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Coaching others to coach
Coaching others to coach

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5 When power is turned upside down

As a coach developer you often enter organisations as the representative of another organisation. In the activity below you will read how a coach developer’s work is compromised by the perceptions of their role and the organisation they represent.

Described image
Figure 6 How can you stop forms of power obstructing your role as coach developer?

Through the following case study you are continuing to build on your own self-awareness of power relations.

Activity 5 Case C: Placed ‘on the back foot’

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

The following three extracts are taken from interviews that examine the experiences of full-time coach developers, academy managers and coaches within professional football clubs (Cushion et al., 2017).

Read the extracts and then write down your thoughts on the following:

  1. Can you think of examples where you have also been placed ‘on the back foot’ or met a brick wall as a guest at an organisation: how would you react in this situation?
  2. Where do the views and opinions of the academy managers (Extracts 1 and 2) and the coach (Extract 3) come from, and why?

Extract 1

Interviewer: How do you see the coach [developer role] within your club?

Academy manager 1: Well, first of all, the word ‘within’ is dangerous, ‘cause he wouldn’t be within! … He would be ‘outside’, supporting us with our qualifications. [They] could not come and start telling anybody what to do. It doesn’t work that way. He’s invited in as our guest, as our support person. I told him that he could come in but he wasn’t going to change anything as we have our own way of doing things and our way is the right way.

Extract 2

Interviewer: Can you describe the impact that the coach [developer] had on your coaching programme?

Academy manager 2: None. No, we’ve asked the coach [developer] when he comes in … to reinforce our coaching programme.

Extract 3

Coach developer: I was told I could come in but wasn’t going to change anything as they (the club) have their own way of doing things and their way is the right way.

Coach: When I first came across the coach [developer] and asked who that is, oh it’s … from the Sports Governing Body, straightaway I was defensive.

(Cushion et al., 2017)
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  1. Case C demonstrates how the coach developer’s work is always constructed within, and shaped by, the beliefs, perceptions and opinions of individuals. Academy managers 1 and 2 are setting boundaries that impact on the support the coach developer can provide. The coach developer has been told he is not going to change anything: it is challenging to build a relationship to improve coaching practice when people are not open in the first place. The coach in Extract 3 reveals how a perception of the coach developer’s organisation immediately puts the coach on the defensive.

    Responding to these types of situations is hard and can be demotivating but honesty, authenticity and a willingness to try to develop rapport are sound starting points. In these examples any coach learning and development that takes place involves the interplay of power between the coach developer, the academy managers and the coaches.

  2. Perhaps these views and opinions – and how they shape the distribution and balance of power between people – are either:
    • a fear of what somebody from an outside organisation might bring with them
    • a perception of the organisation the coach developers are employed by, and/or
    • a conviction that their club’s coaching programme doesn’t need to change or be challenged.
    In these circumstances any potential to influence coaching practice becomes a complex and dynamic social process of accommodation, negotiation and compromise.

In this last example the tables have been turned. It is the coach developer on whom power is being exerted. Through the circumstances of this context the coach developers may have to explore and find some quite subtle methods of building relationships that will influence the development of coaching practice.

These three case studies have demonstrated how power relations between a coach and coach developer vary from situation to situation and are in a continued state of flux. They have also underlined the importance as to why coach developers should be self-aware about the degree of power they may have, or might not have, and the influence this can have on learning.

To draw this session to a close you are now introduced to a term that may be new to you: reflexivity.