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The Practices and Developmental Pathways of Professional and Olympic Serial Winning Coaches

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In 2011, the Innovation Group of Leading Agencies of the International Council for Coaching Excellence initiated a project aimed at supporting the identification and development of the next generation of high performance coaches. The project, entitled Serial Winning Coaches, studied the personalities, practices and developmental pathways of professional and Olympic coaches who had repeatedly achieved success at the highest level of sport. This paper is the third publication originating from this unique project. In the first paper, Mallett and Coulter (2016) focused on the development and testing of a novel multi-layered methodology in understanding a person, through a single case study of a successful Olympic coach. In the second, Mallett and Lara-Bercial (2016) applied this methodology to a large sample of Serial Winning Coaches and offered a composite account of their personality. In this third instalment, we turn the focus onto the actual practices and developmental pathways of these coaches. The composite profile of their practice emerging from the analysis revolves around four major themes: Philosophy, Vision, People and Environment. In addition, a summary of the developmental activities accessed by these coaches and their journey to success is also offered. Finally, we consider the overall findings of the project and propose the concept of Driven Benevolence as the overarching operational principle driving the actions and behaviours of this group of Serial Winning Coaches.
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Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
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The Practices and Developmental Pathways of Professional and Olympic Serial
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Winning Coaches
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Sergio Lara-Bercial1,2 & Clifford J. Mallett3
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1Leeds Beckett University, UK
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2International Council for Coaching Excellence, UK
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3The University of Queensland, Australia
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Corresponding author: Sergio Lara-Bercial
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Email: s.lara-bercial@leedsbeckett.ac.uk
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Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
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Abstract
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In 2011, the Innovation Group of Leading Agencies of the International Council for
14
Coaching Excellence initiated a project aimed at supporting the identification and
15
development of the next generation of high performance coaches. The project, entitled Serial
16
Winning Coaches, studied the personalities, practices and developmental pathways of
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professional and Olympic coaches who had repeatedly achieved success at the highest level
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of sport. This paper is the third publication originating from this unique project. In the first
19
paper, Mallett and Coulter (2016) focused on the development and testing of a novel multi-
20
layered methodology in understanding a person, through a single case study of a successful
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Olympic coach. In the second, Mallett and Lara-Bercial (2016) applied this methodology to a
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large sample of Serial Winning Coaches and offered a composite account of their personality.
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In this third instalment, we turn the focus onto the actual practices and developmental
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pathways of these coaches. The composite profile of their practice emerging from the
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analysis revolves around four major themes: Philosophy, Vision, People and Environment. In
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addition, a summary of the developmental activities accessed by these coaches and their
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journey to success is also offered. Finally, we consider the overall findings of the project and
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propose the concept of Driven Benevolence as the overarching operational principle driving
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the actions and behaviours of this group of Serial Winning Coaches.
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Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
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The Practices and Developmental Pathways of Professional and Olympic Serial
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Winning Coaches
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Public and private financing of high performance sport is at an all-time high. The
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results achieved by coaches managing these high-stakes investments in professional and
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Olympic sport are routinely and thoroughly scrutinised by their respective national sport
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councils, governing bodies, club owners, the media and the public and fans. The Innovation
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Group of Leading Agencies (IGLA) is a committee of the International Council for Coaching
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Excellence (ICCE), which brings together twelve world-renowned national sporting
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organisations seeking to accelerate the development of coaching in certain key areas. Given
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the aforementioned, highly combustible context of high performance coaching, the effective
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recruitment and development of high performance coaches was identified as a priority area
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by the IGLA members.
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Consequently, in 2011, the IGLA commissioned a unique research study of coaches
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described as ‘Serial Winning Coaches’ (SWC). SWC meet two key criteria: a) they have won
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multiple championships at the Olympics, World Championships, and/or in highly recognised
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professional leagues; and b) they have done so with multiple teams or individual athletes over
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a prolonged period of time. Access to this very special cohort of coaches has, up to this point,
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been limited. The main goal of the project was to develop a personality (what are they like?),
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practice (what do they do?) and development profile (how did they become the coaches they
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are?) of this very select coaching group. The ultimate aim of the IGLA members was to use
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the resulting profiles to guide and facilitate the identification, recruitment and development of
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prospective high performance coaches, as well as better support the further development of
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coaches already working in elite sport.
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This paper is the third publication originating from this unique project. In the first
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paper, Mallett and Coulter (2016) focused on the development and testing of a unique
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Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
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methodology of understanding a person in the field of sport psychology, through a single case
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study of a successful Olympic coach. This pilot research was, to our knowledge, the first
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attempt to pursue a multi-layered understanding (McAdams & Pals, 2006) of a (successful)
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coach. In the second publication, Mallett and Lara-Bercial (2016) applied this multi-layered
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methodology to a large sample of Serial Winning Coaches. As a result, they offered a
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composite account of their personalities, as well as a set of recommendations for the effective
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recruitment and development of high performance coaches. In this third instalment, we focus
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on the day-to-day work and the developmental pathways of this group of coaches. We share
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what we have learnt about ‘what they do’ and ‘how they got there’ and thus complement the
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previous two publications.
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High Performance Coaching
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The high performance sport environment (Olympic and professional sports) has been
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described as dynamic, complex, unpredictable, and at times characterised by chaos (e.g.,
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Purdy & Jones, 2011). Repeated success in this climate is highly challenging. Succeeding
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repeatedly is the prerogative of very few athletes and coaches. Ever growing competition
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from increasingly more proficient national Olympic squads, the rise in popularity and
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commercialization, and improved quality of certain sports in non-traditional countries, the
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importance of the stakes relative to the country’s investment in elite sport, the central role of
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sport in many societies, and the lack of optimal resources or appropriate coordination and
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maximisation of the wealth of resources available are some of the factors coaches have to
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contend with. In their role as central actors in the coach-athlete-performance relationship
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(Cushion, 2010; Lyle, 2002; Mallett, 2010), high performance coaches should therefore be
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considered as performers in their own right (Frey, 2007; Gould, Guinan, Greenleaf, & Chung,
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2002; Mallett & Lara-Bercial, 2016).
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Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
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Against this unsettled background, recruiting and developing coaches of elite athletes
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and teams is problematic and typically marked by serendipity and chance (Mallett, 2010). In
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many sports, coaches are traditionally employed because of their playing success (Gilbert,
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Côté & Mallett, 2006; Trudel & Gilbert, 2006) and without sufficient training (Mallett, 2010;
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Mallett, Rossi, Rynne, & Tinning, 2016; Rynne, Mallett & Tinning, 2006). A sub-optimal
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match between the capacity of the appointed coach and the situational demands of the job can
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lead to underachievement in performance outcomes and significant disruption and cost if
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released prior to completion of contract (Mallett & Lara-Bercial, 2016). Therefore, investors
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and sport officials with responsibility for the identification, recruitment and development of
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elite coaches are keen to better understand what types of coaches and coaching practices lead
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to sustained success. They are also eager to gain further insight into how successful coaches
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develop their expertise in order to build appropriate coach education and development
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programmes that can enhance coaches’ ability to negotiate and cope with the extreme
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demands of elite sport.
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Perhaps not surprisingly, given the importance and net economic value of sport in
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society, research in this field has intensified in recent years. Researchers have studied expert
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coaches’ developmental experiences (Erickson, Côté & Fraser-Thomas, 2007; Jiménez,
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Lorenzo & Ibañez, 2008; Koh, Mallett & Wang, 2011; Mallett, Rynne, & Billett, 2014; Nash
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& Sproule, 2009; Rynne & Mallett, 2012); their most valued characteristics and practices
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(Ruiz & Salinero, 2011; Vallée & Bloom, 2005); their perceived needs (Allen & Shaw,
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2009); how they draw from the intelligence provided by sport scientists (Read, Rodgers &
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Hall, 2008); their relationship with performance managers and directors (Fletcher & Arnold,
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2011); and their psychological make-up, skills and coping strategies (Chan & Mallett, 2012;
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Olusoga, Maynar, Hays & Butt, 2012; Thelwell, Heston, Greenlees & Hutchings, 2008). In
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the main, a coach-focused approach has been used in the above studies. Some studies
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however, have also considered athletes’ interpretations of their coaches’ practices and
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methods and the impact they have on their performance (Norman & French, 2013; Purdy &
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Jones, 2011).
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Method
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The main goal of the whole project was to elicit commonalities amongst this very
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select group of highly successful coaches, and hence, a pragmatic research design that
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focused on trying to answer the questions posed by the IGLA was implemented. The
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researchers, however, were cognizant that gaining an insight into the different story each
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coach has to tell was as important as the shared attributes between them. Therefore, a mixed-
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methods approach, which combined idiographic and nomothetic techniques, was the chosen
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design. The study thus spans across research paradigms embracing a mix of positivist and
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phenomenological lenses to gather and interpret knowledge about the same issues from
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different vantage points. The integration of data from these multiple sources enables the
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creation of a meta-story about the world of consistently successful high performance
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coaching while also identifying and celebrating individuality and uniqueness amongst the
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sample. This acknowledgement recognises the futility of searching for a ‘magic recipe’ or
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‘single profile’ for the SWC, yet aims to meaningfully contribute to an empirical base, which
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can hopefully better inform policy and practice in coach identification, recruitment, and
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development.
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Participants
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Using the criteria outlined in the previous paragraph, members of the IGLA group
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were asked to identify as many SWC candidates as possible within their countries and, where
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appropriate and feasible, from other nations. An original shortlist of 31 coaches was
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compiled. Institutional ethics approval was granted prior to sending a comprehensive
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information pack and a request to participate in the study to the nominated coaches. A total of
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17 coaches accepted the invitation (see Table 1 for demographic data of the sample).
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Table 1
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Serial Winning Coaches’ descriptive data
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Number of Coaches
17 (2 female) including 1 Paralympic coach
Sports
Field Hockey (2), Ice Hockey (2), Basketball (2),
Speed Skating (2), Sailing, Windsurfing, Rowing
(4), Swimming, Judo, and Athletics
Countries
Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Israel,
Italy, Netherlands, Serbia, UK
Gender Coached
Male (4); Female (1); Male and Female (12)
Number of Combined Gold
Medals/Major
Championships/Professional
League Titles
160 (at time of publication)
Age
44 to 75 years (M = 55.7 years)
Coaching
8 to 45 years (M = 29.2 years; HP M = 25.2 years)
Experience as Athlete
International (10), National/Regional (6)
None (1)
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Following confirmation of the coaches’ participation, they were requested to identify
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at least two athletes they coached for recruitment into the study. The criteria for athlete
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selection included having won a gold medal or major league championship under this coach
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in the last five years and having worked with the coach for at least two years. Altogether, 19
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athletes relating to 11 different coaches were recruited into the study. The sample included
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athletes from six different sports (rowing = 7, field hockey = 4, speed skating = 4, sailing = 2,
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basketball = 1, windsurfing = 1) and six different countries (Canada, Germany, Israel,
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Netherlands, Spain, UK).
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Measures
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Demographic Questionnaire. Coaches and athletes were asked to complete a
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preliminary demographic questionnaire aimed at gaining descriptive information as to their
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personal history.
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NEO-FFI-3 (McCrae & Costa, 2010) and Personal Strivings Questionnaires
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Emmons’ (1989). These two instruments were used to collect data specific to the first and
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second layer of personality self as social actor and as motivated agent respectively
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(McAdams & Pals, 2006). For a full description please refer to Mallett and Coulter (2016)
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and Mallett and Lara-Bercial (2016).
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Semi-structured Interview. SWC and the athletes they coach participated in semi-
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structured interviews to corroborate or expand the data provided by the psychometric
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questionnaires. For example, coaches and athletes were asked: ‘What personal qualities do
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you think have helped you/your coach to become a SWC?’ Researchers also used the
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interviews to elicit new information regarding practical examples of their daily behaviours
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and the strategies coaches use to successfully navigate the high performance environment.
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For instance: ‘What is it that you do/your coach does that has allowed you/her to become a
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SWC?’. The interviews also contained specific questions in a number of areas such as the
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learning and development opportunities accessed by SWC (i.e., ‘What type of learning and
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development opportunities have you accessed over your coaching career?’; ‘What learning
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and development opportunities have been most important in your journey to success?’); the
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vital steps in their journey to coaching glory (i.e., ‘What have been the key steps in your
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coaching career?’; ‘Have there been any critical moments in your coaching career?’); and the
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key challenges facing high performance coaches in the future (i.e., ‘What do you think will
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be the biggest challenge for high performance coaches in the future?’; ‘Do you think high
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performance coaching will change in the future and how?’). In addition, athletes were also
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asked to compare the SWC with other coaches they had worked with (i.e., ‘What are the
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fundamental differences between this coach and other coaches you have worked with in the
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past?’); and with themselves over time (i.e., ‘Has your coach changed in any way over the
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years? If so, what do you feel have been the main changes?’).
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The duration of the interviews ranged from 60 to 180 minutes and they were mostly
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conducted face-to-face. Three interviews were conducted using video conferencing.
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Interviews were conducted in the native language of the coaches and athletes, transcribed
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verbatim, and subsequently translated into English. Over 1,000 pages of double-spaced text
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were produced. Coaches and athletes were sent the interview transcripts for checking (Patton,
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2002), however, no amendments to the transcripts were necessary.
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Interview Data Analysis
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In the present paper, we focus explicitly on the findings arising from the analysis of
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the bio-demographic questionnaire and semi-structured interviews. More specifically, we
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concentrate on two primary research questions; namely, coaches’ practice (what do they do?)
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and their development pathway (how did they become the coaches they are?). For a full
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exposition of the personality profiles of the SWC please refer to Mallett and Lara-Bercial
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(2016).
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We analysed the data following the principles of thematic analysis described by
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Braun and Clarke (2006) and managed the data using NVIVO10 software. The six-step
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approach proposed by Braun and Clarke included a period of familiarisation with the data
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through repeated readings of the data sets; a phase of initial generation of codes; categorising
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the general codes into themes; reviewing the themes; defining and refining the themes; and
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the final production of the full report from which this article has been developed. The
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coaches’ and athletes’ interview data were coded separately after which key themes from
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both data sets were compared. The broad themes that emerged were similar, yet there were
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noteworthy nuances within the themes, to which we draw attention in the results and
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discussion sections. Nevertheless, it is acknowledged that there is always potential for some
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confirmatory bias in the analytical process, which we were cognizant of and attempted to
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minimize (Patton, 2002). Strategies to minimize researcher bias included multiple readings of
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the text by both authors, and the extraction of major themes that were discussed until
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consensus was reached.
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Results
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The Day-to-Day Practices of Serial Winning Coaches
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The analysis of the interview data with the coaches and their athletes elicited four
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major themes: Philosophy, Vision, People, and Environment. Within each major theme, sub-
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themes were identified thus providing an inductive operational framework of SWC’s day-to-
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day practice (Figure 1).
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Figure 1. Serial Winning Coaches Day-to-Day Practice Framework
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Philosophy
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Coaches and athletes felt that the SWC’s practices were anchored upon a very clear
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philosophical standpoint (their goals, values and beliefs), which provided them with a strong
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sense of purpose and direction. Within this major theme, three recurring elements surfaced
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throughout both coach and athlete interviews: first, a disposition towards adopting an athlete-
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centred perspective; second, the espousing of high moral values such as honesty, loyalty and
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respect for the athlete; and third, the explicit attempts to reach a relative work-life balance for
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both athletes and coach (for a full description of this theme, please see Mallett & Lara-
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Bercial, 2016).
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Yes, and coaching, but not only as a person, but also as a human being. And also
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some sort of a manager, because he wants… at some point my management quit, for
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example and he searched for a new management for me, so he wants the best for me
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and then… of course it is not part of his job, but he wants… he just does that. I think
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that is the bond you have or something, but he is very… yes, how should I say this…
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he is very involved with you. And sometimes more than you know. And he treats
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everybody of our team like that, so to speak. (Athlete 7)
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Vision
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A clearly articulated vision of what is necessary to win was central to success.
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Coaches and athletes concurred with regards to the importance of this area as well as the key
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elements within it that support its realisation. The ability to predict, particularly with regards
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to what it will take to win a gold medal or championship the next time around’ (Coach 8)
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and, specifically, what will be the decisive elements of that performance that will make
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winning possible was highlighted by both groups. There was also a strong belief in the need
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to constantly innovate to stay ahead of the pack and to be future-proof (Coach 9). Equal
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importance was attached to the ability of the coach to simplify what is, by definition, a very
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complex environment with lots of moving pieces. SWC are able to consistently identify all
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these pieces, how they fit together and prioritize those fundamental for success. In the high
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performance environment, time, attention and resources are limited and having clarity about
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where the biggest return on investment is appears central to SWC practice. In addition, being
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able to maintain focus on the big prize (Athlete 11) and ignore myriad potential distractions
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along the way was identified as critical to success. Athlete 10 commented on this last point:
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So he’s, that’s just quite special within this sport because you know we really only
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peak for one event in the year, which is the world championships. We have a number
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of other events in the meantime but they are not as serious, it’s not like [other sport]
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for instance where you get points for each game so you have to perform at a high level
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each time. What [name of coach] does very well, he’s able to plan the whole year
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around how to perform at that one event, say the Olympics for instance. And it takes a
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lot of foresight and patience to get that balance right. And you can see other nations
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they might perform much better earlier in the year or you know at different times, but
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they don’t really get the one that matters right. And for [name of coach] he is able to
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see the bigger picture, put together a training programme, put together the plan and
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how he motivates his athletes and pulls that into that picture. And that’s what’s able to
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bring the best out of his guys at the right time. (Athlete 10)
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The emphasis placed on future performance markers and the simplification of the
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inherent complexity of the task led SWC to espouse a long-term view of planning focused
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totally around the realisation of the coaches’ vision. In this planning process, coaches and
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athletes stressed the vast amount of time dedicated to putting the plan together and the deep
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levels of thinking that go into it to account for any eventuality and develop a plan B, C and
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D (coach 7). Importantly, the planning described by SWC was action-led and process-
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driven. In other words, for every set objective, the relevant actions to fulfil such objectives
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are clearly identified and a process is put in place to complete those actions. The following
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two quotes illustrate these elements.
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I think I am also able to plot out a career, so I am also able to tell someone to do this
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and to do that, that your route is not parallel to that [other athlete], and that you are
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not able to copy that route, is clear, because that is fairly unique, but I think I can
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provide direction to people and then strongly help them in that direction, yes, I think
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so. (Coach 7)
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I think you should know your highway [your plan], see always that point there and
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still be aware, that sometimes you have to go to a by-pass [take a diversion] because
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of some road work or something you have, it’s not that straight every time, but you
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always know where the motorway is. (Coach 9)
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The clarity exhibited in relation to their vision and the subsequent planning process
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facilitates the development of another fundamental process which SWC pay considered
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attention to: reviewing and adjusting the plan. Coaches highlighted the need to use high
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amounts of critical thinking around their own beliefs and actions and to decisively act and
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change things when something is not working. Acknowledging the need to adjust something
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“rather than not doing anything about it to protect one’s pride” (Coach 2) was seen by both
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groups as a sign of strength on the part of the coach. In fact, athletes stated that they had a lot
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of respect for coaches who were able to admit their own mistakes and that, in turn, this
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supported the development of a culture where mistakes are acknowledged and dealt with
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quickly and expediently for the benefit of future performance.
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Athletes highlighted that one of the most important elements of the review process
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SWC engaged in revolved around the monitoring of athlete progress and performance. While
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recognising the painstaking and stressful nature of this process (Athlete 11), they stressed
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the contribution it made to the creation of a culture of accountability and responsibility. This
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also acted as a motivating factor for athletes who, due to the close monitoring of
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performance, felt training was customised to suit their needs and stage of development
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(Athlete 8) and not a one-size fits all. Similarly, this approach allowed athletes to keep track
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of their progression, thus also enhancing their intrinsic motivation.
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People
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SWC viewed the selection of competent staff and players who fit their culture as key
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to success. Factors beyond ability were considered for both groups. Special emphasis was
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given to the operational fit between the athlete/staff member and the gaps in current provision
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(i.e., bringing people in on a needs-led basis) and the character fit (i.e., ensuring that
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regardless of quality, the new team member would not upset the existing dynamic or uphold
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different beliefs and values to those of the coach). Coach 3 summarised this ethos in the
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following statement:
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[you need to build a group] in which players are comfortable with their roles and
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where at least they accept it, not always happily, but with a positive attitude to
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contribute to the project. A group where beside the legitimate personal and individual
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aspirations, what’s at the forefront of everyone’s mind is the team’s success.
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Once the right people were on the bus, careful management was highlighted as vital to
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ensure everyone could perform to their potential. For staff this meant maintaining a good
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working relationship, but most importantly, that the allocation of roles is clear, a good fit
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with their skillset and that they understand the working ways of the organisation. Some
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coaches stressed the need for them to actively engage in the development of their staff, either
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through direct intervention, or through the allocation of jobs that allowed staff to be stretched
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and thus grow.
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The interviews also offered a view of the SWC as a person who carefully and
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purposefully set out to foster belief in and around the organisation, club or team. This belief
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was broken down into three areas:
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Believe in ME. SWC try to foster a feeling of trust in the coach’s ability amongst the
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group. The two most frequently identified sources of belief in the coach were the coach’s
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social capital (past as athlete, previous wins) and his/her ability to develop a positive bond
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with the athlete and/or the team (i.e., personal touch, open and honest communications,
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integrity, empathy, holistic approach to athlete development, being reliable and emotionally
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stable). Other sources of belief included the coach’s persuasiveness and the capacity of the
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coach to lead by example (i.e., always prepared and ready, remaining calm under pressure
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and being able to acknowledge personal mistakes). For example:
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You can’t cut that out sometimes [the personal things]. You still have to be flexible
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when a guy comes to you when you have the most important session of the week and
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says ‘look I have no-one to look after my child today. You have to have a good
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compromise. (Coach 8)
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They look up to you, like kids to parents. If you are stressed, they are stressed. If you
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are calm they are calm. If you are convinced, they are convinced. (Coach 6)
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We set a certain standard, usually first to arrive and last to leave… Generally, I am
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around all the time, so I’m visible. Sometimes the visibility is more important than the
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details of what you are doing, so you are just, you are always in the line of vision. I
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think it is very important. (Coach 13)
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Believe in YOU(RSELF). SWC invest time developing athletes’ confidence in their
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own ability and the motivation to continue to strive to improve and win. This does not
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typically rely on kindness and positive reinforcement alone, but much more in striking an
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optimal balance between challenge and support that stimulates athlete growth. Belief is
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developed through close monitoring of performance metrics coupled with decisive and
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corrective actions when progress halts. Athlete 11 saw it like this:
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he is very perfectionistic, so he really focuses on the details, but he is very good at
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positive coaching, he does not only say what you are doing wrong, but he says what
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you are doing well and this combination makes him a champion maker.
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Open demonstrations of trust in the athlete’s talent, especially in the lead up to
335
competition, focusing on process over results, shared decision-making, and the fostering of
336
increased levels of self-reliance, self-awareness and leadership skills are important for this
337
purpose too. Coach 6 indicated that particularly before a competition, my job is to get their
338
mind ready to compete, make them believe they can win. Finally, appropriate levels and
339
modes of internal and external competition were also identified as a big driver for athlete
340
motivation and success’ (Athlete 11).
341
Believe in US. SWC promote a sense of common belief in the programme and the
342
ability of those in it to achieve its joint goals. Various, and at times contrasting, ways to do
343
this were elicited through the interviews. Some coaches advocated for the development of
344
strong personal relationships with athletes and between them. Coach 4 talked about the
345
importance of a mountain retreat at the beginning of the year so they can get to know the
346
new players and the need to do something special every now and then, a special lunch,
347
change hotel or go for a drink or two. For others, a robust sense of collective discipline
348
around common objectives was paramount. This shared identity included the surrendering of
349
personal egos, clear understanding of and respect for everyone’s contribution, and a sharp
350
focus on day-to-day processes and routines with minimal fluctuations (see earlier passage
351
from Coach 3).
352
Interviewed athletes expressed a view that team cohesion was built around personal
353
connections with coach and teammates, coach discipline, provision of relevant and fresh
354
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goals to avoid stagnation, and the handing over of some of the leadership and initiative
355
traditionally reserved for the coaching staff to the playing group. For instance, Athlete 1 said
356
that his coach:
357
was very aware that his job is to step in at the right moment and get the team moving.
358
I think that’s why he looks for a personal connection with the players beforehand, and
359
it is very important for him to bring the team together as people.
360
In addition, a number of athletes indicated that, at times, their coach deliberately created
361
instances of crisis (Athlete 2), which brought the team together (sometimes even against
362
the coach) and was quite adept at playing mind-games (Athlete 1) to keep athletes from
363
becoming complacent.
364
An additional area of interest in relation to athlete management revolved around the
365
ability of the coach to be able to keep athletes level-headed and minimize mood fluctuations.
366
SWC expressed a perceived need to keep athletes firmly rooted and grounded. This entailed
367
three inter-related items: avoiding complacency, steering athletes away from developing a
368
sense of entitlement, and providing emotional stability. SWC deal with athletes who are
369
celebrities in their own right and are subject to adoration, criticism, and constant scrutiny by
370
sports fans, and the media. The coaches in the sample had established strategies to tear down
371
and re-build athletes when they felt they were becoming complacent due to success on the
372
field or to the status and comforts afforded to elite performers. SWC were very keen to
373
address all these issues early, explicitly and directly. Coach 8 talked about ensuring that the
374
players understand that fame and making a bit of money on corporate functions on the back
375
of an Olympic gold medal is ok, but if you don’t win the next one that will dry out quite
376
quickly.
377
Closely linked to this point, some SWC made a conscious effort to protect athletes
378
against the development of a sense of entitlement, which could potentially impact on their
379
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performance. They spoke about using strategies to foster a feeling of gratefulness amongst
380
athletes and the realisation that, despite having worked very hard for it, they were very
381
fortunate to be in the position they were, and that they could lose it all very quickly. Athlete 1
382
explained how Coach 1 would make me worry for four months about my place in the team
383
for the Olympics, even though he knew I was a definite, just to keep me on my toes. Finally,
384
amongst all the hype and high levels of examination, which surround high performance
385
athletes, SWC expressed the need to find ways to normalise and neutralise what is an
386
unusual, hectic, and pressurised way of life. The coach was seen as a provider of stability and
387
dependability regardless inherent oscillations in stresses in a dynamic environment.
388
Finally, SWC generally agreed that, in the modern era of sport, crucial to success was
389
the coach’s ability to manage the high performance entourage (including coaching and
390
support staff, directors, media, agents, athletes’ families, etc.). Overall, there was an
391
emphasis on the coach’s aptitude to build and manage relationships with every stakeholder
392
and member of the entourage. Role demarcation, performance management and recognition
393
systems, and clear and open communications were rated highly by coaches and athletes.
394
Within this need to manage athletes, staff and entourage, Coach 7 talked about being
395
selective in my communications and make my world as small as possible to be able to keep
396
good relationships with those that really matter.
397
Therefore, to create the necessary conditions for success, SWC consistently
398
demonstrated emotional intelligence, underpinned by enhanced self-awareness as shown by
399
the high degree of coherence between the data collected from coaches and their athletes.
400
Coaches reported that high levels of emotional intelligence were necessary to adapt their
401
behaviour to each individual rather than using a one size fits all to relationship building
402
and/or conflict management. In the main, SWC described themselves as collaborative and
403
facilitative, or at least as benevolent dictators (Coach, 10) who had to make very hard
404
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decisions and were not afraid to do so, yet were always considerate of the impact on athletes.
405
Knowing that the coach always had the best interest of the athlete and/or team at heart helped
406
athletes deal with the harsh realities of high performance sport.
407
I also believe that it’s very important today to put yourself in the athletes’ shoes too. I
408
have a particular way of working too. When I suggest something to athletes, a work
409
exercise, I test it beforehand. You have to always put yourself in the athlete’s shoes,
410
for you’re likely to mess up if you only take an external perspective. Think that it’s
411
easy and in the end it isn’t at all. Think that it’s difficult when it isn’t at all. So it’s
412
important to look at things from the athlete’s perspective, not necessarily physically,
413
but you can try to picture what the effect is on their emotions. This is important in
414
training. (Coach 14)
415
He knows where the bottom line is, he’s quite open and he’ll hear you out, but you’ll
416
more or less finish the conversation with him saying well right look, that’s fine, but
417
we just have to get you to do this, we think we’re closer, we hope you’ve got a better
418
understanding, go out and try it. (Athlete 13)
419
Athletes tended to see the relationship with their coach as much more of a partnership
420
than an autocracy. Some athletes reported this as a departure from previous experiences of
421
coaching and, while still respecting the coach’s ultimate decision-making power, stressed that
422
authoritarian approaches were on the decline and would not work going forward.
423
He will still point us in the right direction, he will always give us things to work on,
424
like a strategy of things to work on, but he will, to his credit I think, hand over
425
[responsibility] to the athletes. So he would say to me at the Olympics to lead that
426
technical aspect with my feelings and how I see fit and we’d come in, it was not like
427
‘I’m the boss, but we would come back in and he would listen to the four very
428
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experienced athletes and their opinion. I think other coaches don’t have the security to
429
do that. (Athlete 12)
430
Evolution of the SWC Coach
431
Athletes were asked to reflect on whether they had seen any changes in their coach’s
432
ways of working over the time they had worked together. Three main themes emerged for
433
those athletes who felt their coach had evolved during this period. First, SWC had over the
434
years become more benevolent and less business like. Second, athletes reported how, over
435
time, SWC had become more flexible in their planning and actions and less limited by their
436
own self-imposed expectations and working ways (Athlete 14). This resulted in an
437
enhanced capacity to navigate the dynamic waters of high performance sport and deal with,
438
and even leverage, the uncertainty and unpredictability of the environment. Finally, a smaller
439
number of athletes spoke about a significant change in the ability of their coach to manage
440
the high performance environment. This included a better understanding of all the
441
components and how they fit together, as well as a greater disposition and ability to control
442
and influence the environment (Athlete 13).
443
Environment
444
Coaches and athletes indicated that fundamental to sustained success was the
445
development of a ‘high performing’ culture where everyone in the organisation understood
446
the required behaviours and ways of working that lead to consistent competitive results. SWC
447
described five main pillars to develop and sustain the high performing culture.
448
First, there was value in espousing and ‘enforcing’ high expectations and standards to
449
create a self-perpetuating culture of high performance. Athlete 11 described this reminiscing
450
the first time he walked into the training venue: as soon as you walked in there, you knew
451
how to behave in that environment, the culture was everywhere. A significant part of culture
452
building relies on the fostering of personal responsibility and accountability, and on the
453
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culture being led, shared and ‘lived’ not only by the coach and athletes but also by officials
454
and administrators. Veteran athletes who unequivocally demonstrated these values on a daily
455
basis were deemed pivotal to sustaining the high performing culture throughout the group.
456
Second, SWC recognised the need to leave no stone unturned (Coach 2) in the quest
457
to maximise performance. Finding the right coaching and support staff and athletes that are
458
world-class yet good cultural fits, attention to detail, controlling the controllable, regular
459
efforts to find new elements that may provide an edge over competitors, pro-active decision
460
making that puts you ahead of the game (Coach 8) and a constant seeking or
461
manufacturing of opportunities to stretch and improve athletes were stated as key
462
behaviours (Coach 6).
463
Third, the development of a challenging training environment was reported as central
464
to sustained performance. The role of healthy, yet open and fierce internal competition
465
(Athlete 11) was emphasised. Setting practices that contain a level of complexity and
466
toughness similar or above that experienced in competition is capital (Coach 2). SWC also
467
pointed at the need to ensure that once training and competition goals are reached, new
468
higher goals are immediately set to avoid complacency and generate fresh motivation
469
(Coach 9).
470
Fourth, whilst challenging, the environment was seen to require a certain level of
471
stability and dependability (Athlete 13) to allow all within it to thrive. This Greenhouse
472
Effect requires that key features of the environment such as personnel, resources, schedules,
473
relationships, and the motivational climate remain relatively stable so staff and athletes can
474
concentrate on doing their job to the best of their ability. As previously mentioned, SWC
475
were mindful that building stability and dependability did not interfere with athlete resilience
476
or worse, create a sense of entitlement detrimental to performance (Coach 8).
477
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Finally, SWC and their athletes stressed the importance of the coach being able to
478
influence upwards in generating the right conditions for the environment to flourish. SWC
479
deliberately try to impact on the decisions made by those in powerful positions within their
480
governing bodies or clubs and even at the level of the international federation or in some
481
cases, the equipment manufacturers (Coaches 7 and 8).
482
Comparison with other Coaches
483
Up to this point, athletes had simply been asked to describe the way their coaches
484
worked. However, in order to find the potential lines of demarcation between this very
485
unique sample of SWC and other less successful coaches, athletes were specifically asked to
486
elaborate on what they felt was unique about them. The coach’s professional skills like work
487
ethic, his/her credibility and their overall knowledge and skill level were all highlighted.
488
However, athletes tended to place greater emphasis on the inter- and intra-personal skills (i.e.,
489
soft skills) of the coach (e.g., empathy, persuasiveness, open-mindedness, self-awareness).
490
The coach’s ability to be empathic and acknowledge the athlete’s ‘feelings and
491
concerns beyond sport’ (Athlete 7) were underlined. Likewise, the persuasion skills of the
492
SWC were brought to the fore by a number of athletes. SWC seem to use high levels of
493
persuasiveness to build a collaborative environment that is dialogue-based, founded on
494
consensus, and supportive of athletes speaking out, displaying creativity and taking the
495
initiative. A number of athletes expressed how they had struggled with this idea because in
496
the past they had always worked under more directive coaches who told them what to do and
497
when to do it’ (Athlete 1). It is also recognised that some of the SWC still operated under this
498
paradigm.
499
Athletes also reported that their coaches, while working from a bespoke operational
500
framework, tended to be open-minded (Athlete 8). This translated into a heightened
501
capacity to be flexible and adapt to the needs of the personnel, the situation and the context.
502
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This is consistent with the findings of the personality traits of these SWC (Mallett & Lara-
503
Bercial, 2016) and facilitates SWC’s thinking in innovative ways and their ability to solve the
504
challenges presented to them in the course of their day-to-day practice.
505
Finally, the elevated self-awareness of the coach (i.e., their awareness of their actions
506
and their impact, their motives, and their feelings and those of others) was a recurrent theme
507
in many of the athlete interviews. At times this wasn’t explicit, yet the athletes’ narratives
508
portrayed their coach as possessing an advanced level of self-awareness. For instance,
509
Athlete 10 talked about how their coach “wasn’t always nice, but knew exactly when he was
510
and when he wasn’t and plays whatever role he thinks is going to get the job done on that
511
day.
512
The Future of High Performance Coaching
513
SWC and athletes were also asked to forecast the main developments and challenges
514
high performance coaches would need to be able to deal with in the coming years. Coaches
515
highlighted how keeping athletes grounded and motivated (Coach 8), managing ever
516
larger teams of staff (Coach 12), fulfilling multiple and varying responsibilities that go
517
beyond the traditional on-field coaching, managing the socio-economic impact of sport
518
(Coach 2), and keeping up with and forecasting new knowledge, technology and rules would
519
be fundamental to achieving success in the mid- and long-term. Notwithstanding the above,
520
some coaches warned about a key challenge being not forgetting about doing the basics of
521
teaching the sport well and managing people effectively (Coach 7).
522
Athletes reported that one of the biggest challenges for coaches going forward would
523
be the need to become increasingly athlete-centred (Athlete 1). This referred to getting to
524
know the athlete better as a person, but also to foster player and team empowerment. Again,
525
this seems to suggest that coaching at the high performance level is moving away from a
526
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coach-driven power relationship towards a cooperative partnership between athlete and coach
527
and athlete and athlete.
528
Coping with Pressure and Failure
529
The IGLA was interested in the SWC’s views on dealing with pressure, the threat and
530
reality of failure, and the associated potential for stress in their work. As expected, coaches
531
openly acknowledged that high performance coaching is a very pressurised environment, and
532
that to survive, let alone succeed, in this environment resilience and perseverance (Coach
533
9) were fundamental attributes. SWC were able to clearly articulate their interpretation of
534
pressure and failure. In the main, pressure was understood as inherent to the job of the high
535
performance coach. As such, pressure is to be embraced and, as Coach 2 put it, count
536
yourself lucky because the day there is no pressure it means you are no longer a contender.
537
Moreover, most coaches highlighted that pressure and high expectation acted as a catalyst for
538
their effort. Again, Coach 2 emphasised that pressure focuses rather than distracts me.
539
In relation to dealing with pressure effectively, SWC proposed a number of strategies.
540
First of all, they had learnt to naturally dissipate ordinary pressure over the years (Coach 6)
541
and to normalise the job and its daily demands (Coach 3). Past experience as an athlete and
542
growth in status as a competent coach had facilitated that process. Coaches also reported
543
trying to focus more on the process and the journey than the final outcome (Coach 2).
544
Breaking challenges into smaller steps and tackling one step at a time was the modus
545
operandi of the coaches which guaranteed them, as coach 6 reported a sense of having done
546
all I could to maximise my chances of success and get a certain degree of peace of mind.
547
The need to set realistic expectations to avoid undue pressure and disappointment was also
548
stressed. Finally, whatever the outcome, taking total responsibility for it and a focus on
549
taking out all valuable lessons (Coach 2) appeared to be key to dealing with setbacks and
550
losses. Getting quickly past the personal affront and loss of pride (Coach 3) provoked by
551
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the loss, and replacing it with learning and a plan for the future aided the recovery and
552
healing process.
553
All coaches, to a greater or lesser degree, reported strategies to buffer the impact of
554
pressure and stress on their own performance and, most importantly, on their physical and
555
mental health. For some it was investing time into a particular hobby, which allowed them to
556
take their mind off the job completely, even if for a short time. The wife of Coach 2 jokingly
557
stated as the interviewer entered their home: Are you here to interview my Summer or
558
Winter husband; because they are two different people. For other coaches, spending quality
559
time with their families was a top priority. Coach 6 described how family time seemed to
560
have a dual effect: First, it relaxed him because he genuinely enjoyed it. Second, it also gave
561
him added peace of mind to know he was fulfilling his family duties that, admittedly, were
562
regularly challenged due to the time and travel-intensive nature of high performance
563
coaching. In line with the above, 16 of 17 coaches in the sample were married and had
564
dependants. Only one of the married coaches had divorced and re-married. In his own words,
565
I screwed up my first marriage [because of coaching], but I have taken steps to make sure it
566
doesn’t happen with this one” (Coach 9). One coach was single. Finally, all SWC emphasised
567
that they took measures to stay in good physical shape and that this has a positive effect in
568
their ability to deal with the pressures and demands of the job.
569
The second half of the results section revolves around the personal stories of SWC.
570
These stories relate to their journey to success and the learning opportunities accessed in the
571
process.
572
The Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches
573
Central to supporting those with responsibility to recruit and develop high
574
performance coaches was to gain a deep understanding of the developmental pathway of
575
SWC and what factors played a significant role in shaping it. This task was approached from
576
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three different angles. First, coaches were asked to detail their academic and coaching
577
qualifications in the bio-demographic questionnaires; they were then asked to indicate, in
578
order of importance, the types of coach development opportunities they had accessed, but
579
also their preferred modes of learning; finally, during the interviews, coaches were asked to
580
elaborate on their journey to success (Figure 2).
581
582
Figure 2. The developmental pathways of Serial Winning Coaches
583
Formal Education in the Developmental Journey of Serial Winning Coaches
584
SWC had, by and large, strong academic backgrounds. Nine coaches held sports-
585
related degrees (i.e., sport science, kinesiology or physical education). One of them held a
586
M.Sc. in Sport Science. Another four coaches had completed bachelor’s degrees in unrelated
587
subjects and three coaches had not attended university. One coach did not answer this
588
question. Fifteen coaches held the highest possible coaching qualification for their country.
589
Two coaches did not answer this item. When asked about their formal education during the
590
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interviews, SWC overall placed high value on their academic and coaching qualifications.
591
Academic qualifications supported the development of competencies that SWC felt had
592
contributed strongly to their success such as work ethic, critical thinking, planning, and
593
management skills. For those holding sports related degrees, university had provided a very
594
solid foundation from which to build their sport specific knowledge or make sense of the
595
practical knowledge they had gained as athletes. Coaching qualifications were seen as key to
596
SWC development, especially in the early stages of their career, where it had given them
597
foundational knowledge and mental frameworks (Coach 3) used to interpret their own
598
practice and accelerate on-the-job learning. A fundamental caveat to the above point
599
however, was the unequivocal affirmation by SWC that formal education, to be effective,
600
needed to be relevant and delivered by credible and capable coach developers. As Coach 6
601
put it “I hate token coach education; it’s pointless”.
602
Serial Winning Coaches Access to and Preference for Learning Opportunities
603
The researchers included a section in the bio-demographic questionnaire wherein
604
coaches were asked to rank both their most commonly accessed and their preferred learning
605
opportunities from 1 to 4 in descending order. SWC ranked coaching qualifications, coaching
606
clinics, on-the-job learning and self-study as the most commonly accessed learning
607
opportunities. On the other hand, peer learning was consistently rated as the preferred
608
learning opportunity by SWC followed by coaching qualifications, self-study, self-reflection
609
and on-the-job learning (see Table 2).
610
Table 2
611
Serial Winning Coaches Access to and Preference for Learning Opportunities
1
612
1
Key: coaches stated the 4 types of development opportunities they had accessed most frequently in
descending order. As such, even when an opportunity is ranked as a 4, it still denotes a relatively high
frequency compared to others that do not feature in the top four for each coach. Similarly, when asked about
preferred opportunities, an option rated as 4 can still be considered as seen positively by coaches. Significant
importance is attached here to the frequency with which a particular type of learning opportunity features in
coaches’ top four either as accessed or preferred.
Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
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Development Opportunity
Accessed
Preferred
Coaching Qualifications
1, 3, 3, 3, 1, 1, 1, 4
2, 2, 3, 2, 1, 3
Coaching Clinics
2, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 2, 3
1,
On-the-job learning
1, 4, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 1
2, 2, 2
Peer Learning:
Conversations with other
coaches/ Observation and
questioning
3, 2, 4, 1
1, 3, 3, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1,
1, 1
Self-Study: Reading/DVD
3, 4, 4, 2, 2, 3, 4, 2
1, 2, 2, 4
Self-reflection
1
2, 2, 3, 2
Mentoring
2
Role models
3
Experience as Athlete
2
Athlete Feedback
1
Writing own Books and
DVDs
3
From Business World
3
2
Watching the sport
3
613
Paradoxically, although mentoring did not feature extensively as a preferred learning
614
choice in the results of the bio-demographic questionnaire, during the semi-structured
615
interviews, SWC identified mentor-like figures who played a large role in their
616
developmental journeys. These mentoring relationships operated along a continuum. For
617
some coaches, it was based on what we have termed organic mentoring. Here SWC found
618
themselves in the vicinity of a more experienced coach they admired and respected. No
619
formal relationship or agreement existed, but SWC spend time observing this coach and tried
620
to learn as much as possible from them. For others, a formal mentoring agreement was
621
established whereby a more experienced coach offered a sounding board, asked fundamental
622
questions and provided advice on request. Coaches 4 and 7 made the most of this opportunity
623
by bringing their mentor officially into their coaching staff. Nonetheless, two of the SWC,
624
despite valuing their mentor’s counsel, made it clear that retaining decision-making power
625
rather than relying on the mentor, and taking responsibility for their mistakes was central to
626
their development. Coach 7 put it this way: We argued sometimes, very bad, but I said to
627
Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
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him: it has to be my decision, I am head coach and I have to feel like I am responsible for
628
what happens. He didn’t like it, but he respected that.”
629
In sum, SWC’s educational history and preferences are consistent with their typical
630
personality and motivational profile of being curious and having an insatiable thirst for
631
knowledge, their high degree of conscientiousness, openness, their never-ending quest for
632
personal growth and their unwavering desire to learn and improve (Mallett & Lara-Bercial,
633
2016). This led them to seek additional learning opportunities such as coaching clinics and
634
study visits, and made them avid readers of electronic and hard copy material, especially
635
early in their careers. Nonetheless, SWC deemed a deep level of self-reflection and self-
636
awareness as necessary for any learning to take place. Structured self-reflection was not
637
considered essential, although necessary when dealing with technical and tactical debriefs
638
(i.e., formal meetings with staff and players). Unstructured regular self-reflection was the
639
preferred choice. In this regards, Coach 3 said “you never stop thinking about it when you go
640
home; about the things you could have done better to impact the outcome”. This continuous
641
obsession with learning and improvement is underpinned by their acute need to prove
642
themselves competent. All in all, SWC appear to view formal learning as a necessary
643
springboard and compass to guide their early forays into coaching; non-formal learning as an
644
opportunity to be checked and challenged by other coaches’ practices; and informal learning
645
through on-the-job learning (including learning from athletes), self-reflection, and
646
interactions peers and mentor as most powerful and lasting.
647
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Serial Winning Coaches’ Journey to Success
648
No two coaches’ career pathways were the same. In their journey into and through
649
coaching, SWC travelled distinct and bespoke routes. However, amidst this variability, there
650
appeared a number of recurrent features that may serve as reference points for the selection
651
and development of the next generation of high performance coaches.
652
SWC tended to emphasise the role played by parents, extended family and significant
653
others such as teachers or former coaches in shaping up their character and approach to life
654
and coaching. Being brought up in rural/regional or non-affluent environments had impacted
655
on some of the coaches work ethic and desire for success. For others, they placed high value
656
on their parents doing a job that involved helping others such as in teaching, nursing or the
657
armed forces, and claimed that the teaching and helping gene was in my blood; I had no
658
choice (Coach 3). Along these lines, the majority of SWC described how, from an early age,
659
they had always felt a desire to coach (Coach 4) and how they had, in their school years
660
and emerging sporting careers, been given opportunities to lead their teams as captains. For
661
instance, Coach 6 spoke about how my PE teacher must have seen something in me as he
662
always had me help in lessons, and I always felt like my job was to be the coach on the field,
663
and I enjoyed that. Similarly, Coach 4 reminisced about how older coaches used to mock
664
me because I was going to coaching clinics when I was still playing and how my
665
teammates always came to me for advice before going to the coach.
666
A further theme emerging from the interviews relates to the coaches’ experiences as
667
athletes. Ten coaches had been international and/or professional athletes themselves, six had
668
competed at regional/national level, while only one of them had no experience in competitive
669
sport. Of the 10 former international athletes, five had won medals at major events, yet only
670
two of them had won gold. All SWC with athletic experience emphasised the role this had
671
played in their development as a coach. For instance, understanding what it takes to compete
672
Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
31
at this level, being able to put themselves in the shoes of the athlete and the knowledge of
673
their sport and coaching they had accrued during their careers were all highlighted as key
674
factors. However, above all this, a recurrent theme underpinned how SWC viewed their
675
athletic career: unfulfilled ambition and potential. SWC admitted to an underlying feeling of
676
failure and regret in the way their athletic careers had developed and ended which fuelled a
677
burning desire to make amends as a coach (Coach 6). At times, this revolved around their
678
own lack of talent to go all the way to the top of their sport, yet in other cases, they felt a
679
sense of injustice as to how the system around them had let them down which fed a hunger to
680
do anything in their power to support their athletes fulfil their own ambitions.
681
In relation to the above, for six of the coaches, critical life events had coloured their
682
athletic careers (especially their conclusion), pushed them towards coaching and shaped their
683
approach therein. Coach 7, for example, had his one chance of going to the Olympics
684
thwarted by his country boycotting the event, while Coaches 4, 9 and 12 were involved in
685
serious car accidents. Coach 15 stated that growing up as one of the very few females playing
686
the sport and having to endure discrimination and isolation had made her very resolute to
687
show everyone what she was capable of. Finally, coach 14 explained how he declined the
688
opportunity to compete at the Olympics to start a new career outside sport and had never
689
been able to forgive himself until he returned to the sport as a coach.
690
The final common thread with regards to SWC’s journeys to success revolves around
691
the persistent role played by opportunity and risk-taking in the careers of these coaches. Car
692
accidents that steered retiring athletes towards coaching (Coaches 4, 9 & 12), unexpected
693
risk-laden job offers (Coaches 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 & 14), and, for some, a sense of being in the right
694
place at the right time (Coaches 3, 4, 10, 11, 14) all had a significant impact. While
695
accepting their share of chance and good luck, SWC were keen to emphasise that when the
696
opportunity arose, they were ready and willing to take the risk associated with it. For many of
697
Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
32
the coaches, these opportunities facilitated by their experience, success and contacts,
698
translated into very short transitions from athlete to high performance coach. They
699
highlighted the important figure of the mentor as a guide during those uncertain and turbulent
700
early years, and the value of constant self-reflection as they were making mistakes on a daily
701
basis. For some coaches (Coaches 2, 4, 6, 8, 14, 15) these early jobs, although already in
702
high performance sport, were in nations, clubs or programmes with low expectations for
703
success. This afforded the developing coaches the opportunity and time to experiment, make
704
mistakes and learn their trade in relatively low risk yet high responsibility and autonomous
705
positions.
706
Discussion
707
The aim of the research was to provide a representative profile of the personalities,
708
practices and developmental journeys of these Serial Winning Coaches to aid recruitment and
709
development of prospective high performance coaches. Within this bigger picture, this paper
710
focused specifically on the practices of SWC and their path to success. Whilst efforts have
711
been made to elicit common themes and general trends, no two coaches from the sample are
712
the same, and it is important to recognise that, perhaps, a large part of their success lies in
713
their individual characteristics. Notwithstanding, the results offer a composite philosophical
714
and operational framework, which guides SWC’s practice, and identify key developmental
715
milestones that can contribute to more informed recruitment and development in the future.
716
SWC and their athletes highlighted four central areas of significance in their work: a
717
well-developed personal philosophy, a compelling and clear vision of success, the need to
718
pull together the right people and manage them effectively, and the creation of an optimal
719
environment where these people can thrive and thus realise the vision. In their developmental
720
journeys, SWC spoke about the early developmental experiences that significantly influenced
721
their coaching, the discovery of an early desire and aptitude for coaching, their thirst for
722
Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
33
knowledge and a relentless and purposeful quest for self-improvement and victory. All these
723
elements were supported by a striking ability to maximise chance and opportunity. Through
724
the answers to the specific research questions, however, the study unearthed a number of
725
underlying themes, which seem to have influenced the coaches’ developmental journey, as
726
well as their approach to their day-to-day work. These will be the focus of the discussion.
727
SWC have spent their life in an unrelenting pursuit to enhance human development:
728
their own, their athletes, and anyone’s impacting athletes’ performance. SWC are
729
fundamental contributors to athlete development and to the coach-athlete-performance
730
relationship (Cushion, 2010; Lyle, 2002; Mallett, 2010) and thus, performers in their own
731
right (Frey, 2007; Gould, Guinan, Greenleaf, & Chung, 2002; Mallett & Lara-Bercial, 2016).
732
As a result, they play a double role in so far as their own development is central to their
733
athletes. The way SWC approach this dual mission appears to revolve around a key
734
operational principle we have termed driven benevolence (DB; Figure 3).
735
736
Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
34
Figure 3. Driven Benevolence
737
DB can be defined as the purposeful and determined pursuit of excellence. This drive
738
hinges on an enduring and balanced desire to considerately support self and others; DB is
739
based on, and underpinned by, a well-established and coherent personal philosophy that is
740
enacted through genuine care for others while ensuring their optimal development as
741
individuals and as coaches and athletes. A grounded philosophy also provides the orientation,
742
stability, and consistency necessary for effective evaluation and decision-making. As a result,
743
DB affords the coach the cognitive and emotional elasticity needed to considerately, yet
744
proactively, make tough decisions that affect other people (mainly, but not exclusively,
745
athletes) for the benefit of the overall outcome, both in the short- and long-term. Finally, DB
746
protects the coach from the distractions generated by the unpredictable and emotionally-
747
charged elements of the high performance environment. This protective layer fosters the
748
longevity needed to secure repeated success with successive generations of athletes. We will
749
now explore in more detail how drivenness and benevolence manifest and impact coaches’
750
practices and attitudes.
751
Drivenness
752
Drivenness encompasses the purposeful and single-minded pursuit of excellence.
753
Previous research has identified the ability of the high performance coach to articulate a clear
754
vision as central to their success (Din, Paskevich, Gabrielle & Werthner 2015;
755
sportscoachUK, 2012; Vallée & Bloom, 2005). This vision allows coaches to engage in a
756
proactive and iterative planning and goal setting process (Côté & Sedgwick, 2013) fuelled by
757
what Din and colleagues (2015) termed as analytic tenacity: a relentless engagement in
758
analysis… the conscientious pursuit of incremental improvements’ (p. 598).
759
SWC confirmed these findings and offered additional information as to how this takes
760
place. Coaches in the sample consistently engaged in an exercise of ‘seeing into the future’
761
Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
35
aimed at understanding the required elements of performance necessary to succeed. However,
762
the resulting picture can be overwhelmingly complex, and SWC and their athletes
763
emphasised that central to their success is the capacity to ‘simplify complexity’. Simplifying
764
complexity is the act of picking out, from myriad options, the key modifications to the way
765
things are currently done that will guarantee the biggest return on investment from the limited
766
resources at the disposal of coach and athlete. This principle echoes ‘Simplexity Theory’,
767
which may be defined as the combination of simplicity and complexity within the context of
768
a dynamic relationship between means and ends (Compain, 2004, p. 129).
769
Drivenness is also encapsulated by the steadfast sense of purpose and duty expressed
770
by SWC. Concurring with previous research (Erickson, Côté & Fraser-Thomas, 2007; Rynne
771
& Mallett, 2012), coaches in our sample highlighted athletic experiences as central to their
772
development. However, for SWC, this went beyond the previously reported heightened
773
knowledge of the sport, and afforded leadership opportunities such as captaincies, and the
774
personal kudos associated with being a former elite athlete. SWC described an unremitting
775
personal quest marked by stories of unfulfilled ambitions as an athlete and driven by
776
atonement (Mallett & Coulter, 2016; Mallett & Lara-Bercial, 2016). This recurrent personal
777
narrative drove SWC to continuously strive for success. These coaches lived their coaching
778
lives perched on a precarious balance between a grounded self-belief in their own ability
779
based on previous achievements and work ethic, and a ‘healthy’ dose of reasonable self-
780
doubt about whether they are good enough to win again (Mallett & Lara-Bercial, 2016). This
781
‘serial insecurity’ protected them from complacency and spurred them on to try to win again
782
despite their previous frequent success. For SWC, the past did not matter and they want to
783
be great this year, not last year (Coach 2).
784
Drivenness has an additional benefit for the coach. The high number of potential
785
stressors faced by high performance coaches is well documented (Altfeld, Mallett &
786
Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
36
Kellman, 2015; Bentzenm Lemyre & Kenttä, 2016; Chroni, Diakaki, Perkos, Hassandra &
787
Schoen, 2013; Frey, 2007; Olusoga et al., 2012, 2014; Thelwell et al., 2008). SWC described
788
pressure and the resultant stress as a fundamental part of the job. Moreover, they indicated
789
that a key to dealing with pressure and stress effectively was to embrace it, relish it and be
790
grateful for the opportunity to still be in the fight (Coach 2). Despite their success record,
791
SWC had also experienced defeat and disappointment. However, a strong sense of direction
792
and purpose in both the personal and professional aspects of their practice was identified as
793
crucial in the process of tolerating and overcoming painful losses or failure to achieve the
794
desired goal. The ability to put results in perspective coupled with an enduring sense of
795
responsibility to athlete, programme and even country, allowed SWC to get over the personal
796
loss of pride that follows a defeat and focus on the necessary steps to improve the outcome in
797
the next competition. Supporting aspiring high performance coaches in this process appears
798
paramount.
799
In addition, this study brought to the fore the need for the coach’s vision and mission
800
to be underpinned by a long-standing personal philosophy and world-view. Vallée and Bloom
801
(2005, 2016) underscored the relevance of a coach’s philosophy and values in guiding coach
802
behaviour. For SWC, a well-established personal philosophy acted as a reliable navigation
803
device in the changeable terrain of high performance sport. It provided a built-in compass
804
that facilitated course-plotting and decision-making. A coach’s philosophy, in this case, acted
805
as a guide that allowed SWC to ensure that their actions and the programme remained within
806
desired humanistic parameters expressed by coaches and athletes: an explicit athlete-centred
807
stance; the espousing of high moral values; and the emphasis on a positive, yet relative,
808
work-life balance.
809
Benevolence
810
Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
37
Directly linked to the coaches’ philosophy and values, benevolence describes the centrality of
811
the desire to do good to others in the work of SWC (Mallett & Coulter, 2016; Mallett & Lara-
812
Bercial, 2016). Indeed, these coaches displayed a genuine and caring manner in the way they
813
strived to support athletes not only professionally, but also personally. Kellet (1999), in her
814
study of professional Australian Rugby League coaches, described them as having an honest
815
aspiration to nurture their players as people. Vallée and Bloom (2005) found a similar attitude
816
in successful Canadian college basketball coaches. More recently, Din et al. (2015),
817
examined the behaviours of medal-winning Canadian Olympic coaches and found an equal
818
yearning to treat athletes as people not as commodities. All the above evidence points,
819
therefore, to the relevance attached by successful high performance coaches to being fully
820
invested in the personal development of their athletes and to seeing them as people first and
821
athletes second. This is not incompatible with the SWC’s unwavering yearning to win and
822
succeed. Moreover, SWC’s motivational profiles created from their reported strivings
823
(Mallett & Lara-Bercial, 2016) may indicate that, perhaps, a well-adjusted mix of agency
824
(i.e., doing things for their own benefit) and communion (i.e., trying to benefit others)
825
provides an optimal equilibrium that promotes coach and athlete thriving (also see Mallett &
826
Coulter, 2016).
827
Benevolence also plays a role in the way SWC approached relationships and power.
828
The quality of the coach-athlete relationship has been highlighted as a key factor for
829
performance (Jowett, 2007). In line with previous research (Din et al., 2015; Gavazzi, 2015;
830
Norman & French, 2013), athletes in our sample viewed their coaches as espousing an
831
athlete-centred approach that prioritised the needs of athletes and teams above those of
832
themselves. In comparison to other coaches, SWC were described as highly ethical and
833
trustworthy, emotionally and socially intelligent, compassionate, considerate, and caring, and
834
portrayed as dependable and stable. All of the above contributed to the generation of a
835
Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
38
climate that created a strong sense of belonging and social identity, and where athletes felt
836
respected, cared for, and generally at ease. For the most part, athletes reported that this
837
environment allowed them to concentrate on the task at hand and to train and perform to the
838
best of their ability. In light of research conducted by Gould and colleagues (2002) indicating
839
that the inability of the coach to connect and build trust with athletes is one of the major
840
reasons for athlete underachievement at the Olympics, healthy and respectful coach-athlete
841
relationship are of paramount importance.
842
Nonetheless, effective relationship building and maintenance is not only vital during
843
episodic or relatively short-term coach-athlete interactions as it may happen during Olympic
844
games or international competition. During their development phase, or at the beginning of
845
an Olympic cycle, athletes require substantial amounts of time and investment to reach gold-
846
medal performance levels. Likewise, for coaches to achieve repeated success they need to be
847
afforded the opportunity to work with a variety of quality athletes and teams over a prolonged
848
period of time. Therefore, the generation of functional, enduring relationships, and a reliable
849
and stable climate of mutual respect and support seems to be a pre-condition for sustained
850
success. Coaches’ ways of working lead to reputations and these are shared amongst athletes.
851
As Athlete 3 stated, when you are happy is when you are going to perform better and also
852
improve more. Given a choice, athletes are likely to disengage coaches that fall outside of
853
this paradigm. As postulated by Chan and Mallett (2011), social and emotional intelligence
854
becomes a preeminent requirement for high performance coaches.
855
An additional indicator of benevolence relates to the preferred leadership style of the
856
coach. SWC and their athletes tended to share a common narrative in this regard, which
857
signalled a preference for an empowering style of coaching based on the sharing of
858
responsibility and decision-making with the athlete. In doing this, coaches aimed to build
859
athlete resourcefulness, self-reliance and motivation. This is consistent with findings from
860
Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
39
previous research that positioned successful high performance coaches as operating within
861
the parameters of transformational leadership (Din et al., 2015; Kellet, 1999; Vallée &
862
Bloom, 2005). Transformational leadership is defined as the development of the followers to
863
higher levels of performance through inspiration and empowerment (Bass & Riggio, 2006).
864
Rather than coercing athletes and staff into compliance, SWC made a concerted effort to
865
subtly persuade them towards their point of view. Although coaches in our sample found
866
themselves in very powerful positions by social structure and organisation (positional or
867
legitimate power; French & Raven, 1959), their approach to leadership appeared more akin to
868
what Keltner (2016) has described as the power paradox. Keltner’s research has shown that
869
power is built through other people’s perceptions of yourself; i.e., their trust in you will make
870
them receptive to your influence. Power is thus not imposed by the leader, but granted by the
871
followers. This emphasises the importance of ‘followership’, the willingness to follow the
872
direction and guidance of the leader partly because he/she is viewed as representing the best
873
interests of the athletes (Haslam, Reicher & Plastow, 2011). Keltner’s proposition explains
874
and magnifies the value placed by SWC in developing athlete and staff belief in the persona,
875
work and capacity of the coach as a precondition for an adaptive relationship/partnership.
876
It is however, noteworthy that, while seeking to be empowering and increase the
877
levels of autonomy, responsibility, and motivation of their athletes and staff, coaches
878
acknowledged that final decision-making power rested with them. Decisions were made,
879
where possible, based on consensus and dialogue, but not by committee (Mallett, 2005).
880
SWC made hard decisions aimed to improve performance and outcomes on a daily-basis and
881
were comfortable with being accountable for the consequences of their actions. Athletes
882
accepted this gracefully on the proviso that coaches tended to be considerate on their
883
decisions, cognisant of the impact of these on athletes and clear in their communication
884
strategies. SWC were ruthless, yet not heartless. Along these lines, SWC also stressed that
885
Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
40
they had no qualms in acting decisively (Din et al., 2015) when an athlete stepped out of line,
886
or when they felt a sense of entitlement or complacency, which undermined their
887
directedness, was taking root in an athlete or programme. In sum, whilst having a preferred
888
balance point around more collaborative and transformational ways of working, SWC are
889
adept at shifting along the leadership spectrum, from more directive to more collaborative
890
attitudes and practices, and from more transactional to more transformational approaches, to
891
suit the context, situation, people and time-constraints. This cognitive and emotional
892
elasticity allows them to, as highlighted by one of the coaches in the Vallée and Bloom study
893
(2005), behave like a human chameleon.
894
Benevolence, however, does not stop with the athletes and staff. A novel and
895
significant finding of the present study is the level of compassion and kindness SWC felt
896
towards themselves. Previous research has shown that the high performance environment
897
inherently contains a number of stressors and that coaches operate under considerable
898
pressure (Olusoga, Maynar, Hays & Butt, 2012; Thelwell, Heston, Greenlees & Hutchings,
899
2008). Coaches had to find strategies to release pressure, positively manage the stress
900
associated with their job, and normalise their very unique working conditions (i.e., constant
901
scrutiny, reliance on results, long hours, time away, etc.). SWC reported and placed high
902
value in having learned to keep a stable state of mind. They tried to avoid extreme emotions,
903
feeling too high during the good times and too low after losses or disappointments. They also
904
described their strategies to achieve this balance. For instance, making time for family,
905
‘switching off’ through hobbies and friends, and ensuring they remained in good physical
906
condition were all mentioned. SWC were overall very philosophical and equanimous about
907
their jobs and seemed to have acquired the necessary psycho-social skills to survive and
908
thrive in this harsh environment (Longshore & Sachs, 2015; Olusoga et al., 2014). Remaining
909
long in the game is the first condition to becoming a serial winner.
910
Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
41
Limitations and Further Research
911
Previous research into the practices of expert high performance coaches has had to
912
grapple with the very important issue of sample selection. Specifically, defining expertise and
913
finding suitable criteria for inclusion in the various studies have been major issues. Given that
914
our study was based on success rather than expertise, we did not face this dilemma. However,
915
a number of other limitations can be identified in the study design. For instance, our research
916
sought a retrospective account of the coaches’ practices and developmental journeys. Their
917
own success could have tinted their memories to offer a fable-like account of their rise to the
918
top and their day-to-day activities. Likewise, athletes were selected into the study through the
919
recommendation of their coach and the condition that they had to have won a gold medal
920
under the coach. These two elements could have created a bias towards speaking positively
921
about the coach or selected athletes that were naturally in agreement with the coaches’ ways
922
of working and that, similar to the coaches, had success-coloured memories of their work
923
together. Furthermore, due to the broad geographical spread and multi-lingual nature of the
924
coaches and athletes, the authors did not conduct all the interviews. Instead, a network of
925
local interviewers was trained by the authors to conduct the interviews in the coaches’
926
locality and language. All interviews were subsequently translated into English. As a result,
927
there is a potential ‘lost in translation effect’ that could have impacted on the reliability of
928
some of the interview answers. Finally, despite efforts to obtain a more diverse sample, the
929
majority of the interviewed coaches and athletes were predominantly white, western and male
930
limiting the generalisation power of the findings.
931
As a result of the findings we propose some ideas for further research. First,
932
conducting a similar study with a more diverse sample to include coaches and athletes from
933
different cultural backgrounds and more female coaches would allow us to determine if the
934
findings of our study are applicable across cultures. Second, to the best of our knowledge, a
935
Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
42
long-term ethnographic account (i.e., two seasons or more, or a full Olympic cycle) of the
936
work of a Serial Winning Coach has not been conducted. This approach would afford
937
researchers the possibility to observe coaches in their natural habitat and interact with them,
938
and their staff and athletes in real-time. In this way, a more nuanced understanding of their
939
work may emerge. An alternative to this very time-intensive research may be a combined
940
design including time-lapse immersion, stimulated recall, and coach reflective journal
941
analysis, which may provide a more nuanced picture of the work of high performance
942
coaches. Similarly, no study has tracked the career progression of emerging high
943
performance coaches. A longitudinal study following the developmental journey of a number
944
of promising high performance coaches could elicit a map of the personality and experiential
945
profiles that lead to success. Finally, the prominent role played by performance managers and
946
directors in modern professional and Olympic sport has been recently investigated (Arnold,
947
Fletcher & Molineoux, 2012; Arnold, Fletcher & Anderson, 2015; Fletcher & Arnold, 2011)
948
and is potentially a generative field of enquiry in relation to sports coaching. The interaction
949
and reciprocal influence between them and the high performance coach needs to be better
950
understood to maximise its contribution to coach and athlete learning and development, and
951
subsequent programme success.
952
Conclusions
953
In the present paper, we aimed to provide a representative profile of the practices and
954
developmental journeys of SWC to aid recruitment and development of prospective high
955
performance coaches (see Mallett & Lara-Bercial, 2016 for a full list of recommendations).
956
In relation to their practices, four central themes were identified: a well-established
957
philosophy, a compelling and clear vision of success, the need to pull together the right
958
people and manage them effectively, and the creation of an optimal environment where these
959
people can thrive and realise the vision. With regards to SWC’s developmental journeys, the
960
Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
43
findings highlighted the relevance of an early desire and aptitude to coach, an insatiable thirst
961
for knowledge, and a relentless and purposeful quest for self-improvement and victory.
962
Informing and guiding all of the above, the researchers identified a key operational principle
963
termed as Driven Benevolence: the purposeful and determined pursuit of excellence that
964
hinges on an enduring and balanced desire to considerately support oneself and others.
965
However, it is important to recognise that no two coaches from the sample were the
966
same, and that, perhaps, a large part of their success lies in their individual characteristics.
967
Notwithstanding this, the results offer a composite philosophical and operational framework,
968
which guides SWC’s practice, and identify key developmental milestones, which can
969
contribute to more informed recruitment and development in the future. Most importantly,
970
the outputs of the study offer a compelling account of the key features of the world of high
971
performance sport coaching. These central elements of elite sport coaching, although
972
interpreted and operationalised in distinctive ways by different coaches, represent a powerful
973
reference point from which to understand this very unique environment and the required
974
skills and attitudes of coaches to succeed within it.
975
Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
44
Acknowledgements
976
First, we acknowledge Mr Chris Bullen, who initiated the idea of the SWC project. Second,
977
we recognize the support of The Innovation Group of Leading Agencies of the International
978
Council for Coaching Excellence (ICCE) led by ICCE President, Mr John Bales, that
979
commissioned this study. We acknowledge the IGLA members and their respective
980
organisations and team for their contribution: Mr Christoph Dolch (Trainerakademie Köln,
981
Germany); Mr Adrian Bürgi and Mr Mark Wolff (BASPO Switzerland); Mrs Lorraine
982
Lafreniere (Coaches Association of Canada); Mr Frederic Sadys (INSEP France); Mr
983
Graham Taylor (UK Sport); Mr Ian Smyth (Leeds Beckett University); Mr Arjen Von
984
Stoppel (NOC*NSF Netherlands); Mr Erling Rimeslaaten (Olympiatoppen Norway); Mrs
985
Darlene Harrison (Australian Sport Commission); Mr Chris Bullen (High Performance Sport
986
New Zealand); and Mrs Desiree Vardhan (SASCOC, South Africa). Third, we acknowledge
987
the contributions of Dr. Tristan Coulter (The University of Queensland & Queensland
988
University of Technology, Australia) and Professor Jefferson Singer (Connecticut College,
989
USA) for their introduction to McAdams’ work and advice on integrating multiple data sets
990
from different epistemological frames in knowing a person. Fourth, we acknowledge the
991
feedback on the manuscript, especially in the discussion section, provided by Professor Jim
992
McKenna (Leeds Beckett University). And last, but not least, we would like to thank all the
993
coaches and athletes who gave so generously of their time to make this unique study a reality.
994
We climbed up the beanstalk looking for fierce giants and met a group of gentle ordinary
995
humans doing extraordinary things.
996
997
Lara-Bercial & Mallett Practices and Developmental Pathways of Serial Winning Coaches International Sport Coaching Journal 3(3)
2016
45
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Altfeld, S., Mallett, C. J., Kellman, M. (2015). Coaches’ burnout, stress, and recovery over a
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... Lara-Bercial and Mallett (2016) highlighted that elite coaches seem to be predisposed to living on the "knife-edge" of belief in their own ability whilst simultaneously doubting whether they are good enough to ever win again. Indeed, several of the coaches interviewed for this study seemed to present symptoms of selfdoubt (Coaches 1M, 3M, 6M, 9F, and 10F); insecurity (Coaches 1M, 8F, 9F, and 10F); and IS (Coaches 3M, 4F, 9F, and 12M). ...
... Clearly, this definition transfers into the realm of coaching where coaches are often expected to put in long hours or be on the road for extended periods of time. Furthermore, Lara-Bercial and Mallett (2016) highlighted how much coaches paid attention to, or at least attempted to, maintain a relative work-life balance and ensured that their physical and mental health, alongside their personal relationships, were maintained. This study highlighted the importance of a positive work-life balance, particularly in the midst of the pandemic where the boundaries between domains were further blurred due to lockdowns. ...
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Chapter
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Similar to an effective leader in business, a high-performance sports coach requires qualities beyond technical and tactical acumen, such as leadership and the ability to facilitate a functional leader-follower relationship. Underpinning this dynamic relationship that exists between the coach and athlete is a leader's acumen associated with emotional intelligence (EI). This article aims to highlight the utility of EI for high-performance sport coaches, and provide concrete examples as to how EI might enhance a coaches' ability to lead and direct the production of high-performance with their staff and athletes. First, a brief overview of the link between EI and leadership quality is presented. Second, Mayer and Salovey's (1997) four-branch model of EI (i.e., perceiving, using, understanding, and managing emotions) will be used as a framework for demonstrating how a coach may use such abilities to lead and produce high-performance.
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Research has demonstrated that coaches experience stress because of the nature of their job and that stress can affect their physical and mental well-being (Richman, 1992; Wang & Ramsey, 1998). The purpose of the present study was to better understand coaches' experiences with stress, the perceived effects of stress on their coaching performance, and their coping strategies. A semistructured interview approach was used with 10 NCAA Division I male and female head coaches. The five major themes that characterized the coaches' experiences were contextual/conditional factors, sources of stress, responses and effects of stress, managing stress, and sources of enjoyment. The results are discussed in relation to Smith's (1986) cognitive-affective model of stress. Opportunities for future research are suggested, and implications for practitioners who want to help coaches manage the stress of their profession are offered.
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Mindfulness-based research in sport has focused on athletes, while coaches remain unexplored. Research consistently shows that coaches experience high stress, which can lead to burnout, reduced performance, and emotional mismanagement. The present study developed and explored Mindfulness Training for Coaches (MTC), which is aimed at increasing mindfulness and emotional stability while reducing anxiety. Participants were 20 Division I coaches. The mixed-method design included trait and state measures of anxiety, mindfulness, and emotion, along with qualitative semistructured interviews. Trained coaches reported significantly less anxiety and greater emotional stability from pre- to posttraining. The state measures showed trained coaches were lower in anxiety and adverse emotions at each time point. Interviews showed six distinct positive impacts on coaches: anxiety and stress; emotions; mindfulness; coaching; athletes; and personal life. MTC is a promising intervention for coaches to reduce stress, improve well-being, and enhance coach-athlete interactions.
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Objectives: The aim of the current study was twofold. First, to explore whether there were different trajectories of exhaustion among high-performance coaches over the course of a competitive season. Then, to investigate whether workload-related variables and motivational regulations were associated with exhaustion class membership. Methods and design: 299 high-performance coaches responded to an online survey at the start, middle, and end of a competitive season, assessing exhaustion, workload, work home interference (WHI), recovery, and motivational regulations. Latent class growth analyses were used to identify different trajectories of perceived exhaustion. Further, multinomial logistic regression examined class associations for workload-related variables and motivational regulations at the start and at the end of competitive season. Results: Four different trajectories of perceived exhaustion among coaches were identified, termed respectively "High" (10%), "Increase" (15%), "Decrease" (4%) and "Low" (71%). Higher levels of workload and WHI were associated to classes with higher levels of exhaustion. Higher levels of recovery, and intrinsic and identified regulations were associated to classes with lower levels of exhaustion. Adaptive and maladaptive profiles were identified. Conclusions: Different trajectories of exhaustion among high-performance coaches over the course of a competitive season were found. A maladaptive profile was associated with higher perceived workload and WHI, as well as lower levels of recovery, intrinsic and identified regulations, when compared to the adaptive profile.
Article
The development of burnout in the vocation of sports coaching is a process that can take months or even years. Unfortunately, there is a paucity of longitudinal examination of coaches' burnout, stress, and recovery. The present study investigated burnout, stress, and recovery of full and part-time coaches to examine possible changes during the course of the season. Twenty-five full-time and 45 part-time active German coaches of different sports and competition levels completed the German coaches' version of the MBI and the RESTQ for Coaches at three time points. Inferential statistical analysis revealed significant changes of full-time coaches' stress and recovery scores over the course of the season. Moreover, the work hours per week were significantly higher at the end of the season. Post hoc analysis revealed that full-time coaches whose values of perceived success decreased over the season showed increased emotional stress and decreased recovery values. Part-time coaches reported consistent stress experiences. Consequently, findings suggest that full-time coaches experienced increased emotional stress, invested more time, and had insufficient recovery during the season. Thus, the results highlighted the significant role of recovery for full-time coaches and were particularly important to enhance the understanding of coaches' work.