Coaches usually know a lot about their sport and have a good command of how to help their athletes to do better. It is necessary to have deep understanding of a variety of disciplines which influence sports performance. Nobody wins by chance or gets the respect of their collaborators and players if they are not great experts in their fields. Obtaining a coaching qualification through training courses organised by each sports Federation is a legal requirement to be able to practise professionally. However, we know very little about how coaches acquire such highly qualified practical knowledge.
Research has studied which methods coaches prefer to improve their skills and why. 1 In this study, published in the Journal of Sports Sciences in 2016, coaches were asked about the usefulness of training for their professional development through formal education (coaches’ training courses and training activities at the University), non-formal education (workshops/clinics, conferences and exchange with other coaches) and informal education (Internet: social medial, web pages or YouTube; practical experience: experience as coach, reflection; reading: books/journals, academic publications). The sample consisted of 320 male and female coaches (289 men and 31 women) with different levels of experience and qualifications, from 26 different countries and 30 different sports. The most represented specialities were football (n=141), rugby (n=45) and basketball (n=11). The results are amazing:
- Only 2% of the interviewed coaches choose formal education as their preferred means to training.
- Only 5% state they prefer informal education.
- The vast majority (93%) choose informal education as a means of self-improvement.
Within this last group, coaches point out that peer discussion is the best source to improve as a coach (42% of answers). This is followed by other methods such as reading books (12%), learn how other coaches work (11%), surfing the web, social media, or YouTube (11%), a practical experience (5%), having a coach who acts like a mentor (3%) and, lastly, consulting academic journals (2%).
When they were asked about the reasons why they prefer one method or another, the main reason they pointed out was the opportunity to interact with other coaches (27,6%), the quality of the information (24,1%), the ease to access information and its cost (19,3%), that it is practical and based on practice (18,7%) and that it is innovative to bring about new ideas to improve (10,3%).
Finally, 66% of coaches think of pedagogy to be useful for their training (for example, methodology of training, communication skills, analysis of performance or innovative technologies), 14% consider the specific knowledge of their sport (technique and tactics), 12% consider the aspects linked to their development and 8% consider psychology, physiology, and biomechanics knowledge).
Carlos Lago Peñas
1 Stoszkowski, J. y Collins, D. (2016) Sources, topics and use of knowledge by coaches. Journal of Sports Sciences, 34(9):794-802.