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Sports Coaching

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Sports Coaching

Sports’ coaching is a very complex and complicated process. It is a
process that requires input from a wide variety of specialist sub
disciplines within the area. The management and the uniting of these
specialist areas into a strategy to improve sporting performance is
the major role of the coach (Lyle, 1999). Woodman (1993) expressed
this ability of the coach as a form of ‘art’ and suggests that the
better a coaches understanding of the sciences surrounding the
coaching process the more effective a coach will be in the art of
coaching. Coaching is an emerging profession and the sports coach has
an increasing number of responsibilities. The process is underpinned
by values and ideologies proposed by such foundations as the National
Coaching Foundation (NCF) (1996) who provide a framework of rules for
coach behaviour. The NCF (1996) highlight creating a positive
experience and minimising any risk to athletes as vital roles of the
sports coach. These values are related more towards the role of
participation coach’s whose initial principle is the athlete’s
enjoyment of the sport leading to the continuation of participation.
The emphasis is on the learning of skills and not competition success.
There is no systematically controlled plan, unlike performance
coaching, which involves detailed planning and monitoring of progress.
Performance coaching attempts to control variables affecting
performance in order to increase an athlete’s development and achieve
long term goals usually connected with competition. It is the
performance coach that is more likely to undertake the management of
several specialist disciplines highlighted by Lyle (1999). For this
reason, performance coaching is the more complex process and the
process that researchers have found difficulties in producing an
accurate framework or model for. A coaching model should provide a
simplified representation of the structure and function of the process
(Lyle, 1999). However, this is where the problem for researchers
occurs because it is the simplifying of such a complex process. This
essay will look at the original model of the coaching process from
Fairs (1987). The model will be analysed and its strengths and
weaknesses discussed whilst comparing it to other models of the
coaching process, which have been developed since.

[IMAGE][IMAGE]Fairs (1987) model of the coaching process (figure 1) is
a model for coaching as opposed to of coaching. This means the model
is not based on empirical research into expert practice but instead is
a more idealistic representation. The model is constructed through the
application of assumptions accentuating a teaching and episodic
approach. It is based on four characteristics highlighted by Fairs
(1987). The first of these is that the model is dynamic meaning that
the process constantly changes and the different actions of the
process influence and relate to each other. The model is organised as
one step follows another. It is also systematic due to the steps
progressing in an orderly fashion. Finally, the model is deliberate as
each step considers the needs of the participator.

Figure 1. The coaching process (Fairs, 1987).

Models of the coaching process are required for a number of reasons. A
framework for the process is much needed to aid future research into
coaching practice, which there has been a vast shortage of (Lyle,
1999). Côté et al. (1995) implied that without a general model the
findings accumulated from research would remain as disconnected
information related to how coaches work. Being a model for the
coaching process Fairs’ (1987) model is a useful tool for coach
education and training. Fairs (1987) suggested a major role of the
coach was to identify and solve an athletes problems and a purpose of
the model is to aid in this requirement and act as a guide for the
coach. An added purpose of the coaching process model was to establish
a scientific foundation for the process in order to aid coaching in
attaining a place as an independent profession.

The coaching process model (Fairs, 1987) is a five-step objectives
model employing orderly inter-related steps. These steps include data
collection, diagnosis, planning, execution and evaluation. The arrows
connecting the steps of the model illustrate the systematic order of
the model’s steps, and through reassessment and revision of the plan,
show the continually evolving nature of the process. The first step of
the model is data collection. Here the purpose is to assemble
necessary information about the participant’s performance. The first
step is theoretically the most important because of the model being
systematic and so the subsequent steps are built from it. Data may be
subjective in that it is provided by the competitor or objective in
that it is observed by the coach. The second step is called the
diagnosis. Here the coach analyses the data provided by the first
phase of the model. Through this assessment of relevant information
the coach can identify if the competitor has any needs or problems.
The plan of action is the third step and this comprises of the coach
prescribing an action that will correct any problem identified in the
previous phase. Goal setting is declared useful in this step and
evaluation of the coaching help given is possible through the
realisation or incompletion of these goals and general observation of
the performers play. The coach’s execution of the plan of action is
the fourth step. Here it is important for the competitor’s ability to
be considered. Finally, the fifth step of the model is the evaluation.
In this phase the coach critically appraises the effectiveness of the
coaching action by evaluating whether the goals set were achieved. If
the plan of action was unsuccessful a reason such as incorrect problem
identification or unrealistic goal setting must be determined. This is
done through reassessment and may require further data. A revised
diagnosis or corrective plan is then required as the players situation

The model has distinct advantages. As mentioned earlier, one essential
characteristic of a model is for it to be a simplistic representation
and Fairs (1987) achieves this. The application of simplicity will
assist a coach in the understanding of the process conveyed so that
the coach himself can employ the process and improve players under his
influence. The model illustrates a number of useful stages (Lyle,
1999) encouraging the adoption of certain actions and skills that deal
with numerous roles of the coach. The model promotes goal orientation
and the systematic approach of the model enables easier detection of
any problems the athlete may have. A planned intervention strategy is
then encouraged involving communication with the athlete. The model
then provides an appraisal mechanism where the coach can re-evaluate
performance ensuring a positive change in performance. Woodman (1993)
champions the importance of Fairs (1987) model in its support of
coaching as an art form. The model supports this notion by stressing
the importance of the analysing and solving of problems.

Whilst the coaching process model benefits in some ways from its
simplistic and systematic approach, in other areas the model is very
limited. Lyle (1999) suggested that the model fails to consider long
term planning, the complexity of performance and the interpersonal
nature of the coaching relationship. Individuals drive the coaching
process. The interaction between the coach and athlete is unique due
to emotions, cognitions and motivations. Fairs (1987) fails to realise
this inconsistency within his predictive model. In contrast,
Chelladurai (1990) produced a model of leadership called the
multidimensional model, which can be applied to coaching, that does
consider such contextual factors. The model looked at the performance
and satisfaction of members. It considered the effects of the
different characteristics of the situation, the leader/coach and the
members. Fairs (1987) model also suffers from the limitations that
accompany a model for coaching. Difficulties may occur if a model of
this type is introduced into practice because its assumptions may not
be matched by existing parameters (Lyle, 1999). In comparison, Côté et
al. (1995) devised a model of coaching that has the advantage of being
based on empirical research. In this case, interviews of expert
gymnastics coaches. The model shares similarities with the
multidimensional model (Chelladurai, 1990) in that it recognises the
personal characteristics of the coach and performer as well as
contextual factors. However, Côté et al. (1995) made further
developments in the modelling of the coaching process by adding a
group of central components, including competition, training and
organisation. However, whilst Fairs (1987) outlined the connection
between stages as systematic and continuous, Côté et al. (1995) fail
to describe the relationship between [IMAGE]its separate constructs
limiting its predictive aptitude.

Figure 2. The coaching model (Côté et al., 1995)

In conclusion, Fairs (1987) coaching process model is a suitable model
for what it aimed to achieve. The intention of the model for coaching
was to aid the coach in his role to identify and solve the problems of
an athlete whilst creating a scientific foundation to support the
profession and future research. The model was successful in the
creation of a guideline for the education of coaches in the ‘art’ of
solving the problems of athletes. This was achieved with five simple,
easy to understand steps. Future models managed to build on Fairs’
(1987) framework and improved on the models limitations by including
contextual factors and realising the importance of long term goals in
the coaching process. Fairs (1987) hoped to assist “a struggling
profession” (p. 19) with his model and since its development and the
emergence of further models, coaching has become increasingly
professional and undergone massive change in the past decade
(Beringen, 2003).


Beringen, G. (2003). Member protection: the role of the coach. Sports
Coach, 26, 8-9.

Chelladurai, P. (1990). Leadership in sport: A review. International
Journal of Sport Psychology, 17, 328-354.

Côté, J., Salmela, J., Trudel, P., Baria, A. (1995). The coaching
model: A grounded assessment of expert gymnastic coach's knowledge.
Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 17, 1-17.

Fairs, J. (1987). The coaching process: the essence of coaching. Sport
Coach, 11(1), 17-19.

Lyle, J. (1999). The coaching process: an overview. In. The Coaching
Process: Principles and Practice for Sport (Eds N.Cross snd J.Lyle).
pp. 3-24. London: Butterworth Heinnemann.

NCF (1996). Code of Ethics and Conduct for Sports Coaches. National
Coaching Foundation

Woodman, L. (1993). Coaching: a science, an art, an emerging
profession. Sports Coach, 2(2), 1-13.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Sports Coaching." 16 Apr 2014

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