Understanding the ‘fast-track’ transition between elite athlete and high-performance coach in men’s association football and rugby union: a grounded theory

Blackett, Alex (2017) Understanding the ‘fast-track’ transition between elite athlete and high-performance coach in men’s association football and rugby union: a grounded theory. PhD thesis, University of Lincoln.

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Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Item Status:Live Archive


It is commonplace for many high-performance coaches to be former elite athletes in the same sports they coach (Christensen, 2013; Mielke, 2007; Werthner & Trudel, 2009). In many cases, such individuals are ‘fast-tracked’ through formal coach accreditation structures into these high-performance coaching roles (Rynne, 2014). The reasons why former elite athletes dominate coaching roles in professional sports clubs and why a ‘fast-track’ pathway from elite athlete to high-performance coach is supported remain unclear. The project builds upon existing research on coach development to understand the social processes for how high-performance athletes negotiate the career transition into post-athletic high-performance coaching roles in men’s association football and rugby union.
The project employed a Straussian grounded theory methodology which consisted of three iterations of empirical data collection and analysis. The first and second iterations respectively sampled eight senior club directors and 11 academy directors of men’s professional association football and rugby union clubs on why they appointed ‘fast-tracked’ coaches and how they valued particular sources of coaching knowledge. Data were abductively analysed (Blaikie, 2009) and signified Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus, capital and hexis in addition to Foucault’s concepts of docile bodies, surveillance and technologies of power. The data suggested that elite athletes were drawn through within their clubs into high-performance coaching roles based on three main themes: a) to ensure the perpetuation of specific playing and coaching philosophies; b) clubs’ former athletes were regarded to act as docile bodies when embodying the clubs’ values in their coaching, and; c) ‘fast-tracked’ appointments were often based upon enhanced levels of symbolic capital and the perceived ability to gain player ‘respect’. Such appointment processes imposed symbolic violence onto other populations for whom competing in male elite sport is inaccessible, most distinctly women.
The final iteration investigated how current or former elite athletes negotiated a ‘fast-tracked’ career trajectory when developing their coaching identities. Current or former elite athletes (n=15) were interviewed on two occasions over a 10-12 month period whilst registered onto their respective national governing body’s level three coach qualification. Both courses were designed only for senior professional athletes to attend. The resulting grounded theory provides an original contribution to the field of coach development by signifying a number of distinct social process for how the athletes negotiated the ‘fast-track’ coaching pathway for developing their coaching identities. The difficulties the coaches encountered in balancing the values imposed on them by their clubs during the process of consolidating their own coaching identities are critically discussed in alignment with Bourdieu and Foucault’s conceptual frameworks.
Recommendations for the provision of formal coach education programmes are made concerning how coaches mediate developing their own coaching philosophies against imposed structural regimes of truth, along with conceptualising the value the coaches attributed to informal mentors over formal mentors. Recommendations are also provided to inform the policies surrounding coach recruitment at the high-performance level in the hope that directors’ recorded subconscious discriminatory practices are addressed.

Keywords:Coach development, High-performance coach pathways, Grounded theory, Association football, Rugby union, Bourdieu, Symbolic violence, Foucault, Surveillance, Coach talent identification
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C600 Sports Science
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Sport and Exercise Science
ID Code:28658
Deposited On:31 Aug 2017 11:10

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