Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden
According to the editors, the background to this book is to offer new insights into the study of sports coaching, to dare to ask the critical questions with the aim of advancing research in sports coaching. It is easy to continue along the beaten track, but it takes perseverance and patience to build new roads. The editors’ purpose with the book is just that, to show new research that digs deeper into what is taken for granted and the idea that the fact that sports coaching is a social activity makes it superior and above criticism.
The book is divided into five parts where each part has its own theme. In total, the book comprises nineteen chapters, most of which are summaries of studies that in turn are linked to a research conference, Cluster Research into Coaching (CRIC). The themes covered are background and context, critical sociology of coaching, pedagogy, coaching, and coach education, pedagogy of martial arts, and concluding thoughts. The first part, background and context, is central to getting context and to understand the remaining parts of the book in a good way.
All chapters offer contributions to this field of knowledge, but I would like to highlight a couple in particular. The first is a chapter written by Lars Tore Ronglan, in which he demonstrates the importance of context when studying sports coaching. When you are in a certain context, it is easy to take things for granted and you rarely reflect on them. But when you study sports coaching, this is exactly what you need to do. Depending on the context in which the coaching is carried out, there are a number of factors that affect both conditions and results. If you do not take the context seriously and account for it, there is a risk that you will miss things and interpret the results incorrectly. Ronglan cites Scandinavia as an example of a context, with its special characteristics and conditions of sport, and highlights how this affects coaching.
A second chapter I thought was important, and which is in a way related to Ronglan’s contribution, was written by Lauren Downham and Christopher Cushion. Utilizing Bourdieu’s framework, Downham and Cushion have analysed how a coach needs to act to achieve legitimacy and authority. Here, too, context matters and it is important to follow the “hidden agenda” and the socialization process that exists right here.
A third chapter I would like to focus on is written from an educational perspective. Martin Longworth has written a chapter on what happens when “student-coaches” come out on what you might call internships. An often-accepted approach is that education needs to be interspersed between theory and practice, not least because students need to put their theory into practice. What this study shows is that when students come out to a workplace, the goals of the module are met to a low degree while the student instead gets a preparation for the “real world”. The restriction on the achievement of goals is considered by the author to be the students’ lack of social skills and the internship itself. The knowledge or experience gained through the internship need not be wrong, but it does provide understanding of how to think about what the student needs to bring with them before embarking on the internship, how to choose the internships, and how to plan and organize it – depending, of course, on the goals for the module.
If sports coaching is to grow and develop as a research field, it is not a way to go as you ever so often do, to start from an already completed study and just change selection criteria or theory.
All chapters, except for the first two that can be seen more as an introduction to the upcoming chapters, in my opinion mainly give the reader two contributions to the field of knowledge. One contribution is developing an understanding of using a particular theory in sports coaching and what it can contribute, while the other contribution is the result of the current study. This twofold contribution of each chapter makes the overall contribution to the field of knowledge considerable. Above all, I think that it is valuable knowledge for those who study, or are about to start studying, sports coaching from a scientific perspective. The variety of theories used in the various studies also demonstrates a diversity in possible theories to use depending on purpose and research question. What is required of the reader, however, is an ability to see behind the actual results of the specific study and to be able to translate it into other contexts. So, while the book provides a good overview of theories and areas where these can be used, a more qualified ability is needed to be able to see how the results can be used in other contexts but also the presented theories themselves.
The editors’ express goal was to highlight new and critical research that can take the sports coaching field of research forward. This is also something Robyn Jones comes back to in his global scanning of the field. If sports coaching is to grow and develop as a research field, it is not a way to go as you ever so often do, to start from an already completed study and just change selection criteria or theory. This is often requested in studies, that a recently researched area needs to be studied further – but the question is what this will achieve. The risk is that there will be “more of the same”, and that new, critical and developing researches fail to appear. In order to move a research field forward, new research needs to be carried out and this book offers good examples of this. It shows how Goffman and Foucault can contribute to the development of sports coaching research even if they never considered that particular phenomenon in their own research and theory development.
Overall, I think this is a readable and useful book for educating sports coaches. It provides new perspectives on how to study coaching in sports even if it requires a lot of the reader to be able to put the results and analyses described into practice in other, often different, contexts.
Copyright © Marie Hedberg 2021
Table of Content
PART I: BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT
PART II: CRITICAL SOCIOLOGY OF COACHING
PART III: PEDAGOGY, COACHING AND COACH EDUCATION
PART IV: PEDAGOGY OF MARTIAL ARTS
PART V: CONCLUDING THOUGHTS