Specialty

THE FUTURE OF SPORTS COACHING

By: Eva Ellmer • 1 month ago •

Many changes have been observed in the sporting landscape over the past decades and, it is continuing to evolve rapidly.

An analysis of our local sporting megatrends in a globalised environment by Australia’s peak scientific body – the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) –found that participation rates in many organised sports have remained either constant or have experienced some decline.

In direct contrast, the involvement of Australians in individual, leisure and fitness activities has become increasingly more likely.

This has led to a high and rising demand for action sports within Australia.

A further trend is the increasing popularity of eSports domestically and worldwide. Indeed, this years’ PwC Global Sports Survey identified eSports as having the greatest potential in growing revenue by far (yes, even greater than soccer or basketball).

The popularity of eSports has taken remarkable leaps in 2018, with sellout live stadium events becoming more regular, and broadcasting networks such as ESPN and Sky Sports starting to air dedicated eSports content.

So why have these activities become so popular? The suggestion is that many people work longer and atypical working days, leaving less time to commit to structured and scheduled sports.

As such, individuals prefer selfdirected leisure activities that fit better with their available time and provide an alternative to yet another controlled environment (i.e. organised sport).

With the self-directed lifestyle trends and a do-it-yourself mindset, many of these modern sports participants turn to self-coaching.

With the rise in new and social media technologies, a plethora of knowledge and information are readily available to the consumer to read, watch, listen to, and apply to their own sporting endeavours.

Thanks to our smartphones, smart watches and their applications, we can now take our coaching with us wherever we go.

Among the general population, apps monitoring our heart rate, calories burnt, hydration levels and step count are very popular. So too are the proactive features of such apps that prompt us to get moving and provide suggestions for getting started.

For sporting enthusiasts at the beginner and intermediate levels, more specific coaching apps are also available, replacing the costly one-on-one coaching session. Modern augmented coaching systems and technologies (ACST) are particularly popular even in traditional sports such as Golf.

Here, video and motion sensors are already inbuilt with the equipment; and as you swing the golf club, a frame by frame recording is saved on your app for you to review prior to hitting the next ball.

Elite athletes also make use of new media technologies to facilitate their professional development. Particularly for action sports athletes, being creative and continuing to push boundaries by performing new stunts and tricks does not just secure and maintain their sponsorships, but also helps them remain ‘at the top of their game’ during the competition season.

In a recent interview for the Australian Computer Science Industry Insight, Australian BMX rider Caroline Buchanan reported that ‘technology is made for the progression of the sport’. The digital aspect appears to be particularly useful.

For example, through the use of equipment-mounted video units, BMX courses are studied and analysed and the athlete’s performances on the track are recorded.

Despite the ascendency in self-organised sporting activities and the autonomous learning of the participants, the role of the coach continues to play a potentially important role (particularly for those wanting that little bit extra).

In the examples of Golf or BMX racing, merely re-watching the recorded video may not help all sports participants to improve. Further to this, the amount of information and data collected can quickly become overwhelming.

It is difficult for many to decipher what is right or wrong, and what piece of information is actually useful at that point in time. This is where the coach can play the vital role in helping interpret the collected data. Based on their experiences and professional knowledge, the coach can help analyse movement patterns and draw the participants’ attention to critical aspects of their performance – and with the necessary feedback, provide the actionable information the athlete requires to adjust and improve their performance. Importantly, the coach can be a valuable ‘filter’ for erroneous and irrelevant information – reducing the overall ‘noise’ for the athlete.

But does this mean the role of the (future) coach is that of a dataanalyst, as depicted in the 2011 movie ‘Moneyball’ where baseball manager Billy Beane leads an underdog team to success based on maths and algorithms? The answer is: not quite. Sports, and thus coaching, are far more complex and multi-faceted.

While there are many avenues to access data related to the biophysical aspects of performance, there are fewer sources that are readily accessible regarding the cultural and social needs of our athletes.

As such, the coach’s emotional intelligence and interpersonal communication play key roles in athlete development and achieving their outcomes. This is particularly pertinent in eSports, where the coach is not necessarily present physically.

eSports themselves do not rely on a physical presence, however, the emotional and cognitive stress remain contributing factors in the quality of performance.

In this context, the coach can offer clear communication and psychological support to help the players better regulate their emotions and enhance their decision making such that they remain calm and focussed during the most crucial periods of the game.

By being able to understand the individual athletes at a deeper level through regular social interaction, and having their best interests at heart, the coach can develop and build on a respectful working relationship, allowing the athlete to flourish.

In sum, the role of the (future) coach is holistic and complex. The foundations of coaching remain the same even though the specific practices may change; it is an educative relationship.

So regardless of whether you’re in action sports, eSports or traditional (team) sports contexts, and no matter if you are a casual sports enthusiast, developing athlete, or elite competitor, the coach may continue to be the key in maximising your development.

Eva Ellmer

Eva s a PhD candidate at the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, The University of Queensland (UQ). Her research focus is on the professionalisation of action sports. Specifically, Eva is interested in the learning experiences of elite action sports athletes.

Eva completed both a Master of Sports Coaching (2014) and Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science (2011) at UQ. Eva has professional work experience in OHS and Training and Development.

Eva will complete her PhD in 2019.

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