Sports coaching students' learning and identity development: A longitudinal study
Despite the rise in sports coaching programmes, limited attention has been given to
understanding the learning experienced on them and their contribution to students’ identity
development. In this context, little evidence exists about how students are influenced by such
programmes; that is, what impact they have on the process of socially and dynamically
constructed identities (Wenger, 2010). The aim of this study is subsequently twofold.
Firstly, to explore students’ perceptions and experiences of the sports coaching undergraduate
degree enrolled upon; and secondly, to examine how these experiences shaped
students’ identities over the length of the given three-year course.
Participants comprised twelve BSc sports coaching undergraduate students from Cardiff
Metropolitan University who were ‘followed’ through their three-year degree course.
Adopting a constructivist-interpretive paradigm, the students were tracked through reflective
logs, video diaries and focus group interviews. Data were analysed using Charmaz’s (2006)
process of inductive analysis. The results showed a move from a surface and strategic
approach to learning to better acceptance of the contested nature of coaching. This was
reflected in the movement from a dualistic to a relativistic view of knowledge. In this
context, ‘caring’ was one of the most influential aspects associated with the role of the
teaching staff throughout the three years of the course. Finally, the findings also suggested
that the students simultaneously occupied a role and belonged to a group, making role
identities and social identities always relevant in explaining action (Stets and Burke, 2000).
The findings suggest the need to encourage student-coaches to seek an increased acceptance
of uncertainty and a better understanding of who they are early in their professional
development. Similarly, the close link between assessment and learning, invites coach
educators to provide supportive and caring environments, including assessments that are in
line with the ambiguous and contested nature of the work.
- School of Sport and Health Sciences