English youth football coaches cognitive rationale for the application of ‘Playing Form’ and ‘Training Form’ practice activities

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Coaches currently use behaviour and practice activities which have been learned from a combination of tradition, coaches’ intuition, and emulation of other coaches (Cushion et al., 2003, Quest. 55: 215-230). In sports such as football, practice tends to be a linear, process-product approach to learning, where ‘technique’ and ‘skills’ are to be mastered first and form the basis for games play (Harvey et al., 2010, Physical Education & Sport Pedagogy. 15 4: 361-382). Recent research however suggests that ‘playing form’ (for example, small-sided game, phase of play or conditioned game) is more relevant to performance (Ford et al., 2010, Journal of Sports Sciences. 28 5: 483-495), as this is a random and variable activity with higher contextual interference, which is better for long-term retention and long-term learning than ‘training form’ (for example, fitness, technique or drill sessions) (Lee & Simon, 2009, Contextual interference. In: Williams MA, Hodges NJ, ed. Skill Acquisition in Sport: Research, Theory and Practice, 29-44, New York: Routledge). The purpose of this study was to identify the cognitive processes of 11 male professional English youth football coaches for the use of more ‘training form’ (1818 minutes, 53%) than ‘playing form’ (1635 minutes, 47%) (see Partington & Cushion, in press, Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sport). Each coach was interviewed using open questions and probe questions until saturation was deemed to have occurred. The value of interpretive inquiry is to develop a deeper understanding of coaching due to the complex interactions that take place in such a dynamic process (Potrac et al., 2002, Sport, Education & Society. 7 2: 183-202). Interview data were analysed using inductive content analysis (Patton, 1990, Qualitative evaluation and research methods, 24-43, Newbury Park: Sage). Interpretive interviews will identify the coaches’ cognitive processes for the choice of practice and gain understanding of practice knowledge. The use of more ‘training form’ activities is based on the view that performance is dependent on the consistent reproduction of a limited number of repeatable motor skills (e.g. dribbling, passing). Coaches believe ‘skills must be broken down’ into smaller constituent parts first during acquisition to reduce the demands on attention, rather than practising the skills together as a whole. This belief is learnt through ‘observation of other traditional coaches’ and ‘current coach education courses’ instead of theoretical underpinning or evidence based research. In addition coaches do not understand how to implement ‘playing form’ activities ‘effectively’ with a ‘loss of control during games’ and ‘limited amount of space’ restricting the coaches’ application. Coach education should therefore give coaches a more defined theoretical underpinning and understanding of the benefits of different practice activities. It is important for a coach to understand these benefits when creating the most appropriate environment for athletes to develop.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2012
Event5th International TGfU Conference - Loughborough University, United Kingdom
Duration: 14 Jul 201216 Jul 2012


Conference5th International TGfU Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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