Cardiff Metropolitan University
Joana Fonseca Ph.D ( Final version).pdf (3.04 MB)

From Student to Coach: The Dynamic Nature of Professional Learning and Identity Development of BSc Sports Coaching Students

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posted on 2022-10-28, 13:19 authored by Joana Fonseca
During recent years, Portugal has witnessed an increase in the provision of sports coaching programmes (DGES, 2019). The foundation of such a development has been the recognition of academic degrees as a qualified route for coach certification (IDP, 2010). Yet, despite such progress, little remains known about the actuality of the learning experience in those environments, and the impact of those experiences on the development of student-coaches ‘knowledgeable’ working identities (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner, 2015). Consequently, in spite of the growing recognition that coaches’ education requires a better understanding of social, cultural and historical factors (e.g., Townsend & Cushion, 2015; Jones, Morgan & Harris, 2012), the influence of such features on personal ideologies, regimes of competence and practices exhibited by neophyte coaches remain largely unexplored.

In response, the current study attempts to map the intellectual and social development of 16 undergraduate sports coaching students by examining how their knowledge construction and sense of self is shaped, reproduced, manifested and transformed, over the length of their 3 years undergraduate degree. Following an interpretivist paradigm, the research design used a mixture of focus group interviews, video diaries and written reflections to explore the students’ on-going experiences of change throughout their learning journey. The data were subsequently examined using inductive analysis inspired by Charmaz’s (2006) interpretations of grounded theory. The main results demonstrated that the students’ learning, as opposed to being a cognitive content-driven process, was predominantly social and relational in character; it being influenced by perceived authority sources and the external validation of knowledge. Simultaneously, the students’ professional (i.e., coach) identity development was directly linked to the academic curriculum and the staff who delivered it. Here, the contradictory and ambiguous environment of content and teaching approaches pushed the students to adopt more strategic and reflective positions as learners.

Such findings come with a realisation that knowledge is relative and, therefore, making individual commitment and argumentative ownership is essential for coach identity creation and development. Overall, the study suggests the need to create learning environments that instigate an acceptance of ambiguity and stimulates a constant reflection on personal identities for the development of insightful coaches.


Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) (SFRH/BD/81006/2011) / FEDER/ COMPETE/ POPH /QREN



  • School of Sport and Health Sciences

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD

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