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Coaching is a core element of executive training these days and has a distinguished history in sports. It has a role to play in promoting excellent performance in the workplace, through its usefulness in a variety of vocational learning situations (1).

There is a body of coaching knowledge that relates to ‘sports psychology’ which is of potential interest in the creation of vocational pedagogy. Given that much vocational education depends on the quality of coaching relationships, literature about disciplines such as sports science have much to offer. Aidan Moran’s (2) work on the psychology of sport is one example of, for example, goal-setting, and the relationship with states of mind and the use of mental imagery. The apprenticeship is perhaps the ultimate model of coaching in action.

Within the construction workforce, its ageing profile (3) lends an urgency to the incentivisation of mature, experienced, workers to participate in the coaching and mentoring of a younger workforce. Within the body of knowledge on sports coaching, the practise of coaching is recognised as being a complex activity, because of the interaction between people and their dynamic environment (4).

Based on this (4), the following points relate to the functions fulfilled by a coach that helps the learner to learn:

  • Planning
  • Dictating or facilitating
  • Supporting emotionally
  • Talking through failures
  • Focusing on performance
  • Keeping it ‘fun’
  • Encouraging competition
  • Encouraging reflection

In the following, we will look into these points.


Planning in coaching World Champion, and 2012 Olympic diving hopeful for the British team, Tom Daley, coach Andy Banks helped his protégé plan backwards, thinking through ‘this is where he needs to be, this is where we are now, so what are we going to do now to achieve that…’.

Friendly teens writing short structure plan of lecture. Picture: Adobe Stock, pressmaster

Dictating or facilitating

Banks also describes his role through the life of a young athlete, beginning as a ‘dictator … because they haven’t got a clue about anything’ and ultimately becoming the ‘advisor’ and ‘facilitator’. Even within this progression, however, there must be scope for flexibility, with the coach switching between the role of dictator and facilitator as necessary, to get the best out of the learner.

Supporting emotionally

Supporting emotionally is the ability to control emotions comes with maturity. Young people, in particular, may need help on an emotional learning journey, especially where the journey is high stakes and they are investing all into developing their skills for this one vocational area. Banks described the importance of realising a downward spiral, and the use of ‘happy thoughts’ and breaks in coaching Daley.

Talking through failures

Banks describes the way he helped Daley understand why and where he had gone wrong, and the importance – from a psychological point of view – of ‘focusing on process and totally ignoring everything else that’s going on’.

Focusing on performance

Performance can be controlled; the outcome cannot. Being trustworthy: maintaining mutual trust and respect.

Keeping it ‘fun’

Ensuring that learners want to be there.

Encouraging competition

Facilitating competitions and fostering the competitive spirit in order that learners might challenge one another and their skills might be refined in a scenario of ‘doing it for real’.

Encouraging reflection

Banks suggests that others wanting to follow in his coaching footsteps should learn to coach by gleaning ideas about how to coach from as many sources as possible, believing that all information ‘is worth assimilating’ whether or not it ends up being disregarded. He suggests this knowledge should be taken from a broad pool of experts, beyond the immediate field.

Coaching is important part of vocational education

Coaching is a critically important part of vocational education and just how it can be combined with other methods is an important question in the creation of vocational pedagogy.


  1. Collett, K. (2012). What is Coaching? In City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development. (ed.) The Role of Coaching in Vocational Education and Training. London: CSD.
  2. Moran, A. (2003). Sport and Exercise Psychology: A critical introduction. London: Routledge.
  3. Abdel-Wahab, M. (2012). Rethinking Apprenticeship Training in the British Construction Industry. Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 64(2), 145-154.
  4. Dixon, M., Lee, S. & Ghaye, T. (2012). Coaching for Performance: An interview with Olympic diving coach, Andy Banks. Reflective Practice: International and multidisciplinary perspectives, 13(3), 339-354.

The article is from the report “How to teach vocational education: A theory of vocational pedagogy” by Bill Lucas, Ellen Spencer and Guy Claxton, The City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development (December 2012)

Lucubrate Magazine September 2019

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Lucubrate Magazine highlights trends in education and development. Development in this context can be technological, educational, individual, social or global, and everything related to education.
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