Understanding Effective Coaching: A Foucauldian Reading of Current Coach Education Frameworks

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Zoe Avner University of Alberta

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Pirkko Markula University of Alberta

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Jim Denison University of Alberta

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Drawing on a modified version of Foucault’s (1972) analysis of discursive formations, we selected key coach education texts in Canada to examine what discourses currently shape effective coaching in Canada in order to detect what choices Canadian coaches have to know about “being an effective coach.” We then compared the most salient aspects of our reading to the International Sport Coaching Framework. Our Foucauldian reading of the two Canadian coach education websites showed that the present set of choices for coaches to practice “effectively” is narrow and that correspondingly the potential for change and innovation is limited in scope. Our comparison with the International Sport Coaching Framework, however, showed more promise as we found that its focus on the development of coach competences allowed for different coaching knowledges and coaching aims than a narrow focus on performance and results. We then conclude this Insights Paper by offering some comments on the implications of our Foucauldian reading as well as some suggestions to address our concerns about the dominance of certain knowledges and the various effects of this dominance for athletes, coaches, coach development and the coaching profession at large.

Pirkko Markula is a professor of socio-cultural studies of physical activity at the University of Alberta, Canada. She is the editor of several books and the co-author, with Michael Silk, of Qualitative Research for Physical Culture (Routledge, 2011), co-author with Richard Pringle, of Foucault, Sport and Exercise: Power, Knowledge and Transforming the Self (Routledge, 2006).

Zoë Avner currently works as the assistant head of Student Services at Campus Saint-Jean, the francophone faculty of the University of Alberta. Her role encompasses developing sociocultural programs and activities as well as undergraduate research and professional development opportunities in French for Campus Saint-Jean’s francophone students. She remains interested in the development of effective and ethical coaching practices for athlete development.

Jim Denison is an associate professor in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta, Canada. A sport sociologist and coach educator, his research examines the formation of coaches’ practices through a Foucauldian lens.

Address author correspondence to Jim Denison at jim.denison@ualberta.ca.
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