The political context for coaching
The importance and profile of coaching in sport, since the early 1980s, has been one of the most significant and under-researched developments in sport policy. Coaching policy is located at the nexus of the three pillars of sport policy and development in the UK – elite sport, physical education (PE) and school sport, and community or ‘grassroots’ sport. This chapter provides an introduction to the development of coaching as a vocation and its emergence as a policy priority in sport. The chapter examines the structure and organisation of sport from a coach’s perspective and analyses challenges presented by the historical development of policy in understanding the landscape and context in which sports coaches work, signposting those involved in ‘becoming a sports coach’ to further, more detailed sources. There are significant resources through which to see the developments in elite coaching but here the focus is placed on developments related to introductory levels of coaching and the process of ‘becoming a sports coach’. The chapter provides background to the emergence of the social, political and policy context for coaching in sport, offering indicative examples as to why coaching has become such an important element of sport policy. The chapter concludes with author reflections on the policy context for sports coaching and asks readers to consider the significance of issues raised in their own coaching contexts. Whilst examples from the UK are used, it should be recognised that sport policy, driven by political influence, has an impact on the work of coaches throughout the world. In all countries, coaches need to understand the socio-political setting in which they practise and the associated constraints and opportunities.