Performance during performance: using Goffman to understand the behaviours of elite youth football coaches during games
Posted by Dean Holden at August 14th, 2013
The aim of this study was to investigate the social, contextual and situational factors that influence football coaches’ behaviour in competition. Twelve English youth professional coaches were observed over a five-month period using the Coach Analysis and Intervention System (CAIS). Two sets of interpretive interviews were subsequently utilized to identify the underlying processes and motivations for their behaviour. Using the work of Goffman as a lens to probe the data, it is suggested that coaching behaviour during games was largely performative, with the coaches’ behaviours dependent on social pressures and constraints. It is thus contended that the outcome was a form of ‘traditional coaching’ employed as impression management, as opposed to behaviours linked to pedagogical principles or the needs of athletes.
This study suggests that rather than being derived from sound pedagogical principles based on the needs of the players, coach behaviours during games are driven by more coach-centred concerns grounded in the social context. Such concerns focused on maintaining the social order and the performance of football coaching identities. In this case, the data indicate that the already well-established picture of the ‘traditional coaching’ performance found in practice is also evident during games. It is a situation that serves to reproduce a traditional view of coaching, while perpetuating the coaching theory-practice gap (c.f. Cushion et al., 2012a; Potrac et al., 2007, inter alios).
The work also adds to the evidence suggesting that coach education currently fails to provide coaches with an understanding or a means to tackle the contextual and social constraints found within the complex environment of elite athlete development. However, if coaching behaviour is a discursive production it can be deconstructed and, consequently, disrupted through strategic interaction. Such interaction, by reflecting on objective coaching behaviours, can provide coaches with a greater self-awareness of their actions and ‘selves’ performed during competition. Having such greater sense of self-awareness can help coaches ‘to evolve as coherent, even flourishing, social people’ (Plummer, 2010, p. 21).
Read entire study here!
<The Analysis and Discussion section is critically important… I suggest if you are a coach, regardless of which sport, you must read this study and self-reflect on your own coaching philosophy and deportment. Why do you do what you do? Are the traditional coaching behaviours congruent with creating the best environment for your players? Are there ways which you can become a better coach for your players; not merely to conform with ‘traditional coaching’ behaviours? What two changes can you make this year to become a better coach? Challenge yourself and challenge conformity. – DH>