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Coaches Outside the System: Research Report for sport coach UK

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This report examined the views and experience of coaches who consider themselves 'outside the sytem'. A pilot study collected 204 survey completions from 34 different sports with the majority of responding coaches being either unqualified, Level 1 or Level 2 in their sports. From this nine individual and nine focus group interviews were carried out. Key messages from this pilot study included:

  • 92% felt all coaches should continue to learn but then only 69% felt improving their coaching was important to them
  • The internet now appears to be the most popular source of coaching information for this group of coaches
  • 24% of these coaches did not or had not used any coaching organisation for support
  • 55 governing bodies represented with 38.7% of coaches experiencing support as opposed to 61.3% who did not feel supported

These coaches gave four main reasons for non-support

  • Little or no support offered
  •  Feelings of isolation
  •  Individuals, not NGBs, helpful
  •  Political agendas

According to these coaches the system consists of Level 3 coaches and above

  • Student sport does not belong within the system
  • Cynicism from coaches about coaching organisations and NGBs
  • According to these coaches the system is concerned about collecting money not supporting these coaches


Research suggests that despite the best efforts of sporting organisations coaches are still operating outside the strategic framework. Coaching is a very complex and dynamic task, often carried out in an ill-structured, constantly changing environment, which means that the coaching role can take many forms. Much of our research has accessed these coaches, examining their views on coach education, coach development and support as well as highlighting their philosophies and practices. We have found these coaches feel marginalised and therefore do not wish to join ‘sport’ organised activities and often actively opt out of the system. This research should help to reach some of these coaches and suggest an approach that is more inclusive.

Coaches in sport are given many opportunities to embrace new practice with the ultimate aim of developing team or individual performance. Problems arise as the coach attempts to make sense of all the available information or in some cases not to engage with coach education initiatives designed to help with coaching effectiveness. According to experienced coaches, learning from successful coaches is still considered an effective method of achieving the development of coaching knowledge. This would suggest that coaches need to be involved with the coaching system, whether that be a specific coaching organisation or national governing body

Coaches need to be part of a larger community to construct solutions to coaching problems that they face (Gilbert and Trudel 2001) and this can be done on an informal basis. Exponents of situated learning argue that through social interaction, authentic activity, and participation within communities of practice, coaches are better able to construct meaning in practical ways so that knowledge can be applied outside of formal learning settings (Kirshner, & Whitson, 1997; Lave, & Wenger, 1990). Within some sports settings and club environments there are sufficient coaches for this to occur organically however Culver and Trudel (2006) advocated the importance of a facilitator in the process, to ensure a positive learning outcome. This facilitator should be an experienced individual with an in-depth understanding of the types of issues faced by coaches, methods for resolving these issues as well as providing a platform for discussion and learning. It is not always necessary that the facilitator is involved in the same sport as the coaches or in some cases, sport in general.

How some coaches access and construct their knowledge to suit their particular coaching context can be a determining factor in their development. Coaches need to be aware and have knowledge and understanding of a diverse range of disciplines, such as learning theory, self-reflection, motivational climate and knowledge construction as well as the technical detail of their sport. They also need to develop communication and decision-making skills along with management and analytical proficiency. This vast array of information is not always going to be available from the one source, whether a coaching organisation, national governing body or coaching community. Coaches need to develop the tools to make sense of all the information on offer and more specifically to develop it for use in their own particular coaching environment. For this to happen coaches need, not only, to be involved within the sporting system but also actively engaged with a number of organisations, in order for them to maximise their coaching development and learning.

Many coaches thrive inside the coaching system, accessing coach education courses, networking opportunities as well as other formal development processes. Other coachesprefer non-formal learning sources such as contact with other coaches. King (1990) suggests that the process of constructing new knowledge or the process of transforming previous knowledge into new formats is actually enhanced through peer interaction. Additionally, Bleed (2000) reports on the importance of socialisation in the learning process. So, promoting learning partnerships and peer tutoring opportunities within coaching environments may be useful strategies to enhance greater academic understanding in adult learning environments. Another important aspect in the overall spectrum of knowledge acquisition is that informal learning which is deliberate and sustained. This learning can take place either alone or collectively, however support is necessary, whether from colleagues, coaching organisations, national governing bodies or other individuals. All of this evidence points to the importance of being involved within the coaching system to access development opportunities. A number of coaches actively opt out of this system whereas others drift out as a result of communication difficulties and limited engagement with coaching. However, given the number of coaches who could be operating outside the system, many organisations could benefit from further information as to who these coaches are and how to encourage them to engage or re-engage with the system.



 editors comments   

Editor's comments - [  The report was carried out by Christine Nash, John Sproule, Edward Hall & Cedric English from the Institute for Sport, Physical Education and Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.  ]  Reference this?Cryer, J. (Year). This page title in italics. Retrieved date, from In the text: Cryer (year)


APA reference for this document


Reference :   Nash, C., Sproule, N.,Hall, E.,English, C. (2013). Coaches Outside the System: Research Report for sport coach UK. Leeds: Sports Coach UK


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Download this file (Coaches outside the system.pdf)Coaches outside the system.pdfNash, C., Sproule, N.,Hall, E.,English, C. (2013). Coaches Outside the System: Research Report for sport coach UK. Leeds: Sports Coach UK
Last Updated on Friday, 03 May 2013 12:55  

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