Jul 01

Communities of Practice–Something for Coaches?

During the past winter holidays, my wife and I attended a bluegrass-based concert at a local church.  As the concert progressed, I realized there were at least three bands represented but intermingling for each song.  It came quite clear to me that this group of 15, comprised of singers, musicians and songwriters, were demonstrating to the several hundred fans present the fruits of their collaboration. Again and again we heard song introductions that explained how one person enabled another, wrote a song for another or adapted one type of music to another type. It was joyful to see this group of professionals working and growing together in their field.

What they have is a professional learning community.  What is a professional learning community? One definition is: ”A group of people sharing and critically interrogating their practice in an ongoing, reflective, collaborative, inclusive learning-oriented and growth-promoting way.” Other definitions are available here. My wife, a Montessori teacher, tells me that professional learning communities are a growing trend within the educational field.  It reminds me of Peter Senge’s learning organizations which he discusses in his book The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of Learning Organizations.

So what does this have to do with coaches?  Over the past few years, there has been some exciting work pioneering the concept of learning communities into the sport coaching profession being done by Profs. Wade Gilbert (Fresno State Univ) and Pierre Trudel (Univ of Ottawa). I was introduced to Prof Gilbert’s work during a presentation by one of his graduate students, Rachel Bertram, at the 2011 National Coaching Conference.

This will be the first of many blogs regarding learning communities for sport coaches. At this point, I believe this learning option represents the means to reach most coaches in the US.


  1. Dan Saint-Andre

    I disagree with Jodi. “Coaches” do magically appear: mom or dad agrees to wear the whistle for a youth team. Poof — instant “coach.”

    I think the message might have been, “GOOD coaches result from passion, training, experience, and mentoring.”

    Online technologies offer a way for coaches at every level to interact with each other when face-to-face opportunities are difficult and expensive. In short:

    ** seek out online communities
    ** share what works for you
    ** ask about what you struggle with
    ** encourage (and sympathize) with newly minted coaches

    ~~~ 0;-Dan

  2. Jodi Murphy of SportsSignup

    Coaches don’t just magically spring into existence! A lot of us got our start as athletes (in a former life) that now want to coach our kids. But plenty of coaches, especially in really young leagues, are parents that just want to help out because help is needed. Everyone needs a place to go an learn and get advice from people that have been doing it longer than you!

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