Crafting Expertise: A Qualitative Exploration of Coaching Development in College Football

Spaziani, Joseph, Higher Education - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Steinmetz, Christian, ED-EDLF, University of Virginia

This qualitative study investigates the development of coaching expertise within Division I college football, conceptualizing the coaching staff as Mission Critical Teams (MCTs) within a situated learning framework. Through phenomenological analysis of 27 semi-structured interviews with current and former Division I head football coaches, this research uncovers the indigenous and informal pathways for acquiring, adapting, and transmitting foundational yet often tacit knowledge. Key findings include the identification of authenticity, markers of expertise, developmental mechanisms, and reflection as critical to the evolution of coaching expertise. Notably, authenticity is highlighted as a crucial precursor and sustained cornerstone to cultivating expertise, with reflective practices acting as pivotal bridges within the experiential and situated learning processes that can address the tacit knowledge transfer problem (TKTP). The study underscores the significant role of situated learning environments in fostering coaching expertise, advocating for the enhancement of these native environments beyond formalized programs. Recommendations for integrating authentic and reflective practices into coaching development initiatives are presented, aimed at strengthening the learning landscapes inherent to sports coaching. The implications of this research also extend to higher education, proposing that advanced coaching methodologies can enrich the holistic development of student-athletes, thereby supporting the educational missions of collegiate athletics programs.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
coaching development, college football, situated learning, Mission Critical Teams, coaching expertise, tacit knowledge transfer, authenticity, reflective practice, higher education
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