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A Formative, Utilization-Focused Evaluation of USA Swimming’s Nationwide Online Coach Education Program

Andrew P. Driska

Large-scale online coach education programs have become a preferred method of compulsory training for sport governing bodies. In particular, USA Swimming launched a revised online version of its Foundations of Coaching program in 2013. To evaluate its effectiveness, a utilization-focused evaluation was employed to engage program decision-makers in the process of inquiry. After conducting program elicitation exercises with program decision-makers, semi-structured interviews with 21 participant coaches examined course effects on knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours related to coaching swimming. Coaches indicated learning and implementing changes to their coaching of swimming skills, but also indicated the adoption of developmentally-appropriate training practices, which was supported by a corresponding attitude change towards developmentally-appropriate training. Goal setting and incorporating fun into workouts were also endorsed. The evaluation uncovered positive perceptions of the course, and showed that using the course to initiate an ongoing conversation between USA Swimming and its membership could help extend learning opportunities and professional development. The course’s effect on some attitudes (but not others) showed how intentionality of course design and pedagogy were linked to attitude formation. Future evaluations show promise for improving the function of similar large-scale coach education programs.

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Evaluating a Problem-Based Group Learning Strategy for Online, Graduate-Level Coach Education

Andrew P. Driska and Daniel R. Gould

Research has shown that coaches learn through reflective practice (Trudel & Gilbert, 2006), that communities of practice can assist the reflective process (Culver & Trudel, 2008), and that problem-based learning can increase critical thought by coaches (Jones & Turner, 2006). To help coaches develop reflective practice skills in an online course, the authors designed and implemented a novel assignment combining the principles of a community of practice with problem-based learning. Small groups of students were presented with a problem scenario and then met synchronously online using a low bandwidth group chat application (EtherPad) to diagnose the problem, strategize, and outline a solution. Students were able to conduct group meetings with only minor technical diffculties, and their written work demonstrated that a moderate level of refection had occurred. Future assignment redesigns should allow more opportunities for student-instructor interaction to facilitate greater development of student reflective practice skills.

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Elite Swimming Coaches’ Perceptions of Mental Toughness

Andrew P. Driska, Cindra Kamphoff, and Suzannah Mork Armentrout

Using the mental toughness framework of Jones, Hanton and Connaughton (2007), the authors interviewed thirteen highly-experienced swimming coaches in a two-part study to determine the specific mental toughness subcomponents present in mentally tough swimmers, and to examine the factors that led swimmers to develop mental toughness. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using methods outlined by Creswell (2007). While confirming eleven of thirteen subcomponents of mental toughness previously identified by Jones et al. (2007), the participants identified (a) “coachability” and (b) “retaining psychological control on poor training days” as previously unidentified subcomponents of mental toughness. In the second part of the study, the authors identified six higher-order themes describing how both the coach and the swimmer acted to develop mental toughness in the swimmer. Implications for researchers, swimming coaches, and sport psychology consultants are discussed.