Distinguishing Between Dual Roles: a Mixed-Methods Examination of the Perceptions and Behaviours of Coaches Working in Recreational and Competitive Synchronized Swimming Environments
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The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions and behaviours of coaches within recreational and competitive youth sport programs. Using a mixed-methods convergent parallel design (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011) this thesis examined the experiences of coaches who were working or had worked with both recreational- and competitive-level synchronized swimmers. Eighteen female coaches participated in semi-structured interviews. In addition, a sub-sample of five coaches from this group were observed six times over the course of the sport season (three sessions in the recreational setting and three sessions in the competitive setting). Results from the coaches’ qualitative interview responses revealed key distinctions between competitive and recreational environments which were placed into themes across three dimensions: (1) coaches’ and athletes’ level of experience: novice vs expert, (2) training structure: experimentation vs commitment, and (3) program structure: participation vs performance. Although systematic observations revealed differences on specific behaviours (e.g., levels of positive modeling, instruction, and questioning) related to these distinctions, coaching patterns as a whole were relatively consistent across the recreational and competitive environments. These findings suggest that coaches may use certain behaviours more often during certain practice activities but that the overall structure of recreational and competitive practice activities may not be as different as coaches perceive them to be. It may be that differences in coach behaviour are more nuanced than the literature would suggest, and that changes occur more so at the level of intonation rather than overt behaviour.