Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    Examining the knowledge, use, and reception of verbal coach feedback across high performance sport environments
    Mason, Robert Joshua ( 2020)
    An academic interest in the teaching skills of sports coaches emerged in the 1970s, and has since expanded into a sizeable body of coach observation literature in which coach behaviours are recorded and analysed. A consistent finding in these studies is that verbal coach to athlete feedback represents one of the most common coach behaviours observed. Given its prevalence, understanding and harnessing the power of coach feedback to improve athlete outcomes appears an important endeavour in enhancing coach effectiveness. However, there are several gaps in the evidence base related to coach feedback that require further exploration. For example, relatively little is known about the ways in which coaches provide verbal feedback across various settings typical of a high performance sporting environment: during competition, and during video-based feedback meetings. A major criticism of feedback research in other fields is that it considers feedback given, but fails to account for the reception and subsequent action on feedback by a receiver such as a student or athlete. Importantly, in order to influence coach practice, more information is needed about the knowledge and beliefs that coaches hold about the provision, reception, and evaluation of verbal feedback. This thesis sought to address gaps in the literature related to coaches’ knowledge about feedback, the influence of context on the provision of feedback, and athlete reception of feedback, using coaches of team sports working at the high performance level. A mixed-methods approach was adopted to undertake the three studies that make up the thesis. In Study 1, eight high performance coaches were interviewed about their knowledge and beliefs about feedback provision, reception, and evaluation. Coaches were able to articulate a range of ideas about feedback, including tailoring their feedback to the individual needs of their athletes, and allowing athletes to self-organise and develop autonomy through finding their own solutions. In Study 2, six coach-athlete dyads were observed in individual video-based feedback meetings. Athlete recall of feedback and athlete characteristics hypothesised to influence the reception of feedback were considered. Major findings included the notion that feedback given does not equal feedback received, with up to 94% of feedback not recalled by athletes at a one-week retention interval. Coach feedback was largely positive, descriptive, and task-focussed. In Study 3, verbal in-game feedback provided to athletes across an entire season of Australian Rules football was observed and analysed. In this context, coach feedback was primarily negative, prescriptive and controlling. Feedback increased in frequency during periods where the score was close, became more positive/less controlling in winning quarters, and more negative/more controlling in losing quarters. Major conclusions from this thesis include the finding that what coaches know about feedback does not always reflect how they provide feedback; instead, feedback varies widely based on the context in which it is given. This variation between contexts may represent an area for improving coach practice, but may also be seen as a necessity by coaches for adapting to the environment in which feedback is given. A major area for future research and coach education to consider is the notion that feedback given does not equal feedback received, and that methods for evaluating feedback reception should be explored.