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Sports’ coaching is a very complex and complicated process. It is a process that requires input from a wide variety of specialist sub disciplines within the area. The management and the uniting of these specialist areas into a strategy to improve sporting performance is the major role of the coach (Lyle, 1999). Woodman (1993) expressed this ability of the coach as a form of ‘art’ and suggests that the better a coaches understanding of the sciences surrounding the coaching process the more effective a coach will be in the art of coaching. Coaching is an emerging profession and the sports coach has an increasing number of responsibilities. The process is underpinned by values and ideologies proposed by such foundations as the National Coaching Foundation (NCF) (1996) who provide a framework of rules for coach behaviour.

The NCF (1996) highlight creating a positive experience and minimising any risk to athletes as vital roles of the sports coach. These values are related more towards the role of participation coach’s whose initial principle is the athlete’s enjoyment of the sport leading to the continuation of participation. The emphasis is on the learning of skills and not competition success. There is no systematically controlled plan, unlike performance coaching, which involves detailed planning and monitoring of progress. Performance coaching attempts to control variables affecting performance in order to increase an athlete’s development and achieve long term goals usually connected with competition.

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It is the performance coach that is more likely to undertake the management of several specialist disciplines highlighted by Lyle (1999). For this reason, performance coaching is the more complex process and the process that researchers have found difficulties in producing an accurate framework or model for. A coaching model should provide a simplified representation of the structure and function of the process (Lyle, 1999). However, this is where the problem for researchers occurs because it is the simplifying of such a complex process. This essay will look at the original model of the coaching process from Fairs (1987). The model will be analysed and its strengths and weaknesses discussed whilst comparing it to other models of the coaching process, which have been developed since.

Fairs (1987) model of the coaching process (figure 1) is a model for coaching as opposed to of coaching. This means the model is not based on empirical research into expert practice but instead is a more idealistic representation. The model is constructed through the application of assumptions accentuating a teaching and episodic approach. It is based on four characteristics highlighted by Fairs (1987). The first of these is that the model is dynamic meaning that the process constantly changes and the different actions of the process influence and relate to each other. The model is organised as one step follows another. It is also systematic due to the steps progressing in an orderly fashion. Finally, the model is deliberate as each step considers the needs of the participator.

Models of the coaching process are required for a number of reasons. A framework for the process is much needed to aid future research into coaching practice, which there has been a vast shortage of (Lyle, 1999). C�t� et al. (1995) implied that without a general model the findings accumulated from research would remain as disconnected information related to how coaches work. Being a model for the coaching process Fairs’ (1987) model is a useful tool for coach education and training. Fairs (1987) suggested a major role of the coach was to identify and solve an athletes problems and a purpose of the model is to aid in this requirement and act as a guide for the coach. An added purpose of the coaching process model was to establish a scientific foundation for the process in order to aid coaching in attaining a place as an independent profession.

The coaching process model (Fairs, 1987) is a five-step objectives model employing orderly inter-related steps. These steps include data collection, diagnosis, planning, execution and evaluation. The arrows connecting the steps of the model illustrate the systematic order of the model’s steps, and through reassessment and revision of the plan, show the continually evolving nature of the process. The first step of the model is data collection. Here the purpose is to assemble necessary information about the participant’s performance. The first step is theoretically the most important because of the model being systematic and so the subsequent steps are built from it. Data may be subjective in that it is provided by the competitor or objective in that it is observed by the coach. The second step is called the diagnosis.

Here the coach analyses the data provided by the first phase of the model. Through this assessment of relevant information the coach can identify if the competitor has any needs or problems. The plan of action is the third step and this comprises of the coach prescribing an action that will correct any problem identified in the previous phase. Goal setting is declared useful in this step and evaluation of the coaching help given is possible through the realisation or incompletion of these goals and general observation of the performers play. The coach’s execution of the plan of action is the fourth step. Here it is important for the competitor’s ability to be considered. Finally, the fifth step of the model is the evaluation. In this phase the coach critically appraises the effectiveness of the coaching action by evaluating whether the goals set were achieved. If the plan of action was unsuccessful a reason such as incorrect problem identification or unrealistic goal setting must be determined. This is done through reassessment and may require further data. A revised diagnosis or corrective plan is then required as the players situation changes.

The model has distinct advantages. As mentioned earlier, one essential characteristic of a model is for it to be a simplistic representation and Fairs (1987) achieves this. The application of simplicity will assist a coach in the understanding of the process conveyed so that the coach himself can employ the process and improve players under his influence. The model illustrates a number of useful stages (Lyle, 1999) encouraging the adoption of certain actions and skills that deal with numerous roles of the coach. The model promotes goal orientation and the systematic approach of the model enables easier detection of any problems the athlete may have. A planned intervention strategy is then encouraged involving communication with the athlete. The model then provides an appraisal mechanism where the coach can re-evaluate performance ensuring a positive change in performance. Woodman (1993) champions the importance of Fairs (1987) model in its support of coaching as an art form. The model supports this notion by stressing the importance of the analysing and solving of problems.

Whilst the coaching process model benefits in some ways from its simplistic and systematic approach, in other areas the model is very limited. Lyle (1999) suggested that the model fails to consider long term planning, the complexity of performance and the interpersonal nature of the coaching relationship. Individuals drive the coaching process. The interaction between the coach and athlete is unique due to emotions, cognitions and motivations. Fairs (1987) fails to realise this inconsistency within his predictive model. In contrast, Chelladurai (1990) produced a model of leadership called the multidimensional model, which can be applied to coaching, that does consider such contextual factors. The model looked at the performance and satisfaction of members. It considered the effects of the different characteristics of the situation, the leader/coach and the members.

Fairs (1987) model also suffers from the limitations that accompany a model for coaching. Difficulties may occur if a model of this type is introduced into practice because its assumptions may not be matched by existing parameters (Lyle, 1999). In comparison, C�t� et al. (1995) devised a model of coaching that has the advantage of being based on empirical research. In this case, interviews of expert gymnastics coaches. The model shares similarities with the multidimensional model (Chelladurai, 1990) in that it recognises the personal characteristics of the coach and performer as well as contextual factors. However, C�t� et al. (1995) made further developments in the modelling of the coaching process by adding a group of central components, including competition, training and organisation. However, whilst Fairs (1987) outlined the connection between stages as systematic and continuous, C�t� et al. (1995) fail to describe the relationship between its separate constructs limiting its predictive aptitude.

In conclusion, Fairs (1987) coaching process model is a suitable model for what it aimed to achieve. The intention of the model for coaching was to aid the coach in his role to identify and solve the problems of an athlete whilst creating a scientific foundation to support the profession and future research. The model was successful in the creation of a guideline for the education of coaches in the ‘art’ of solving the problems of athletes. This was achieved with five simple, easy to understand steps. Future models managed to build on Fairs’ (1987) framework and improved on the models limitations by including contextual factors and realising the importance of long term goals in the coaching process. Fairs (1987) hoped to assist “a struggling profession” (p. 19) with his model and since its development and the emergence of further models, coaching has become increasingly professional and undergone massive change in the past decade (Beringen, 2003).


Beringen, G. (2003). Member protection: the role of the coach. Sports Coach, 26, 8-9. Chelladurai, P. (1990). Leadership in sport: A review. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 17, 328-354.

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