Seeking conceptual clarity in the study of elite professional coaches and managers in rugby union and association football

Blackett, Alex (2013) Seeking conceptual clarity in the study of elite professional coaches and managers in rugby union and association football. In: 9th ICCE Global Conference, September 11th-13th, 2013, Durban, South Africa.

A.Blackett ICCE 2013 Presentation 2013.pptx
[img] Microsoft PowerPoint
A.Blackett ICCE 2013 Presentation 2013.pptx - Whole Document

Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Presentation)
Item Status:Live Archive



In this paper role clarification for elite men’s rugby union and association football coaches and mangers working in professional clubs within the UK is presented. The study’s sample is employers of elite coaches and managers, a population which hitherto have not been approached within the existing literature. Examination on how the roles are devised by the clubs is performed through identifying what attributes are perceived necessary for prospective candidates to uphold along with how these staffing structures are developed. The results of the present study contribute to a broader project focussing on the fast-tracking of elite athletes when transferring into elite coaching and managerial roles upon retiring from competing as a player in their respective sports.


Employers of elite coaches and managers were theoretically sampled. The sampling criteria required individuals to currently be in a position in which they were central to the recruitment process for appointing coaching staff. Eight participants were sampled through conducting semi-structured interviews, four from rugby union and four from association football. All participants were at the time of interview employed by professional rugby union and association football clubs competing in the top three divisions of their respective sports. Data analysis consisted of initial open coding followed by axial coding.


The results are presented in two categories; 1) roles and responsibilities and; 2) development and recruitment. Firstly, accountability for on field results transcended any other matter in respect for the manager’s roles. This was supported by additional areas of responsibility concerning team selection, recruitment of coaching and playing staff, conducting appraisals, budget expenditure and implementing the club’s philosophy. Coaches’ roles principally focussed on developing athletes individually and collectively. This was underpinned by the requirement of sustaining the club’s philosophy during practice. Secondly, the primary method of acquiring job specific knowledge was through a competitive athletic tenure. This presided over the requirement of candidates attaining formal coaching qualifications. Preference of recruiting individuals with a prior affiliation to the club through having had a playing tenure was significant.

Discussion and Conclusion

The issue underpinning both categories is the fulfilment of sustaining the club’s collective philosophy. Thereby the results draw on sociological theory pertaining to Bourdieu’s (1977) concepts of habitus and symbolic capital in respect to how employers recruit coaching staff. Individuals with a similar habitus to the clubs they represent and with high levels of symbolic capital relevant to the field are more likely to be employed as elite coaches and managers. The importance of candidates upholding elevated levels of symbolic capital was foreseen to benefit the enhancement of player respect (Potrac, Jones & Armour, 2002). Therein an increase in motivation and commitment would facilitate ensuring the achievement of positive on field results. The preference for a candidate’s habitus being similar to the club’s was based on the employer’s desire that the coaching staff would continue promoting the club’s values through their individual and collective practice. It is suggested that candidates with a prior competitive athletic tenure are the predominant population which can meet the criteria to be effective elite coaches and managers. Such a train of thought helps perpetuate the culture of fast-tracking elite athletes into elite coaching and managerial positions (Mielke, 2007).

Reference list

Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mielke, D. (2007). Coaching experience, playing experience and coaching tenure. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 2(2), 105-108.
Potrac, P., Jones, R., & Armour, K. (2002). ‘It’s all about getting respect’: the coaching behaviours of an expert English soccer coach. Sport, Education and Society, 7(2), 183-202.

Keywords:Elite sports coaching, Bourdieu, Capital, Doxa, Symbolic violence, Unmediated learning
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C600 Sports Science
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Sport and Exercise Science
Related URLs:
ID Code:11950
Deposited On:18 Sep 2013 17:25

Repository Staff Only: item control page