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This paper provides sociological reflections on the professionalization of sport coaching and the attempts of sport coaches to attain such a status. It explicates existing sociological analyses of the professions, highlighting and critiquing the so-called “trait” approach which currently dominates discussions of the professionalization of sport coaching. It subsequently suggests that the “power approach” to professions, as epitomized by the work of Johnson, Larson and Abbott, provides a more realistic depiction of professionalization, alerting us to the conflictual and exclusionary aspects endemic in such a process. Finally the paper explores some twenty-first century trends towards the declining influence and social power of professional groups, and the specific characteristics and social standing of sport coaching which will serve to constrain sport coaches from achieving the goal of professional status. This analysis leads us to question whether professionalization should be viewed as an inherently “positive” development, and whether professionalization is a realistic goal for an occupational group such as sport coaching.
Malcolm is with the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Leicestershire, UK. Pinheiro and Pimenta are with the Centre for the Study of Education, Technologies and Health, Higher Institute of Maia, Porto, Portugal.