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‘[Riding] by the seat of our [Lycra]’: Understanding British Cycling’s Coach Education Pathway

Wood, S (2020) ‘[Riding] by the seat of our [Lycra]’: Understanding British Cycling’s Coach Education Pathway. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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The introduction of the UK Coaching Certificate (UKCC) in 2004 treated professionalisation of sport coaching as a linear process. This neglected the social, messy reality of the coaching process and overlooked the subtle cultural differences between sports. Consequently, the UKCC was not as effective as first hoped and has now become more of a reference point than active policy. It has been criticised for deskilling coaches through indoctrination, for being decontextualised from the complex nature of coaching, and for covering irrelevant topics. The result is a dominant narrative that claims formal coach education is under-resourced, lacks leadership, direction and quality assurance. This leaves coaches perceiving their formal educational experiences as less helpful in practice, compared to less structured learning opportunities. This research applied Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological model of human development as a theoretical framework to sport coaching for the first time. Embedded in the interpretivist paradigm, this research employed Blumer’s (1969) symbolic interactionism as a methodological framework. The result was an exploration of the learning ecologies of sport coaches, from the macro to the micro. This piece of work studied the political, socio-, economic-, cultural and historical backdrop (the macrosystem) to the development, implementation and delivery of British Cycling’s formal coach education provision (the exosystem). This research gave the National Governing Body a platform to tell the untold story of developing formal coach education programmes. This highlighted how the controls were not in place to support, or ensure, the standardisation that UKCC promised. In this way, British Cycling were powerless to the implemented national policy, powerless to a national drive to improve elite sport at an international level and sold a dream. Transitioning away from UKCC-endorsed programmes is seen as a backward step as there is currently no suitable framework to replace the UKCC. Formal education is important to professionalising the coaching workforce as it controls the dissemination of knowledge and establishes entry routes to the coaching role through the delivery and regulation of formal qualifications. This regulates the recruitment of coaches and standardises the delivery and expectations of practitioners. This presents National Governing Bodies with a dilemma. Many researchers have made idealistic prescriptions for coaching, but there is a need to develop pertinent frameworks that can improve learning and practice within different populations and maintain trainees’ motivations and engagement with their formal education experiences. Although formal coach education has attracted the attention of numerous scholars, there is a dearth of studies that have attempted to directly investigate, or evaluate, a coach education programme. Research investigating coach learning is yet to provide specific, structured, evidence-based suggestions that coaches can use to enhance their learning and effectiveness. It appears that the relative success of coach education starts with the individual’s past experiences and networks of existing knowledge, beliefs and values. Crucially, this means that the same coach education opportunity has a different impact on different individuals, depending on each individual’s unique starting point. As such, finding ways to deliver formal education in ways that more effectively takes into account trainees’ biographies might increase the effectiveness of formal education and trainees’ engagement with these programmes. This research identified three ‘types’ of coaches attending British Cycling’s formal education – three narratives: performance, discovery and relational. Employing a micro-ethnography methodology over fifteen months, this work gained a deeper understanding of eight individuals’ insight and experiences of attending British Cycling’s formal education (the mesosystem). Then, by capturing participants’ experiences of coaching as they entered their coaching contexts following their formal education (their microsystem), this PhD explored how effectively British Cycling’s formal education prepared participants for their role as qualified coaches. In addition, this data captured coaches learning within their everyday context. These findings, for the first time, align trainee coaches to different narrative types. Each narrative experienced formal coach education differently, each valuing different mechanisms and outcomes. Further, each narrative type constructed different learning ecologies distinct to their narrative. It is proposed that these findings offer a ‘soft start’ to informing British Cycling’s delivery of their formal education as they move towards more holistic, personalised models of formal sport coach education. Of course, it is likely that more narratives are identifiable and that coaches can transition from one narrative type to another during the course of their coaching career. Therefore, it is recommended that future research applies Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological model of human development to different sports, across more diverse sample sizes.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sport Coaching; Learning; Ecologies of learning; Formal education
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of education
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure > GV561 Sports > GV711 Coaching
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure > GV561 Sports
Divisions: Sport & Exercise Sciences
Date Deposited: 25 Aug 2020 13:24
Last Modified: 05 Oct 2022 08:46
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00013523
Supervisors: Roberts, S and Richardson, D
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/13523
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