Decision-making in rugby and implications for coach education: the elicited case of naturalistic, differentiated and disruptive decision-making

Cunningham, Darren, Grecic, David orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-1487-8327 and Richards, Pamela orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-4242-981X (2023) Decision-making in rugby and implications for coach education: the elicited case of naturalistic, differentiated and disruptive decision-making. Journal of Qualitative Research in Sports Studies, 17 (1). pp. 127-152. ISSN 1754-2375

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Decision-making in team sports has attracted significant interest over recent
decades by those in pursuit of excellence. None more so than by the three
authors who have worked, researched, and supported coach and athlete
development in this area cumulatively for over 60 years. This paper therefore
presents an amalgamation of learning in the form of a retrospective narrative
discussion around the key tenants of Decision Making (DM) with the sport
of rugby union being utilised as the exemplar. Specifically, here the first
author is asked to reflect upon his life in sport as a rugby player, coach and
coach education tutor against various DM frameworks and debates which
have shaped his own development. The second and third authors act as
critical friends and provide additional research context within each section’s
discussion. Interestingly a landscape is presented where Decision Making
emphasis has generally been placed upon the offensive phase of the game
which has in-turn driven coaching pedagogy and attention of those engaged
in these sports. The authors therefore propose that this focus is too limiting,
and that coach education provision needs to explore decision-making in more
depth to differentiate the types of decisions being made and the DM
processes that underpin them. They describe the merit of Naturalistic
Decision Making and the use of Shared Mental Models as valuable lenses by
which to view DM in team sports and on which to base future coach learning.
Finally, the authors introduce an additional element to the team DM arena,
that of Disruptive Decision Making and offer rugby exemplars of how NDM
and SMMs can provide the foundations upon which coaches should base
their practice. The authors make a call to action for coaching to address a
wider taxonomy of decision-making within team sports’ training and match
contexts. Recommendations are then provided for how coach education
might better develop the DM practices of both coaches and their athletes.

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