Gianinni, Krane, & Hodge,1990; Salmela, 1996). For example, Gould et al. (1990) found that “one of themost important themes arising [in this context] was the importance of experientialknowledge and informal education” (p. 34). Inherent in the process of learninghow to coach, therefore, would appear to be an element of socialization within asubculture (Jones et al., in press), with a personal set of coaching views emergingfrom observations of, and interaction with, existing coaches of “how things shouldbe done” (Lyle, 1999).Arguably, coaches serve what is described in physical education as an ap-prenticeship of observation (Lortie, 1975; Sage, 1989; Schempp, 1989; Schempp& Graber, 1992). This can be divided into two phases: first, being observers andrecipients of coaching as performers and second, as neophyte coaches or assistantsworking with and observing experienced coaches. As performers themselves, fu-ture coaches have an unusually good opportunity to learn about coaching fromtheir own coaches. While Martens (1997) argues that this view only gives a partialview of coaching and may not reveal the true extent of the coaches role, Coakley(1978) notes that these experiences “are the channels through which the traditionalaccepted methods of coaching become integrated into the behavior of aspiringyoung coaches” (p. 241). Coaches, therefore, often serve an informal apprentice-ship of prolonged observation, which enables them to develop a familiarity withthe task of coaching (Cushion, 2001). Neophyte coaches and assistants are also, ineffect, serving an apprenticeship. However, this is often not formally organized, asassistant coaches do not serve for a specific time nor are they required to demon-strate particular skills to move beyond apprentice status (Sage, 1989). Observingthe behavior of more experienced coaches during practice and games and listeningduring informal periods leaves its mark on novice coaches. It is largely throughsuch experiences that collective understandings begin to develop, and the sharedmeanings about the occupational culture of coaching starts to take shape. There-fore, much of what a new coach learns is through ongoing interactions in the prac-tical coaching context, as well as a variety of informal sources. This enculturationprovides continuity with lessons learned earlier as a performer.Consequently, through participation and observation from a player throughto becoming a coach, methods of coaching are experienced and witnessed. Thesemethods are steeped in a culture, which, in turn, are internalized and embodied. Itis also worth noting that the learning taking place may involve things that were not  218CUSHION, ARMOUR, AND JONES present in coaching observed. As Dodds remarks, “ignorance is not neutral” (1985,p. 93). Indeed, Kirk (1992) suggests that things that are, intentionally or uninten-tionally, left out of practice remain significant in passing on messages about thatpractice. Even though coaches’ past experiences are uneven in quality and incom-plete, they form a screen or filter through which all future expectations will pass(Schempp & Graber, 1992). Coaches thus come to see and interpret future coach-ing events and observations on the basis of this early experiential foundation (Cush-ion, 2001; Jones et al., in press). Such formative experiences carry far into a coach’scareer and provide a continuing influence over perspectives, beliefs, and behav-iors. This, as will be seen, has implications for the impact of coach education.Regardless of the method of entry into coaching, it would appear that thetechnical aspects of coaching and the coaching culture are often acquired throughobserving and listening to more experienced coaches. This appears to be a consis-tent finding in related research. For example, in two separate studies of high levelcoaches, Gould et al. (1990) and Salmela, Cote, and Baria (1994), both identifiedthat the most important sources responsible for the development of coaches’ knowl-edge were experience and other coaches. A decade later, Cushion (2001) onceagain confirmed experience and other coaches as significant forces in shaping thedevelopment of coaches and impacting the way they do things within the coachingprocess. As a result, it would seem that a large part of coaching knowledge andpractice is based on experiences and personal interpretations of those experiences.However, this is not to say that all experienced coaches are competent (Bell, 1997;Gilbert & Trudel, 2001), although to become a competent coach, it would appearthat significant experience is required (Cushion, 2001; Lyle, 2002). These empiri-cal findings raise a number of issues relevant to coach education and ultimatelycoaching practice. First, how has coach education impacted and changed the coach-ing process over time? The thread of history and tradition seen running throughcoaching practice and the coaching process presents a compelling argument thatperhaps coach education has had a limited impact on the coaching process andcoaching practice (Cushion, 2001). Moreover, as Rossi and Cassidy (1999) re-mind us, coach education is a relatively “low impact” endeavor compared with thehours spent as a player, assistant coach, and coach. It could be argued, therefore,that coach education is unable to compete with the coaches’ integrated sportingand coaching experiences. Understanding Experience:What Does Bourdieu Bring to Coaching? Although sociology has seen scant service in an analysis of the coachingprocess, the work of Bourdieu would seem particularly appropriate in giving in-sight into the apparent impromptu art of coaching and understanding how experi-ence contributes to practice. The following section, therefore, focuses on the work and key concepts of Bourdieu in explaining and understanding coaching, thus il-lustrating its potential contribution to future coach education programs. ForBourdieu, far from being off-the-cuff improvisation, practice is a blend of the con-scious and the unconscious, which manifests itself as second nature. Alternatively,he considered that a feel for the game involved being a competent social actor thatresulted from the absorption of appropriate social actions and mores (Jones, 2000).
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