My Coaching Research


The blurb on this page provides an overview of my approach to research and the projects that I’m currently working on.

Research Philosophy

My researcher philosophy is one of pragmatism (North 2012; Giacobbi et al. 2005) with the explicit aim of contributing new knowledge that is likely to provide practical solutions to coaching problems within sports ccoaching As part of the methodological process, I draw upon my personal experiences (Richardson, 2000; Sparkes, 2000) as a coach and coach educator in endurance sport to inform on the research process. This is in recognition that it is not possible to eliminate research biases (Becker, 2009) for the pragmatist (Giacobbi et al. 2005). Rather, a researcher’s pre-existing beliefs will shape the research design.  Further, a pragmatist recognises that there is no method of knowledge acquisition which can claim veracity over another. By ‘hearing the researcher’s voice’ demonstrates intent and what the imperatives towards objectivity are.


2017: Endurance Coaching in the Digital Age

Over the last 20 years or so, endurance sports such as triathlon and cycling have grown from being niche into a world-wide multi-billion-dollar industry (Triathlon Business International, 2015). This growth has been supported by a new type of Personal Referenced Athlete (PRE) (Bailey et al., 2010). They are athletes who want to achieve personal bests, complete challenging events and are often the parents of children who participate in the sport. They can often afford to pay a coach to help them on their way.

Endurance sports coaching is a ‘cottage industry’ of small businesses run by people who love their sport (Training Peaks Survey, unpublished) who often work with PRE athletes as well as with athletes focused on high-performance.  We believe that these coaches are the 1st generation to work with web-based technology to support their coaching practices. However, there is very little research to either describe what they do (the coaching process) or on how to support them to do a better job.  In addition, little is known about how this group of coaches learn and develop their coaching practice. This is important because models used for coach education which define professional standards of coaching (such as the UK Coaching Certificate (UKCC) were developed at a time when ‘technology’ was typically not used in the way it now is. The UKCC is aligned to the Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF) which outlines learning outcomes for coaches. Anecdotally, it is reported that these learning outcomes no longer reflect what coaches do or what they need learn to practice effectively. This leads to inefficiencies for educational providers, who are typically not-for-profit organisations.

Therefore, the aims of this study are to:

  • Explore the perceptions of coaches of what they believe their role to be, their coaching processes and ways in which they learn.
  • Explore the perceptions of athletes on what they believe the role of a coach is.

By gaining this insight, I will describe the coaching process and coach learning within a specific coaching context. It is hoped that such insight will enable us to provide guidance on developing learning programmes for coaches working within this environment.


2017: Epistemological Transformation in Sports Coaches

This is a project conducted by Dr Justine Allen and I at the University of Stirling.

We want to explore how coaching knowledge develops over an MSc. Programme in Performance Coaching. This is important to help us evaluate how effective the programme is in helping coaches learn and our findings have potential to inform on coach learning in a wider context.