In recent years coaching has become a much larger area for research, this is so that the complexity of the coaching process may finally be understood. Due to the nature of professional sport demanding a high quality of coaching there have been rapid developments in coaching as a profession (Woodman, 1993).As a result of this increased need for success in coaching it is becoming more desirable for other coaches to be able to replicate the same coaching processes that have proved successful previously, to do this researchers have attempted to model the coaching process. As thought by Lyle the approach to coaching may be seen as a sequential process, it is described as dynamic and systematic process that follows lots of stages and includes many contextual factors (Lyle, 1993). In similar research by Borrie and Knowles they also agree with the rationalistic approach, this was defined as a ‘series of stages that the coach has to go through to help the athlete learn and improve’ (Borrie and Knowles, 2003). In lots of research it is clear that many researchers believe the process may be modelled, examples of this are shown by Lyle, Fairs and Sherman. These examples of research show that the coaching process is methodical and may be condensed into a diagram form for representation of how the process is carried out (Lyle, 2002; Fairs, 1987; Sherman et al., 1997). Following a successful representation of the coaching process via a model that can be easily replicated, the potential for improvements in education and teaching of these coaching processes is huge as it allows coaching as a profession to become more effective (Csikszentmihalyi et al., 1993; Jones and Wallace, 2005).
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Not all research into the coaching process supports the same argument, for example Jones and Wallace (2005) suggest that it doesn’t follow a sequential pattern and cannot be rationalised. This is due to the process being seen to have too many external factors that have to be included, as a result of this the process is viewed as an inherently ambiguous activity that cannot be modelled (Jones and Wallace, 2005). In recent years Jones et al (2004) have focused on the intricate and dynamic nature of how coaches help to prepare athletes for competition (Jones, Armour and Potrac, 2004). The conflicting research that has been conducted on the coaching process leads to a belief that coaching may be too complex to be modelled as the contradictory understanding affects the accuracy of each model.
Although coaching is clearly a very complex process it has still been looked at from a rationalistic viewpoint in an attempt to model the process. Lyle suggests that for an improvement in coaching education to occur we must first understand the coaching process in principle (Lyle, 1999). By using a rationalistic perspective to look at the coaching process Lyle suggests the process can be modelled and will therefore have a subsequent effect on improving coaching education (Lyle, 1999). In the research conducted by Lyle it also suggests that there are two types of models for coaching, these are models of and for the coaching process. Models for coaching come from an idealistic perspective that derives from the use of assumptions made about how the process is carried out; On the other hand models of coaching lean more towards analysing successful coaching practice to produce a method of the coaching process (Cushion et al., 2006; Lyle, 1999).Categorising the types of research helps to identify the purpose of current models as well as identifying the structures of such models.
In 1987 the objectives model was created by Fairs, this was developed by using a systematic approach to identify the key sections that form the coaching process structure. This model identifies that coaching follows a number of structured stages that are also seen as being interrelated (Cushion et al., 2006; Fairs, 1987). This model can therefore be used to effectively represent coaching in a diagrammatical form, however the nature of the model still allows for flexibility due to an emphasis on analysing and reassessment of targets (Cushion et al., 2006).The objectives model does link in well with the coaching process whilst still being logical, however this model has taken criticism due to the overly simplistic nature throughout the structure of the model (Cross and Ellis, 1997; Jones and Wallace, 2005; Lyle, 1999).The criticism has arose mainly due to the lack of detail when looking into the coach athlete relationship. There are many contextual factors that haven’t been accounted for which therefore leads to the model not being directly specific to the coaching process (Jones and Wallace, 2005). The main downside to the objectives model is that the athlete coach dynamic isn’t highlighted to show a good representation of the interpersonal relationship that is clear for anyone who has taken part in sport, due to this there is a lack of validity because of the lack of connection to real coaching practice (Cushion et al., 2006).
Following the critique of Fairs (1987) objective model Lyle (1999) produced a model that would aim to support that the coaching process does follow a rationalistic and sequential process but also wanted to take into account the complex contextual factors that the objective model lacked. Lyle’s model has also been criticised for its lack of flexibility when trying to adapt to the messy reality of practice (Cushion et al., 2006), for example; the model fails to reflect on how a coach may have to adapt to not many people turning up, this occurs regularly in sport as there is a constant flow of power between the coach and athlete showing that nobody is ever completely powerless (Layder, 1994). Although these models are beneficial to outlining the coaching process and its factors, they are still limited as to how much they can be used as an educative tool, this is due to the overall lack of in depth knowledge relating to the social dynamics that occur between the coach and athlete (Cushion, 2004).
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As the need for a fixed model to describe and show how the coaching process happens is large research has almost been forced to condense the process in an attempt to conceptualise and rationalise coaching, this however has led to the models being unable to make sense of the ambiguous nature that occurs during coaching practice (Jones et al., 2004; Jones and Wallace, 2004). Although in some cases models have attempted to investigate the interactions between coach and athlete they haven’t been able to understand the realistic complexity that underpins the relationships (Jones and Wallace, 2005). Viewing coaching as an inherently ambiguous activity leads us to begin to see that attempting to model coaching is counterproductive when trying to understand the practical applications of coaching (Jones et al., 2004; Jones and Wallace, 2005).
Poczawardowski et al (2002) attempted to understand the coaching process further by taking a phenomenological approach to investigate the coach/athlete dynamic. This approach supported the theory that the athlete/coach relationship doesn’t follow certain patterns and have fixed reciprocal interactions (Poczawardowski et al., 2002). Again the complex athlete coach relationship was found to be unique for each individual interaction, this supports that both the athlete and coach personally author their own actions during the interactions. Jones and Wallace (2005) suggest that in order to improve coaching practice as a whole the coaches should practice situations where they themselves have low controllability and incomprehensibility, this will benefit the coaches as they will develop skills to quickly evolve to changing circumstances that require different measures of organisation and planning, doing so will lead to a more realistic expression of actual coaching practice (Jones and Wallace, 2005). Using this method suggests that coaching is linked to orchestration as it has been shown that expert coaches recognise the parameters and respond by acting in an unobtrusive and flexible manner so as to adapt to the ever changing situation that coaching is subjected to (Jones et al., 2004).
Even though there is rapid increase in acknowledgement of the coaching process as a whole and in the area, there is still a lack of a definitive list of concepts and factors to create a clear conceptual base to understand the coaching practice accurately (Cushion et al., 2006). All of the rationalistic models created to help better understand the coaching practice have been criticised, generally where all concepts fail is in the understanding of the unpredictable situations that arise during coaching, the main part of which is the extraneous variables that occur during both the athlete/coach relationship and factors that may affect training (Gould et al., 1990). Detailed research by Jones and Wallace (2005) and Poczwardowski et al (2002) revealed the real complexity of the coaching process by stating it as an ‘inherently ambiguous activity’ (Jones and Wallace, 2005). After looking at the literature surrounding the coaching process it has become clear that the coaching process is too complex to be modelled and attempting to do so is counterproductive.