How do culture and norm circles (as shaped by coaches and others) play a role in influencing the actions of cricketers?

Adam Nichol, Phil Hayes, Will Vickery, Emma Boocock, Edward Hall

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Background: Previous literature has widely represented the influence of coaching practice (e.g., coach behaviour) on athletes’ actions or ‘outcomes’ as linear, simplistic and homogeneous (i.e., the same coach behaviour is likely to have the same influence on athletes if repeated). However, these rationalistic accounts ignore and misrepresent the inherent social complexity of coaching and imply that specific coach behaviours (e.g. praise) can directly affect athletes and their actions, in isolation. Further, this ignores the ability of coach behaviour to exert a heterogeneous influence on different athletes, or the same athlete at different time points. Specifically, few studies have sociologically explored how athletes’ actions are influenced by both structural (i.e., culture, norms) and agential factors (i.e., conscious deliberation), and the role played by the coach in shaping these entities.

Aims: To critically explore how both the (inter)actions of coaches and athletes shape the culture and norms of a squad, and how this plays a role in shaping subsequent (inter)actions of athletes.

Method: A qualitative longitudinal ethnography was conducted with one representative-level minor county junior cricket squad in the North East of England. The squad was comprised of 26 cricketers, a head coach, a team manager, an assistant coach, and a strength and conditioning intern. A bricolage of methods including participant observation, semi-structured interviews and stimulated recall interviews were adopted to understand both the formation and influence of cultural norms in the specific context studied. Critical realist modes of data analysis were employed: retroduction – identifying the parts of an entity and their causal power; and retrodiction – understanding how causal powers and mechanisms interact to produce events or actions. The analysis draws upon Elder-Vass’1 2 theories of emergentism, norm circles and the causal power of social structures as heuristic devices to critically explore how, when, why, to what extent, and under which circumstances coach and athlete (inter)action both shaped, and was shaped by the norms of the context.

Results: Through emergent (inter)actions of coaches and athletes, the established norms and culture of the specific squad included a focus on: intensity, high performance, accountability and responsibility. The actions of athletes were found to be shaped by both these norms and conscious reflexivity (their capacity to think before acting). Specific examples are provided whereby coach or athlete (inter)actions (e.g., praise) served to shape and endorse or enforce the norms of the squad, and thus played a role in influencing the subsequent (inter)actions (e.g., performance) of athletes.

Discussion and Conclusions: These findings have important implications to help coaches, athletes and other stakeholders (e.g., sport scientists, sports medicine practitioners, physiologists, administrators) of cricket coaching contexts to better understand how their actions may influence the norms or culture of an organisation, and how this can subsequently influence the (inter)actions of others. Critically challenging the assumption that behaviour or action, alone, can have a direct, unmediated, and stable impact on others may help stakeholders to understand both the potential intended and unintended consequences of their actions. These findings, then, provide a fruitful opportunity to support the effective development of others within a cricket environment.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2019
Event6th World Congress of Science and Medicine in Cricket -
Duration: 8 Jul 201910 Jul 2019


Conference6th World Congress of Science and Medicine in Cricket


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