Change or transformation?

If you will indulge me for one more post, I would like to revisit coach education and the development of the sports coach. Over the past three-years I have referred to various learning needs, a desire to improve my practice and become more effective in what I do. In doing so, I have highlighted the value, or not of the previous year’s online culture of coach interactions and the sharing of knowledge as a form of CPD. Many of these, as previously alluded to, have included the sharing of the lived experience and the individual patterns of learning of some of our ‘top’ basketball coaches. Indeed, I have taken a great deal from these engagements, but question how they translate into anything meaningful within my own practice. This is to say, I have found them insightful and interesting. I have compared some of the individual incidents within the various journeys. For example, the ‘leap’ from playing to coaching and the missed opportunities and gained experiences that make up the development journey of our coaching fraternity.

In a very separate but related activity, I sat down to a final dissertation supervision meeting with a current year 3 student. The focus of their project was the value of a coaching degree as a form of coach education. They had engaged the formal, nonformal and informal framework first put forward by Coombs and Ahmed (1974) and framed a degree as a formal activity. This got me thinking, and in a rather casual and non-scientific exercise I attempted to reflect on all the Podcasts I had listened to over the course of the last eighteen months and analyse the idiosyncratic nature of coach education. The short report to this thinking highlights a transition from playing to coaching as a way to remain in the game. It points to level 1 and 2 coach awards, and in some cases, level 3 as a means of gaining credibility and certification as a coach. And perhaps most prominent of all is networking, the sharing of ideas and engaging with fellow coaches to develop our practice. In other examples, coaches have been brave in their career choices and moved towns, cities, and even countries in pursuit of a ‘professional’ career. Unfortunately, most cite a lack of support, a structure that could possibly embrace and guide their aspirations towards professionalisation.

However, none of this is new, in fact, the Coaching Task Force (2002) and previous written attempts to report on the ‘state’ of coaching in the UK (NGB’s holding on to antiquated beliefs – Coaching Matters, 1991; standards of coaching be elevated to a professional standing – Vision for Coaching, 2001) have long discussed the professionalisation of coaching. As a result, the CTF recommended the implementation of a national certificate, a license to practice and a review of UK Coaching (then scUK). Perhaps in response to the then interest in coaching, Taylor and Garrett (2008) identified a number of characteristics of a professional field, including professional education, a career structure and pathway, and role clarity. Thus, as a return question, can basketball respond to these and other recommendations from the past twenty years with confidence? I suggest we must reflect on the breadth of employment opportunities available to the basketball coach. The EABL and DiSE (previously AASE) products have created access and opportunity through the emergence of Basketball Academies. Indeed, we have some excellent examples of partnerships with schools, FE providers and NBL / BBL teams. This being said, we do not have a professional league that retains external interest and is of a size that offers multiple employment opportunities. As a result, we must ask ourselves, what do our career structure and development pathways look like? Do we know what a professional basketball coach is? In short, we are good at theorising about the practice of sport coaching within basketball but less so when it comes to engaging in the structures and processes that lead to a more professionalised way of thinking and doing.

Coombs, P.H., & Ahmed, M. (1974). Attacking rural poverty: How non-formal education can help, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

DCMS (2002). The Coaching task force-Final report. London: DCMS.

Sports Council (1991). Coaching Matters: A review of coaching and coach education in the United Kingdom. London: Sports Council (GB).

Taylor, B., & Garratt, D. (2008). The professionalisation of sports coaching in the UK: Issues and conceptualisations.

UK Sport (2001). The UK Vision for Coaching. London: UK Sport.

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