Exploring the Principles and Mechanisms of Coherent Coaching on Talent Pathways

Webb, Vincent (2019) Exploring the Principles and Mechanisms of Coherent Coaching on Talent Pathways. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Although our understanding of psychological and social factors in talent development continues to expand, knowledge of the broader system that underpins entire talent pathways is relatively limited. Indeed, little work has moved beyond the recognition that coherence in this system is important to consider how this may be achieved; particularly in relation to coherent coaching. Accordingly, this thesis sought to explore levels of coherence or incoherence, through an entire set of coaches in the British Cycling (BC) talent pathway to understand how they can best deliver desired outputs (e.g., adaptable, independent and resilient senior performers). Therefore, to advance practice in my own domain, this thesis firstly presents several key, theoretically-based principles and mechanisms of coherent coaching in the context of British Cycling’s and other sport organisations’ talent pathways. Secondly, after defining and contextualising coherence in whole talent pathways, including barriers to attainment, the thesis discusses how an understanding of coach epistemology can provide a basis for integrating collective coach coherence and, consequently, a coherent performer experience. From this foundation, the principles and mechanisms presented were used to explore the coherence of the BC talent pathway, both vertically (i.e., coherence up and down age groups), and horizontally (i.e., across three Olympic disciplines: Road, Track, and MTB) as measured through coach perceptions. More specifically, the first study reviewed the available literature and determined a number of key principles and mechanisms of coherent pathways that informed study two and three. Both these studies explored coherence and incoherence through a qualitative approach, utilising a self-report questionnaire that enabled the studies to reach a large pool of cycling coaches. Results from these studies found that the coaches had a level of coherence but also unexpected incoherence in a number of areas. Findings suggest the coaches’ epistemological positions are influencing their delivery and, in turn, are heavily influenced by the NGB and their social milieu.
Given that the coaches’ perceptions suggested a level of coherence, and indeed incoherence in the pathway, the final study of this thesis explored key stakeholder perceptions of the coaching pathway and potential models for coach education that could further align the talent pathway in BC. More specifically, this study used a qualitative approach through semi-structured interviews to generate a useful breadth and depth of opinions from active stakeholders. This study revealed that a level of coherence was present across key stakeholders that suggests a remodelling of the coach education provision is required to further align the talent pathway in BC.
Overall this work has contributed to a clearer understanding of what is required to align the talent pathway in BC in regard to coherent coaching; indeed, the findings have prompted a review and re-design of the whole coaching pathway; a summary of which is presented in the closing stages of this thesis. Finally, this work has also contributed to research on talent development in that it has explored an area that has had little, if any attention and, furthermore, it offers principles, mechanisms and methods by which other sports can investigate and optimise the levels of coherence on their own pathway.

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