The use of a systematic observation method in coaching research

The use of systematic observation to identify coaches’ behaviour has continued to receive substantial research interest and has undoubtedly provided important insights that have added to the body of sports coaching knowledge (Cushion, 2013).

The purpose of this paper was to review studies that had used a systematic observation method to investigate coaching behaviour, and to consider the extent to which this area of research has developed between 1997-2016.

Twenty-six studies on the use of a systematic observation method in coaching were identified.

For each study, the following categories were coded: a) sports, b) countries, c) coaching context, d) systema- tic observation instrument, e) additional methods, f) number of total observations per coach, g) observation frequencies across studies, h) method of recording, i) reliability procedure.

The papers were then discussed  in 4 broader themes: 1) instrument development and technology; 2) coder training, reliability, procedural issues; 3) research questions and paradigm shift; 4) research context.

This review showed that while systematic observation continues to advance knowledge and understanding of what coaches do, there are many areas that require further research attention. Researchers should look to using a more critical approach when adopting a systematic observation method. This includes researchers offering a clearer rationale for the systematic observation instrument being employed, considering the number of observations for each coach and reflecting on the use of a multiple, mixed- methods approach.

Full paper:

Cope, E., Partington, M., & Harvey, S. (2017). A review of the use of a systematic observation method in coaching research between 1997 and 2016. Journal of sports sciences, 35(20), 2042-2050.