Doing research with high-performing coaches: reflection on a case study in international rugby union

Edward Hall, Shirley Gray, John Kelly, Amanda Martindale, John Sproule

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Introduction Criticism has been levelled at research for its lack of impact on the coaching process. The origins of this theory-practice gap lie, in part, in the way coaching research has traditionally been undertaken – the coach has been treated as the “other” to be studied by the coaching “scientist”. Consequently, methods that maintain an “objective” distance between researcher and participant have been popular. In addition, high-performance sport is often off limits to researchers, as coaches remain secretive about what they do in order to protect a perceived competitive advantage. Thus, when trying to advance a more authentic understanding of the complexities of real-world, high-performance coaching through, for example, ethnographic methods (where the researcher becomes part of the coaching context) various philosophical and practical challenges must be overcome. The purpose of this presentation is to explore these challenges. Method Following a mixed-methods, season-long, ethnographic case study of the coaching process in international rugby union, the researcher and coach engaged in a series of collaboratively reflexive interviews to reflect upon their experiences together. These were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. As part of the broader study, the data analysis was informed by the principles of grounded theory, which included inductive and deductive reasoning. Findings The findings highlight challenges and opportunities inherent in the coming together of coach and researcher in the coaching context, which serve to identify how the coaching process and research process were interrelated. Key themes to be discussed include continually negotiating access to the high performance context, trying to blend in as an “outsider”, remaining flexible and influencing the data as a researcher. This presentation will take a pragmatic approach with the intention of highlighting implications for other researchers planning and undertaking of similar approaches. It is hoped that by reporting findings generated through collaboration and reflexivity the coach and researcher might be reframed as reciprocal allies to address the theory-practice gap.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sept 2015
Event3rd International Coaching Conference - Crewe, UK
Duration: 9 Sept 2015 → …


Conference3rd International Coaching Conference
Period9/09/15 → …
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