Staying Ahead Of The Game? Supporting Disability Coach Development

Year: 2015

Author: Fitzgerald, Hayley, Strode, Annette, Allison, Wayne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Over the last ten years, many national governing bodies (NGBs) of sport have begun to take responsibility for working towards the inclusion of people with disabilities. In part the impetus for targeting people with disabilities comes from a broader recognition that this group has a ‘right’ to sport (United Nations, 2006). A position that has not always been acknowledged and has led to, what DePauw (1997) describes as, the invisibility of disability in sport. NGB developments have been varied and encompass initiatives promoting active participation, the expansion of competitive structures and the growth in coach development opportunities. This presentation focuses on a specific disability soccer coach education programme and explores how the aspiration of the English Football Association’s ‘football for everyone’ philosophy (The Football Association, 2011) is being worked towards in practice. By drawing on wider debates around inclusion (Hornby, 2014) and notions of coaching habitus (Light & Evans, 2015) this presentation will explore how discourses of inclusive soccer coaching are embraced and practically worked towards.

Data were generated from FA Tutors, FA Officers and soccer coaches. A combination of data sources were utilized including a questionnaire (n. 408); an international benchmarking exercise (n. 10 countries); stakeholder interviews (n. 23) and use of Facebook. In presenting the findings a melded narrative approach to data re-presentation was used and this presentation will offer three stories from the FA Officer, Tutor and soccer coach. The findings from the research reveal that FA Officers attempt to juggle inclusive disability soccer coach development within broader pressures to also deliver in other equity areas and a more traditional competitive and elite focus. Soccer coaches demonstrated differences in their receptiveness to the idea of including soccer players with disabilities into their sessions. Indeed, the extent to which this was evident within their broader coaching habitus was contingent upon their experiences as a soccer player, coaching philosophy and previous engagement with people with disabilities. Whilst a NGB such as the FA may have a strategic desire to promote inclusive coaching, the dispositions, values and expectations of coaches are significant to achieving this kind of inclusive aspiration.