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From a Junior Coach to the Senior Ranks: Relational Transition From a Collaborative Autoethnographic Perspective

Jaakko A.O. Nikander and Tatiana V. Ryba

Coaches are key people influencing athletes’ careers and their development, especially when athletes approach the junior-to-senior transition. Junior-to-senior mobility also includes transitioning into a new psychosocial environment, including changes in cultural narratives and expectations for both an athlete and their coach. The purpose of this study was to contribute knowledge about a sports coach’s career development and transitions by theorizing a relational co-construction of transitions from the junior level to the senior level. The cultural transition model was used as a conceptual framework to explore the temporality of the first author’s (Jakob) relational transition. To coproduce Jakob’s story, a collaborative autoethnographic approach was utilized. A photo-elicitation method and cyclical interviewing were used to generate the data followed by a thematic narrative analysis. The results indicated that the dominant narratives of elite sport and relation to the athlete shaped Jakob’s subject position, from which he projected his future career as a coach during the transition. Central to relational transition is the understanding that the meaning (re)construction and negotiation of cultural practices occur through interactions with repositioning. The subjective repositioning of both the athlete and the coach can impact the dynamics and outcomes of the transition process.

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Elite Coaches’ Role in Athletes’ Retirement Transitions: A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis

Christopher J. Brown

The aim of the research was to understand how prominent sociocultural discourses influenced how coaches construct athletes’ transition out of sport and position themselves within the process of retirement. Interviews with eight male elite coaches were analysed using a Foucauldian Discourse Analysis. Coaches’ talk about athletes’ transitions out of sport was constructed within the dominant performance discourse in sport. This suggests years of adhering to disciplinary practices of elite sport left athletes underprepared for the next steps in their life. Even when constructing retirement in more positive terms, this was done in ways that drew on ideas of high performance and objective success. Coaches’ own positions within transitions were discussed by drawing on ideas from a patriarchal construction of the coach–athlete relationship. Here, coaches are positioned as father figures with responsibility for guiding athletes through their careers and transitions out of sport. However, coaches suggested that the policies, procedures, and processes within wider networks of power inside sport often restricted their capacity to support athletes during their transitions. Future research and practice are aimed at helping coaches to navigate the power dynamics of sporting structures and organisations.

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The Learner-Centered Curriculum: Is it the Missing Piece in Coaching Programs?

Lincoln Cruz Martins, Andrea J. Woodburn, and Michel Milistetd

Sports federations and national sports organizations worldwide are responsible for coaching education programs. While notable progress has been made to improve the quality of coaching in different countries over the past two decades, the literature still highlights limitations in coach education programs regarding the achievement of meaningful learning. A learner-centered perspective that promotes ongoing development is suggested instead of a traditional instructional approach to overcome this. However, shifting to adopting a learner-centered curriculum remains a challenge. Although evidence of the paradigm shift exists within the microcontext of teaching and learning, researchers highlight the difficulty of application of a learner-centered culture in coach education. This article examines the traditional curriculum’s conception and design, the need for restructuring, and the principles of learner-centered curricular design. Additionally, it provides practical implications to assist sports organizations in creating a learner-centered curriculum.

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Volume 11 (2024): Issue 2 (May 2024)

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Becoming More Authentic as an Elite Coach: The Case Study of Erkka Westerlund

Clifford J. Mallett, Vladislav A. Bespomoshchnov, Markus Arvaja, Steven Rynne, and Jukka Tiikkaja

In this empirical case study, we examine one of Finland’s most successful and respected coaches, Erkka Westerlund. Specifically, we adopted a career-focussed approach that traces his growth as an ice hockey coach through an in-depth understanding of his journey, including his early foray into coaching at 12 years of age, his eventual dismissal as a coach at 42 years of age, his hiatus from coaching, and then his return to national and international honours. The case is comprised of multiple data sources such as semistructured interviews and a raft of secondary sources such as media publications about the participant, his autobiography, and video recordings of him speaking at various conferences and events. Data were analysed through indwelling and reflexive thematic analysis. The pivotal turning point in Erkka Westerlund’s coaching journey was a 6-year sabbatical from coaching (1991–1997). This sabbatical was transformative for him as a person and coach. Specifically, this transformation clarified and aligned his coaching and personal identities, who he was as a person (core values), and the subsequent transformation of his coaching practices that led to national and international success.

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Coaching Across Borders: Lessons From Finnish High-Performance Ice Hockey Coaches

Vladislav A. Bespomoshchnov, Clifford J. Mallett, Mika Saarinen, Mika Vähälummukka, and Markus Arvaja

Sport coaching has become globalized. Finnish ice hockey is an example of this globalization of a coaching workforce. Indeed, the success of Finnish ice hockey teams in the international arena has been fueling the demand for coaches and players from this country worldwide. Yet, despite the increasing trends of migration of the workforce in sports, there is limited research that is conducted on the experiences of foreign coaches. Thus, in this study, we aimed to expand our understanding of the work of high-performance coaches in the globalized sports context. A case study design was adopted. The participants were 14 Finnish high-performance head coaches with transnational career experiences across 11 nations. Qualitative data were collected via semistructured interviews. Reflexive thematic analysis guided how the authors made sense of these data. Three major themes were (a) preparation practices, (b) acculturation, and (c) emerging learning experiences. The findings provide helpful insights for (a) coach developers when preparing practitioners to work in different cultural settings, (b) club administrators to further inform their decisions when recruiting and working with foreign coaches, and (c) sports’ governing bodies to develop policies to support coaches’ acculturation in the new country.

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Practice Design and Coaching to Support Learning in Elite Youth Soccer Players: Recommendations From International Coaches, Coach Educators, and Researchers

Fynn Bergmann, Svenja Wachsmuth, Donna O’Connor, Paul Larkin, Damir Dugandzic, and Oliver Höner

Providing optimal learning support is a major challenge within talent development settings. To accomplish this challenge, practitioners’ decisions, and actions should be informed by a blend of practical experiences and academic knowledge. This study explored experts’ recommendations on how to facilitate learning in elite adolescent soccer players during practice. Special focus was dedicated to why certain practice and coaching approaches were recommended to better understand experts’ justifications. Eighteen semistructured interviews were conducted with international experts representing three complementary groups of expertise (i.e., six of each soccer coaches; coach educators/developers; and researchers in talent development, motor learning, or coaching pedagogy). By employing a reflexive thematic analysis three themes were constructed: (I) differentiating overarching learning goals to address players’ individual needs, (II) designing purposeful training sessions with the game in mind, and (III) coaching interventions to support player learning within a group environment. Overall, the experts recommended the complementary use of different practice and coaching strategies to address individual learning needs. While some strategies may be associated with conflicting theoretical paradigms and established pedagogical approaches, the findings inform a purposeful integration of those different approaches in practical work. Therefore, participants’ recommendations can be discussed by integrating interdisciplinary theoretical perspectives.

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Reimagining the Coach–Athlete–Environment Relationships in the Digital Communications Era

Sarah Taylor, Ian Renshaw, Ross Pinder, Remco Polman, Keith Davids, and Adam D. Gorman

The evolution of 4G and 5G digital technologies is (re)shaping contemporary methods of coaching by removing the requirement for coaches to be physically present at practice and competition venues. This technological advance provides opportunities for sports organisations, especially those with limited resources, to implement innovative learning and performance solutions by delivering remote coaching. In this insight paper, we reimagine what “the coaching environment” could look like by considering how the remote context may shape coaching. Currently, there is limited understanding of the use and implementation of such approaches, highlighting a need for further research to be conducted to better understand how online environments may impact the coaching process. We propose how adopting an ecological dynamics approach may align with existing research within coaching science and contemporary theorising in skill acquisition and motor learning, advocating a learner-centred approach to coaching. We then introduce and discuss the work of Roger Barker with a focus on “behaviour settings” and how this perspective may provide a lens for future research to explore different coaching environments. When complemented by ethnographic methodologies, this approach may provide a novel way to understand how coach–athlete interactions are framed in situ.

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Talent Development Coaching: Challenges and Realities

Stephen McKeown and John Lyle

Academic literature has paid considerable attention to talent identification but much less to talent environments and the challenges facing sport coaches in such a domain. This paper provides insights into the challenges facing a coach in a resource-constrained environment, with goal ambiguity between immediate performance success and longer-term player development. Having identified prescriptions for good practice, the paper recounts the first author’s experience in attempting to accommodate conflicting goals and a novel performance model, within an Under-19 national volleyball squad. Particular attention is paid to recruitment, stakeholder perceptions, player commitment, a shared performance model across age groups, and longer-term player welfare. The paper concludes with a reminder that in such situations, coach support and welfare should also be a concern for sport federations.