What is it about?

The study interviewed senior directors of elite professional football and rugby union clubs competing in the top two leagues of each sport within England and Wales. The study's objective was to analyse and understand the basis for how club directors recruited and appointed their club's head coaches. In particular, the study focused on why former elite athletes with very little coaching experience or without the required coaching qualifications were considered for head coaching appointments.

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Why is it important?

The transition of elite athletes fast-tracked into high performance coaching roles is one which is a growing trend over recent years, especially within the sports of rugby union and football. Examples such as Martin Johnson who was appointed as the England men's national rugby union head coach after a successful history as captain of the national team, along with other individuals like Gareth Southgate in football were case studies that acted as a catalyst for this study. The results indicated how coaching qualifications were not valued by academy directors as they did not help coaches become respected by their players, nor did they offer insight into cutting edge coaching practices unlike experience as an elite athlete working under other elite coaches. Importantly, however, the study revealed covert discriminatory practices in head coach recruitment. Transparent recruitment processes were not always followed which contrasted to equality and diversity legislation. As such, with only former elite male athletes being considered suitable for the roles of head coaches meant that women were not considered for these roles. All of the sample were white males which also resulted in subconscious discriminatory practices were enacted on non-white candidates, resulting in the continued under-representation of women and BAME coaches within men's high-performance rugby union and football.

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This page is a summary of: Why ‘the best way of learning to coach the game is playing the game’: conceptualising ‘fast-tracked’ high-performance coaching pathways, Sport Education and Society, August 2015, Taylor & Francis,
DOI: 10.1080/13573322.2015.1075494.
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