‘Let Them Get on With It’: Coaches’ Perceptions of Their Roles and Coaching Practices During Olympic and Paralympic Games

in International Sport Coaching Journal
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How coaches prepare and perform is critical for athletes’ performances (Gould, Guinan, Greenleaf & Chung, 2002), however, little is known about coaches’ roles and coaching practices during major competitions such as the Olympic or Paralympic Games. To assist coaches in their efforts to improve athletes’ performances in competition environments, greater understanding is needed about the coaching process during major competitions and how coaches prepare and perform. Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to examine track and field coaches’ perceptions of their roles and coaching practices during competition at major events. Eight coaches, seven male and one female, who had coached one or more athletes to an Olympic or Paralympic medal were interviewed. Inductive content analysis indicated that creating an athlete focused supportive environment, detailed preparation and planning, use of effective observation and limited intervention, coach and athlete psychological preparation and managing the process were salient during competition at major events. These findings suggest that during major competition the coach’s role is supportive and facilitative. Actions are largely unobtrusive and in response to athletes’ needs, but remain as detailed as other phases of the coaching process. The findings are discussed in relation to the coach as orchestrator.

Darren Ritchie is a former International long jumper, and has represented Great Britain and Scotland at European and Commonwealth level respectively. He holds a Master’s Degree in Performance Coaching and is the Performance Manager at Scottish athletics, where he is responsible for the National Coach Development Programme. He has performed the role of team coach/leader at both European Junior championships and at a number of Commonwealth Games. His athletes have also represented GB and Scotland at both World and Commonwealth level.

Justine Allen, PhD, is the Programme Director for the taught postgraduate programmes in coaching at the University of Stirling in Scotland. Her research focuses on examining the coaching process and the coach-created psychosocial environment. She has consulted with and supported coaches, athletes, and coach developers from a wide range of sports. She is also a national age group coach.

Address author correspondence to Justine Allen at justine.allen@stir.ac.uk.
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