Routledge Handbook of Elite Sport Performance
eBook - ePub

Routledge Handbook of Elite Sport Performance

Dave Collins, Andrew Cruickshank, Geir Jordet, Dave Collins, Andrew Cruickshank, Geir Jordet

  1. 402 pages
  2. English
  3. ePUB (mobile friendly)
  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

Routledge Handbook of Elite Sport Performance

Dave Collins, Andrew Cruickshank, Geir Jordet, Dave Collins, Andrew Cruickshank, Geir Jordet

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About This Book

The Routledge Handbook of Elite Sport Performance is the first book to examine a broad span of performance and support issues in contemporary elite sport; including coaching, sports science and medicine, leadership and management, operating in different societies, living in the system as a performer, and future developments in the domain.

The book is written by authors with elite-level experience, expertise, success, and status across individual and team sports, including football, NFL, track and field athletics, rowing, and rugby, in professional, Olympic, and other elite domains. The book also considers the integration of systems at micro to macro levels, from working with individual athletes to developing national organisations and policy, and features in-depth case studies from real sport throughout.

This is an essential reference for any researcher or advanced student with an interest in elite sport or applied sport science, from sport injury and sport psychology to sports coaching and sport policy. It is also an invaluable resource for coaches, managers, administrators, and policy-makers working in elite sport, offering them a "breadth first" guide to how and why specialists may work together for maximum effect.

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Part I
Coaching elites
Art and science
Given that the performers or teams who take to the competitive arena are the most important in any elite sport system, it follows that those who work most closely with them are (or at least should be) essential ingredients for success. Indeed, coaches are fundamental to the way in which performers and teams prepare, perform, and learn. In this sense, the main role of the elite sports coach is to develop and optimise the performance of individuals and/or teams in pursuit of personal and/or collective success. Of course, this success is relative to the performers and team in question; however, in essence, the nature of the job requires the coach to help them ‘succeed more’, ‘succeed better’, and often ‘succeed again’.
Consequently, for coaches across elite sport, the focus of their work is invariably tipped more towards performance outcomes than a broadly ‘positive sporting experience’ for their performers and teams (although both will sensibly be targeted as valuable extras). For clarity, coaches will still look to foster wider outcomes (e.g., positive well-being; broader personal development), but these are usually viewed as a complimentary pillar to achieving the main goal of performance success (i.e., not the main goal itself). In this way, successful coaching in elite sport is often gauged by the performance of their performers/teams (especially in meaningful competitions, events, games or moments), the progression and/or consistency of this performance, and, of course, hard results. Intensifying the challenge, these outcomes often need to be delivered as fast as possible! That said, while the broad outcomes of coaching are similar across different elite sport environments, the ways in which coaches work to deliver them can and does, of course, vary a lot. As such, this section has been designed to provide a broad overview of coaching across the elite sport landscape, as perceived by our group of high-achieving and high-profile coaches. Tying in with our approach throughout this book, these perspectives focus less on what the coaches do and more on how they work and why they work that way with specific sports, performers, and teams.
More specifically, the first chapter from our practising coaches comes from Toni Minichiello and is focused on being the personal coach; particularly his experiences of working with Jess Ennis-Hill. In this chapter, Toni reflects on the history and evolution of his role with Jess, the nature of his work, others involved in the journey, the challenges of ‘managing upwards’ in the system, the skills required to be an effective personal coach, and differences between the personal coach and other top-level coaches.
Moving from the level of personal coach to national coach in Olympic sport, Mike Hay presents an overview of his approach and experiences while the first, full-time national coach of the British curling team. In this account, Mike provides a perspective on the challenges faced in this new role, the steps taken to build this system, the introduction and integration of greater science, the subsequent progression of the sport, reflections on leading, and reflections on some key innovations brought to the sport, and advice for others taking on similar roles. Continuing with the national coach theme, but moving from an Olympic sport to a professional sport context, Egil Olsen then reflects on his time with the Norwegian men’s national football team with Geir. In this chapter, Egil describes how he took this national side, a small country with just about five million people, to punch way above its weight in the 1990s to at one point being ranked number two in the world. In this account, Egil’s messages centre on his philosophy on playing style, with a robust basis in empirical knowledge about what wins games, as well as being in front with analytics, adopting a match-by-match way to play to the style of the opponent, and his principles of leadership and communication.
Having considered some important factors in coaching on a national level, Chapter 5 then moves to present Dean Smith’s perceptions of coaching week-to-week in professional football, as based on his roles with Walsall FC, Brentford FC, and currently Aston Villa FC in England’s Championship. Beginning with an overview of the roles and responsibilities of head coaching in professional club football in the UK, Dean then provides a summary of the outcomes that he tries to deliver as a coach, followed by the general processes and skills which help him to achieve this. To conclude, Dean then considers two particularly important requirements of the head coach in professional football: ‘building your base’ when appointed and the importance of consistency for longer-term survival and success.
Providing another – and perhaps more significant – contrast, Chapter 6 then sees Tom Willmott describe his role as Head Coach of the “Park & Pipe” programme for Snowsports New Zealand. To contextualise his contribution, Tom summarises the transition of action/adventure/extreme sports into the ‘mainstream’ and the particular challenges of coaching in this environment. From here, evolutions within the Park & Pipe performance pathway are considered alongside other routes into elite-level competition, plus recent innovations in the domain – including the application of emotional periodisation, development models, and ‘team coaching’.
Having considered the nature and scope of work undertaken by head coaches in Chapters 3 to 6, we then return to the ‘personal coach’ level, but this time with a focus on the ‘specialist coach’. More specifically, Steve Fairchild provides a perspective on his work coaching quarterbacks in NFL, college, and high school, covering the role of the specialist coach, evaluating quarterback performance, developing quarterbacks, training approaches (including cognitive training) and, finally, some reflections on the broader demands on players. To offer a final contrast, this section then concludes by moving from the coaching of senior elite performers and teams to the development of the ‘elites of tomorrow’. To achieve this, Ruben Jongkind presents an overview of Johan Cruyff’s player development philosophy, which guided Ruben and Wim Jonk as management of the AFC Ajax Amsterdam Youth Academy between 2011 and 2016. In this account, Ruben introduces Cruyff’s ideas, how they were conceptualised and implemented in the academy, the role of supporting theory and data, and the politics, relationships, and personal challenges involved in the delivery process.
As will be shown, coaching in elite sport can be a highly rewarding but challenging endeavour. In this sense, it involves much, much more than the ‘staple diet’ of organising training schedules and sessions to aid the development and refinement of physical, technical, and tactical skills for competition. We therefore encourage the reader to keep a number of points in mind when reflecting on the messages offered by our contributors: namely, the type of performance or performer that the coach is trying to support, the outcomes that deliver this performance, the processes required to deliver these outcomes; the challenges and roadblocks that have to be accounted for; and how these areas vary in relation to each specific sport and environment. In addition to these, the next chapter sees Dave highlighting a few other important themes that run throughout this opening section. More specifically, Dave introduces some important characteristics and processes of coaches who work with elite performers and teams, as well as coaches who are ‘elite at coaching’ itself. These include the role of knowledge, experience, and openness (as some important characteristics), as well as that of professional judgement and decision-making, equal expertise, intuition, and innovation (as some important processes). So, without further ado, onto this ‘scene setter’!
The principles of elite coaching
Blending knowledge, experience, and novelty
Dave Collins
Coaches and coaching at the elite level: some initial thoughts
Although I have never coached at the genuinely elite level, my work as a psychologist has provided the opportunity to observe and interact with some superb coaches. In addition, work as a coach to national level, as a coach educator nationally and internationally, and as a researcher into coaching and teaching have offered the chance for critical refection and, perhaps most importantly, input from others. All this has helped to shape the perspectives offered in this chapter; perspectives which, wherever possible, are supported by published research evidence.
Please don’t get too concerned, however. My aim here is neither a reference-rich literature review nor a diatribe. Rather, I would like to raise some issues and questions which might prove useful as a backdrop to reading through the other chapters in this section. These are chapters which are, importantly, written by coaches who have worked and/or continue to work at the elite level: those who both have the T-shirt and deserve the accolades!
So, any general thoughts before I present some underpinnings? Well, I think it is important to define what we are talking about in using the ‘elite coach’ term. As highlighted by Nash and colleagues in 2012, elite coaching and coaching expertise have proved to be somewhat overused in the literature, most notably in people confusing the elite coach term with coaching elites! The confusion is, perhaps, understandable. After all, if the athlete/team is performing well, then the coach associated with the outcome must also be quite good. This confusion has led to the (until recently) socially accepted idea that, as you improve as a coach, you move up the ladder. Gratifyingly, recent coach accreditation proposals have started to recognise that a coach can be absolutely superb, a genuine elite, but be focused on different levels of performer. Personally, I would highlight Pete Sturgess from the English FA as one such individual, a passionate and extremely effective coach (and coach educator) who has consciously focused his energies on young players of 12 years old and under.
The other issue is that the quality of performance does not necessarily relate directly to the quality of the coach. There are a number of factors involved in the outcome, including scouting and recruitment, or playing on a team or squad to further your career as an athlete. So this is another common misnomer . . . because X is a great athlete then Y must be a great coach. Often true but not always. So, to summarise my points, elite athletes don’t necessarily equal elite coaches, and coaches can be elite without working with high-level performers.
So, having made that distinction, what are the implications for the chapter, especially as it is in a book on elite performance? Well, as with so much else in the human sciences, it means that we are best focusing on characteristics and process rather than outcome. Accordingly, the chapter explores the characteristics and processes of coaches who are both elite (i.e. good at their job) and coaching elites, athletes who are good at theirs! For clarity, I have split these two as separate parts, with the underlying concepts presented as sub-headings.
As you read through, however, please note the message which is reiterated in the conclusion. The effective elite coach is elite because of an optimum blend of all the ideas presented; a blend which she or he is constantly drawing on but also refining both retrospectively and proactively. Like the sports they work in, if elite coaches stand still they go backwards; if they work hard they stand still and it is only by careful and creative thought that they get ahead!
Part 1. Characteristics
Clearly, one of the things that distinguishes elites is their level of knowledge. In simple terms, this is probably best considered using the coach decision-making structure presented in Figure 1.1 below.
I talk more about the process in Part 2 of the chapter, and will refer back to this figure then, most particularly the DK (Declarative Knowledge) aspect. For the moment, however, it is worth noting that the coach’s actions will be determined through drawing on three broad bodies of knowledge, sport specific (the WHAT to coach), pedagogy (the science of learning – so HOW to coach it), and knowledge of the performer (sometimes referred to as the ‘ologies’), which helps fine tune the actions to the individual context. These three bodies of knowledge help the coach to generate a response, which can be an immediate action or a longer-term plan. However, for many, the final action will also be influenced by the norms or mores of the setting – in short, what is expected by the athletes in that particular context.
Based on this model, the elite coach will almost always have high levels of knowledge in all three areas, albeit that this knowledge might not be ‘formally academic’ (e.g. “Marks and Spencer” wrote about that!). This is a clear marker in that lower ability coaches will usually have one or more ‘weak suits’; for example, many coaches have surprisingly low levels of knowledge (and even interest) in pedagogy. The elite coach will also be relatively unbiased by the expectations influence unless there is a clear benefit to doing so – for example, working to the accepted and well-respected cultural norms of the team. Finally, it is worth mentioning that most elite coaches will be well aware of any weaknesses that they may have in these knowledge structures, and will take steps to ensure that these weaknesses are covered – perhaps by the use of an assistant coach with specialist knowledge in that area.
A common-sense approach would suggest that elite coaches will have a wider experience than their less able counterparts. Importantly, however, a quick review of those often identified as better, or even elite, coaches will challenge this assumption. The reason for this contrast is down to the exact meaning of experience, which goes beyond mere length or breadth of service. “Experience is not what happens to you, it is what you do with what happens to you”. This well-known quote from English author Aldous Huxley underpins the role which the individual must play in critically synthesising learning from what they experience. This idea is also reflected in the almost apocryphal saying “20 years of action without reflection is 20 years of the same substandard stuff”.
Figure 1.1 A simplified coach knowledge base for decision-making
My point here is that truly elite coaches will, as a trait characteristic, be constantly reviewing and refining what they are doing, hence making each episode a learning experience. I can recall fellow university lecturers who were still using slides marked 1975 in the 1990s! Or coaches who would be so consistent in their approach that you could set your watch by them. . . “OK, its March so XXX will be using that practice and that session plan”. I even had the pleasure of playing high-level rugby under a coach who used the same drill every Tuesday for the whole season. Worse still, we still couldn’t do it, even after that! Needless to say, none of these would fall into the elite category, even though they were undoubtedly working with high-level performers (notwithstanding our poor performance on a certain Tuesday drill!).
So, in addition to a wide knowledge base (or assistants to address the weakness), elite coaches will be aficionados of the critical reflection process. There is one caveat to the type of reflection, as I will explain later. For the moment, however, true elites will demonstrate their experience by (usually) openly describing their mistakes and describing how they progressed from them.
Openness to change is also a characteristic of elites. Some may see this as just another feature of experience but I would suggest that there are small and subtle differences which can make a big difference. To illustrate my point, I will draw on another Huxley quote: “There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self”. My main point under the openness element is that, in my opinion, true elites will display a very particular style with their peers and ‘acolytes’. This is probably best demonstrated by some work we did with coaches a few years back, that categorised high-level coaches as vampires or wolves (Collins, Abraham & Collins, 2012). The paper also offered some good insights on how coaches develop on the pathway to the top. For the moment, however, the relevant point is how high-level coaches sought out, and were open t...

Table of contents

  1. Cover Page
  2. Half Title
  3. Series Page
  4. Title Page
  5. Copyright Page
  6. Table of Contents
  7. List of Illustrations
  8. List of Contributors
  9. Foreword
  10. Introduction – defining, delineating, and driving elite performance
  11. Part I Coaching Elites – Art and Science
  12. Part II The Appliance of Science – Uni-Disciplinary Perspectives
  13. Part III the Appliance of Science – Interdisciplinary Perspectives
  14. Part IV Managing Elite Performance Systems
  15. Part V Fitting Systems to Societies
  16. Part VI Living in the System – the Performer Perspective
  17. Part VII Integration – Making it All Work
  18. Index
Citation styles for Routledge Handbook of Elite Sport Performance

APA 6 Citation

[author missing]. (2019). Routledge Handbook of Elite Sport Performance (1st ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2019)

Chicago Citation

[author missing]. (2019) 2019. Routledge Handbook of Elite Sport Performance. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis.

Harvard Citation

[author missing] (2019) Routledge Handbook of Elite Sport Performance. 1st edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

[author missing]. Routledge Handbook of Elite Sport Performance. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis, 2019. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.