By: Christopher Hickey

I love surfing through the SportsCoachUK website. Nothing like it based in the US. Chuck full of information for coaches and those who develop them. Never disappointed when I go there for information and resources.

Recently I discovered a SportsCoachUK study dated January 2010 study titled “Coach Learning & Development: A Review of Literature.”

The purpose of this literature review was to provide an overview and analysis of literature on coach learning or how coaches learn to be better coaches. The review focused on all the processes and structures that enable coaches to construct and develop the knowledge required to be effective coaches.

In summary, their findings were:

  • There is a relative absence of research into coach learning
  • Coach learning is influenced by a complex mix of formal, non-formal, informal directed and self-directed learning experiences. Moreover, this mix for coaches is largely individualized and ad hoc.
  • Research available was limited by a tendency by researchers to focus on expert or elite coaches who tend to favor self-directed learning.
  • Current (as of Jan 2010) research gives little insight into the teaching and learning preferences, and needs, of coaches across coaching domains.

Some of their recommendations based upon their findings include:

  • Reflection, mentoring and situated learning can structure learning, but each of these is not without their own issues. These methods require time and effort to develop and become embedded into coach learning. They need research evidence linking them to changes (Hickey note: positive changes I hope!) in coaching practice.
  • Mentoring plays a key role in informal and formal learning. It can be experienced both positively and negatively and needs more research evidence to identify its impact on coaching practice.
  • There has been scant systematic research on the effects of coach learning on improvements in coaching practice or on athlete outcomes. Coach learning needs effective longitudinal evaluation without it is impossible to determine what works, why and for whom.
This is all very interesting but reinforces one belief I have–that coaching is an understudied profession and as a result, lacks the solid data and related findings to guide the creation of the right coaching development systems.

That being said, does this mean we should abandon what coach training and education programs we have now? No, trained coaches are better than untrained ones. See our thinking on the benefits of coaching education online here. You can download our whitepaper and fact sheet on that topic here.

Subscribe to Email Newsletter
Share this article to...