Making the invisible, visible. An exploration of track and field coach’s perspectives of their planning processes

Karen L. Johns*, Paul Potrac, Philip R. Hayes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose:The traditional understanding of how coaches plan for sporting performance is rooted in the assumption that coaches create periodised plans underpinned by physiological principles, thereby providing scientific credibility to their work. In contrast, there remains a paucity of literature exploring how coaches understand or think about their planning practices. The purpose of this study was to generate new knowledge regarding what information coaches actually consider within their planning processes and how they actually approach the task of planning. Method: Using rigorous, in-depth interviews, this study examined athletics coach’s understandings of their everyday planning practices, in an attempt to contribute to narrowing the gap between academic research and real-world application. Twenty-eight highly experienced, high performance track and field coaches based in England (female, n=1,male, n=27) were recruited. The coaches were from the throwing disciplines (n=10) and endurance running (n=18). Coaches were interviewed about their planning process, using a maximum of three semi-structured interviews per coach, spaced across a full athletics season. In total this generated 68 hours of data. Results: The analysis demonstrated that, while the participant coaches utilised the principles of periodisation, their planning activities were not limited to this issue. The findings highlighted how the coaches conceptualised successful athletic performance in a holistic way: that is planning is multifaceted in nature. Conclusion: This study presents a holistic picture of the complexity of coaches planning, detailing the considerable time and attention given to planning for athletes’ psychological, personal, and social development, to enhance athlete performance and development.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 Jun 2024

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