Power in Coaching Part 2

Three main sociological theories were discussed today:-

  1. Foucault
  2. Bourdieu
  3. Goffman

This lecture is a continuation from the previous power relations. Piggott (2013) discussed Foucault Docile bodies’ theory. This is understood in relation to ‘the expert’ being with power and knowledge:- creating rationality, regimes, routines, which are given in discipline [practises. This autocratic method is often displayed in elite athlete coaching where the coach doesn’t allow a lot of questions and gives more power to the coach.

“Power and violence are opposites: where one rules absolutely, the other is absent”

(Arendt, 1970)

Arendt describes the power playing a key role in coaching and gaining respect from the athletes. With out power as a coach would result in chaos.

These docile bodies are the athletes that follow the instructions without question to authority or purpose of the training regime (Piggott, 2013). This relates well with the hypodermic Syringe Model of sociology: the audience passively accepts the message “injected” into them from the coach (Billington et al., 1991).

2. Bourdieu (1990) states “of the opposition that artificially divide social science, is that set up of subjective and objective.” This is clear in terms of coaching when athletes view coaching for their capital. For instance, if the coach is younger than them, they will automatically assume that they have more power as they are older, and must be wiser (Piggott, 2012)

There are 3 main aspects explored within this approach: Social (interaction with athlete- coach), Symbolic (Qualification and awards) and Cultural (upbringing, language use and clothing) (Piggott, 2012). Using Bourdieu’s concepts as analytical tools enables examination of social actors’ behaviour and how resultant relationships are played out in communal areas (Brown, 2005). Here a construction of habitus, field, capital and practice hold relevance. Together they enable a consideration of coaching as ‘cultural economy’ (Nash, 1990).

3. Goffman in described in Potrac et al. (2002) as ‘Levitate Power’ which is a concept of managing the players to gain and keep respect. This highlights low interaction with the athletes as they are always guided or told instruction (Piggott, 2012). This structure is formed around the face work, i.e. how the coach delivers the session; the impression on the athletes, which is managed accordingly and then controls for the accountability (Potrac et al., 2002)

Power in Coaching 1

It is fundamental to be able to have an active, understandable power relationship while coaching groups and individuals in sport (Jones, 2009: Piggot, 2012). Power is present in all social relationships and possessed by all individuals and social groups, arising out of their connections to each other (Gruneau, 1993). It reflects the ability to influence others to further interests and/or to resist the activities of others (Atlee and Atlee, 1992). Lyle (2002) notes the coach-athlete relationship is no exception and the exercise of power is an internal social issue.

“Managing interactions is key to social knowledge”

(Davey, 2008, p.43: Piggot, 2012)

Piggott (2012) indicates the importance of power relationships within coaching groups; involving the coaching commandments of Jones et al, 2009. These commandments associate with the 4 main coaching points: Behavior management, Communication, Differentiation and Planning.

                        ten commands

(Piggott, 2012)

In order for the coaching to take place; the coach must be recognized as the authority figure (also known as specified person in their field). This will provide mental trust with the athletes – coach relationship, which in affect will increase respect and buy in to sessions/advise/competitions. It is important in the planning of sessions that the participant’s characteristics in physical and mental are known, as this will generate the correct challenges in the sport.

However this power can cause conflict if not used correctly. Coaches can use power both negatively and positively (Dodge and Roberston, 2004). Potrac et al (2002) found coaches were positive on the ratio of 33:1. This suggests that through time coaches have found negative use of power to have less or a detrimental on athlete performance.

A prime example of how a coach uses power is evident in the insertion of new exercise into a current training program. A coach could use solely legitimate power to encourage athletes to try new exercises, since the role of the coach demands respect. This is could be followed and enforced by a rewarding (reward power) the athlete with a shorter session. Alternatively the athlete could be forced to partake or face a punishment of 50 press-ups. The coach could tell the athlete that these exercises were what made him/her a world champion (referent power) and inform them of previous successes of other athletes who use the same method (expert). A negative use of power could involve making one particular athlete of the whole team clear up after other group members. ‘The challenge to the coach is to recognize the power and learn how to use it rationally with discretion.’ Kinsman (1999)

To conclude this it is important to provide a balance in coaching, aka: don’t take it too seriously!