In pursuit of becoming a senior coach: The learning culture for Australian Football League coaches

Mallett, Clifford, Rossi, Tony, Rynne, Steven, & Tinning, Richard (2016) In pursuit of becoming a senior coach: The learning culture for Australian Football League coaches. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 21(1), pp. 24-39.

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  • Background and Purpose

Given the turbulent and highly contested environment in which professional coaches work, a prime concern to coach developers is how coaches learn their craft. Understanding the learning and development of senior coaches (SCs) and assistant coaches (ACs) in the Australian Football League (AFL – the peak organisation for Australian Rules Football) is important to better develop the next generation of performance coaches. Hence the focus of this research was to examine the learning of SC and AC in the AFL. Fundamental to this research was an understanding that the AFL and each club within the league be regarded as learning organisations and workplaces with their own learning cultures where learning takes place. The purpose of this paper was to examine the learning culture for AFL coaches.

  • Method

Five SCs, 6 ACs, and 5 administrators (4 of whom were former coaches) at 11 of the 16 AFL clubs were recruited for the research project. First, demographic data were collected for each participant (e.g. age, playing and coaching experience, development and coach development activities). Second, all participants were involved in one semi-structured interview of between 45 and 90 minutes duration. An interpretative (hierarchical content) analysis of the interview data was conducted to identify key emergent themes.

  • Results

Learning was central to AFL coaches becoming a SC. Nevertheless, coaches reported a sense of isolation and a lack of support in developing their craft within their particular learning culture. These coaches developed a unique dynamic social network (DSN) that involved episodic contact with a number of respected confidantes often from diverse fields (used here in the Bourdieuian sense) in developing their coaching craft. Although there were some opportunities in their workplace, much of their learning was unmediated by others, underscoring the importance of their agentic engagement in limited workplace affordances.

  • Conclusion

The variety of people accessed for the purposes of learning (often beyond the immediate workplace) and the long time taken to establish networks of supporters meant that a new way of describing the social networks of AFL coaches was needed; DSN. However, despite the acknowledged utility of learning from others, all coaches reported some sense of isolation in their learning. The sense of isolation brought about by professional volatility in high-performance Australian Football offers an alternative view on Hodkinson, Biesta and James' attempt in overcoming dualisms in learning.

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ID Code: 93967
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: coaching, Australian Rules Football
DOI: 10.1080/17408989.2015.1072508
ISSN: 1740-8989
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY (130200) > Physical Education and Development Curriculum and Pedagogy (130210)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Exercise & Nutrition Sciences
Deposited On: 21 Mar 2016 04:52
Last Modified: 22 Mar 2016 02:00

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