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Bridging the Gap: Coaching Theory to Practice
Bridging The Gap
Will Roberts: Senior Lecturer in Sport, Coaching and Physical Education
There is an increasing amount of research in the fields of strength and conditioning and sports coaching, and with an increasing interest in the profession of coaching there are more and more practitioners in both of these fields.
It is quite common that researchers rarely ‘do’, and practioners rarely have the time to ‘research and reflect’.
What happens? Well, there is a gap between the theories of coaching, and the actual every day practice of coaching. Unfortunately, what has not been dealt with is what sits in this gap. Recently, what this gap has referred to is the lack of knowledge of either the coach or the researcher (which is never the same person) which impacts on the level of ‘good’ or ‘effective’ coaching that can take place.
As I reflect more on this ‘gap’, and having witnessed James Marshall and his colleagues deliver a coaching day in Exeter recently, is that this ‘gap’ (and those that are in the gap) is young people’s athletic development. If researchers and practitioners don’t start collaborating then these young people that we are charged with coaching will continue to be physically, technically, tactically, socially and psychologically underdeveloped.
James Marshall and his colleagues are starting to build a bridge across the gap of academic and practitioner. Thorough reflection, mentoring, challenging the traditional, reading, writing and thinking coaching, James is questioning long held beliefs about the ways in which we should coach young people, and the types of things we should be coaching young people.
From nutritional workshops, to free play, to technical skill development for running, (one young man couldn’t run at the start of the day – his technique was a little closer to athletic by the end of it, a genuinely impressive improvement) James and his colleagues followed up a series of coaching sessions with the day long workshop.
You might think that this is not unique, but done well it certainly is. You don’t have to be an ex-athlete, a household name, in possession of a PhD, or a consultant in coaching to be effective.
James and his team are a great of example of what coaching should be. In order to bridge the gap between those researching and those doing, we need to become both.
It is vital that coaches in future are innovative, thoughtful, thought provoking, challenging, researching and DOING. Only when this happens, will we really bridge the gap and service those that are looking for support and guidance so that we have competitive, healthy, fit young people that are the athletes, participants and future coaches and teachers.
For some further thoughts on sports coaching, it may be worth reading the following:
Robyn Jones (2006) The sports coach as educator: re-conceptualising sports coaching published by Routledge: London
Robyn Jones and Mike Wallace (2007) An Introduction to sports coaching: From science and theory to practice published by Routledge: London
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