Celebrating 10 Years of Sport Coaching Research Publications: Past Context and Future Directions

in International Sport Coaching Journal

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Bettina CallaryCape Breton University, Sydney, NS, Canada

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Volume 10 is a big birthday celebration for the International Sport Coaching Journal (ISCJ)! Now beginning the 10th year since its inception, ISCJ has undergone growth and maturation that deserve some attention. Therefore, when Hirsh and colleagues told me about their scoping review of Original Research articles published between 2014 and 2020 in the ISCJ, I was intrigued: First, this data could provide a historical context for the creation and development of ISCJ. Second, it could provide direction with regard to the current aims and scope of the journal. Third, it gives me the chance to share with the readership and reviewers of the journal some important research trends and needs moving forward. Thus, I share some insights that I gleaned from Hirsh and colleagues’ commentary, as well as providing some recommendations on submissions of Original Research for ISCJ moving forward.

In 2021, after leading the ISCJ for 1 year and reviewing the incoming submissions, I noticed a trend of more Original Research contributions. Thus, I reworded the mission and scope of ISCJ in 2021 to focus more directly on two types of manuscripts (Original Research and Practical Advances), with Original Research contributions filling roughly 70% of each issue. Hirsh and colleagues have confirmed this trend, noting the increase in Original Research articles in each year between Volume 1 and Volume 7. Importantly, the authors also found that the majority of participants in the Original Research articles were coaches (78.3%). This is significant because the modified mission statement positions the coach as a central figure in the research that is published herein (see Callary, 2021). This is not to say that ISCJ does not accept manuscript submissions in which athletes, other sport professionals, or even non sport-related individuals are subjects and/or participants; however, the data generated must inform coaching practice and must have been collected for the purposes of advancing coaching research.

Hirsch and colleagues further pointed out interesting demographics about research participants. Specifically, males comprised 64.3% of the coaches studied. There were very few studies that involved only women coaches, and those studies specifically investigated the experiences of female coaches. However, male-only samples were all used to investigate coaching in general. What this means is that the research is generalizing male coaches’ data across all coaches. This is problematic. Future submissions must ensure that if the samples comprise only male participants, that it is clear that the data addresses men (men’s views, perspectives, opinions, and experiences). Let this also be a call out to researchers to examine nonbinary, gender-fluid, two-spirit, and transgender coaching issues, of which there were no studies published in ISCJ between 2014 and 2020. Furthermore, I urge authors to report the race of participants in their studies, which were largely underreported in the majority of previous issues, so that, as a coaching research community, we become able to consider that coaches of different racial backgrounds may have different responses to the research questions posed. ISCJ is the portal, but the authors are the researchers and contributors, and thus ISCJ encourages and supports demographic transparency and contributions that address the perspectives of equity-deserving groups.

Similarly, the samples were typically from Europe and North America. ISCJ encourages submissions from authors who reside in or do coaching research from around the world. Nonetheless, I do acknowledge the difficulty of this request. ISCJ is an English journal, and thus we would expect a greater number of submissions from English-speaking countries. Furthermore, coach research is a relatively new field of study and while it is growing, both the research and evidence-based practice in coaching and coach development is still not necessarily well established worldwide. ISCJ encourages authors from countries who do not have robust coaching research scholarship or whose first language is not English and those who are not well versed in academic writing in English to collaborate with senior coaching researchers in order to support their ongoing efforts. Several times, ISCJ has paired such individuals together toward successful publication of manuscripts, and we will continue to do so. Interested authors can contact me directly with their ideas.

Hirsh and colleagues also discussed various methodological trends in ISCJ. They found that more than half of the published articles were qualitative, which is an interesting statistic that I had guessed. Given that historically, qualitative research is underrepresented in sport sciences and even in closely related fields such as sport psychology, this finding is noteworthy. However, coaching is a complex and nonlinear relational activity, and it lends itself well to qualitative research. This is not to say that more quantitative and mixed-methods research is not needed and indeed, these methodologies are appreciated. Given the predominance of qualitative research, it was surprising that a majority of studies did not report the research paradigm. The trend indicated that this became more common in each volume, and I concur that the importance of outlining the research paradigm has grown over the past decade, and continues to be important today. This is a call to researchers to be more evident of their paradigmatic, epistemological, and ontological worldviews, so that the commensurability of their research can be reviewed with an eye to its appropriateness.

Finally, Hirsch and colleagues reported on common topics of study, with coach development, coach behaviors, coach knowledge, outcomes of coaching, coach relationships, coaching philosophy, coaching roles, coach well-being, and coach characteristics predominating (in that rank order). Importantly, when the mission of the journal was redeveloped in 2021, it included calls for manuscripts about, for, and with coaches regarding the coaching process, coaching environment, coach education and development, coaching practices, and coaching profession. These align well with the editorial board members’ areas of expertise, which includes coach development, relationships, outcomes of coaching, issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion, as well as qualitative/quantitative expertise, and expertise across related fields (psychology, sociology, pedagogy, and philosophy). Indeed, the focus on coaching development and coaching behaviors appear to meet the demand from sport organizations worldwide looking to design and deliver evidence-based programming for coaches. This could be seen in the 2018 Special Issue for Coach Developers, and the upcoming Special Issues in Technology-Enhanced Coaching (especially due to COVID changes and regulations) as well as Coach Transitions (exploring how coaches transition into and out of their various roles and the development that occurs as a result). Given the increased attention to mental health as a result of worldwide events and changing landscapes, we may see more attention given to this topic with regard to coaching and coach development in the coming years.

It is with these key findings in mind from ISCJ’s Volumes 1–7 that we start Volume 10—10 years into the process and we have witnessed the rapid expansion of publications in coaching through various academic journals and outlets. We are pleased that authors and readers have continued to place their interests, and academic, and practitioner confidence in the publications coming from ISCJ.


Callary, B. (2021). Practical advances in sport coaching research. International Sport Coaching Journal, 8(3), 281282. https://doi.org/10.1123/ISCJ.2021-0044

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The author (Bettina_Callary@cbu.ca) is Editor-in-Chief of ISCJ.

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