Coaching is an Academic Discipline!

When I joined the Department of Exercise & Sport Studies at Smith College in 1998,  Coaching was not seen as its own academic discipline – or even sub-discipline. Smith College awards an MSc. in Exercise & Sport Studies, which is in reality a Master’s in Coaching since all of the course work is oriented towards preparing students to work as coaches (mostly in a University setting).  At that time you could obtain a degree in coaching, although the study of coaching itself was not a feature of that education.

My own graduate degree is an M.A. in Physical Education (specializing in Coaching & Sport Psychology) which I received from the University of Western Ontario in 1987 – which in addition to being the top squash program in Canada (and often the U.S.), was at the time the only “A” rated graduate coaching program in North America. I played on the team, replaced head Coach Jack Fairs for his one-semester sabbatical, and acted as his assistant for the remainder of the year.  This combination of practical experience and formal education was ideal – within a year of graduating I was coaching, consulting, and writing coaching education materials for three of Canada’s National Team Programs:  Squash, Tennis and Racquetball, and the Coaching Association of Canada.

Since the late 1990’s Coaching has evolved into its own sub-discipline, with its own associations, scientific journals, and body of knowledge.  The study of coaching is now a bona fide topic of study, the most prominent groups of researchers being located in Canada and the UK. Here are three of the most  prominent academic journals in the discipline:

  • Journal of Coaching Education. The Journal of Coaching Education is a professional, peer-reviewed, electronic journal that provides a forum for coaching education professionals addressing current coaching topics through research-based articles. Issues covered in this unique journal include coaching pedagogy, strength and conditioning, tactics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and management.
  • International Journal of Coaching Science. The journal publishes original theoretical or empirical papers, and research articles may be either qualitative or quantitative in nature. Topics may comprise any of a wide variety of fi elds relevant to coaching, including psychology, pedagogy, management, sociology, biomechanics, and physiology. The journal encourages the integration of research and practice in the field, and published manuscripts must discuss the applied nature of the research to the field of coaching.

For the best current  examples of research and thinking in the discipline I recommend an article published in the Sport Psychologist and John Lyle’s book on coaching concepts (links to Amazon’s “Look Inside” for a preview).  Here is the abstract from the article:

TSP, 21(3), September 2007, Copyright © 2007

Sport Experiences, Milestones, and Educational Activities Associated With High-Performance Coaches’ Development

Karl Erickson Jean CoteJessica Fraser-Thomas

Full Article Table of Contents for Vol. 21, Iss. 3


What experiences are needed to become a high-performance coach? The present study addressed this question through structured retrospective quantitative interviews with 10 team-and 9 individual-sport coaches at the Canadian interuniversity-sport level. Minimum amounts of certain experiences were deemed necessary but not sufficient to become a high-performance coach (e.g., playing the sport they now coach and interaction with a mentor coach for all coaches, leadership opportunities as athletes for team-sport coaches only). Although coaches reported varying amounts of these necessary experiences, general stages of high-performance coach development were traced. Findings serve to identify and support potential high-performance coaches and increase the effectiveness of formal coaching-education programs.

If you Google the title of the article you may be able to find the full version that someone has posted on their website (copyright violation?).  Here is a Figure from the article depicting a common path to becoming a High Performance coach:

from Erickson, E., Cote, J., Fraser-Thomas, J.  (2007)

from Erickson, E., Cote, J., Fraser-Thomas, J. (2007)

The implications for squash coaches and those that administer programs related to squash coaching (National Sport Organizations, Athletic Directors) is that being an effective squash coach in not a simplistic process (i.e., if you are a good player you can coach).  Becoming a good coach involves a variety of fairly sophisticated concepts and processes:  playing experience, actual coaching and instruction experience, formal education, coaching certification, networking (e.g., coaching conferences) and support from fellow coaches and mentors.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: