4 It’s my way!
You’ll now explore how power relations can be applied to a coaching qualification course. In the activity that follows you’ll read about how individuals tutoring on these courses deploy their knowledge and subtle forms of power over the coaches.
Case B represents another example of power although, as you might conclude, a form of power that is closely related to the example you read about in Case A.
Activity 4 Case B: An open approach to responding to questions?
Read the following extract from a study undertaken by Piggot (2012). To what extent do you recognise the tutoring being demonstrated in this extract? Please note, L1, L2 and L3 refer to the qualification levels adopted by the United Kingdom Coaching Certificate (UKCC) framework.
… coach educators … employed a range of techniques to (re)produce knowledge and protect their positions of power. First, authority was established, usually through reference to experience and status. As Hayley explained: ‘… it was the constant reminder of his years of experience and years in the job that was drip-fed into the conversation … [It] served as a reminder that he had the experience; he had the knowledge. Therefore, there was no need to question it.’ (Hayley, Swimming L2)
Such practices served to establish dominant … power relations which were described by coaches as ‘paternalistic’, [we were] ‘treated like children or like players’ (Lyle, Football L2). In order to reinforce these relations, coach educators drew on the technique of ‘deifying knowledge’, rendering unassailable the ideas and practices they were presenting. This practice was characterised by Craig: ‘They constantly referred to ‘when they were working with such and such a player’ and ‘when they were working with such and such a club’ and erm … you feel they were bringing them in because they feel their experience outweighs your own and undermines your own way of coaching’ (Craig, Basketball L3). When coaches attempted to question this knowledge and the associated practices, questions were either bluntly ‘shot down’ or countered with the more subtle response: ‘that’s interesting but …’. This technique characterised a sophisticated attempt to ‘pay lip service to questions’ (Evelyn, Gymnastics L1) whilst simultaneously drawing attention back to the orthodoxy, [e.g.]: ‘they’ll always say ‘that’s a good idea. I really like that but …’ Then they’ll take it back to what they know. So there is that chance to sort of debate, but it’s not real. It’s artificial. It’s for show. There’s still that underlying feeling that their way is still the best way to do it and we accept that because we want to pass the course’. (Lyle, Football L2).
Case B reveals subtle yet powerful techniques that can be used unwittingly by coach developers to reinforce and reproduce certain forms of behaviour and practice. When tutoring a course you have an immediate potential power imbalance which can influence what and how coaches learn. If you are not self-aware the use of this authority can have unintentional consequences.
This power is often a constituent part of the relationship between the person delivering and those being taught. An expert coach developer should reflect and recognise the nature of the power relationship and how they can use their knowledge and that of participants to positively effect learning. Effective questioning is such an important part of a coach developer’s work that Session 6 is devoted to this topic.
Reflecting on experiences and the ability to read the social situations that unfold is partly what makes a highly skilled coach developer. Being aware of the power you possess, the extent of this power, its source and how you can use your power constructively to support learning and development is vitally important.
As a contrast, in the next section you consider a situation where power has been inverted and the coach developer is in a relatively powerless position.