The re-conceptualisation of coaching philosophy: ideology as a more accurate term to identify beliefs, attitudes, assumptions, values, principles and priorities.

Coaching philosophy (CP) is a misunderstood term that needs to be clearly defined to ensure trustworthy research is conducted. Currently most research does not clearly define what is meant by CP, yet continue to investigate this construct. This therefore leaves the coach to explain their own CP based on their own individual conceptualisation of the meaning of this term. Consequently, research conducted to date is based on individual interpretations of CP which has negatively affected the reliability and trustworthiness of these studies.

Cushion and Partington (2016) critically analysed the conceptualisation of CP. These authors argued for an alternative conceptualisation based on the process of using philosophic thinking to help coaches question their existing ideology while evaluating the assumptions and beliefs supporting their practice. This echoes the ideas around reflective practice and critical thinking and highlights the authors’ interpretation of the commonly labelled ‘coaching philosophy’ being more accurately described as a collection of coaching-related ideologies, or beliefs characteristic of a social group and/or individual (Cushion & Partington, 2016). This links the beliefs of the individual to the social groups and environment they live within. This respects the consensus amongst coaches, researchers and sport scientists that coaching is a predominantly social process.

The term philosophy is used as an umbrella term that encompasses beliefs, values, assumptions, attitudes, principles and priorities (Nash, Sproule, & Horton, 2008). However, philosophy is the study of fundamental problems concerning existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind and language. The term philosophy is founded on the Greek word for ‘love of wisdom’. Philosophy can be broken down into 3 branches of knowledge: natural philosophy, moral philosophy and metaphysical philosophy each focussing their efforts towards fundamental problems within these strands of thought. Consequently, the term coaching philosophy is an inaccurate descriptor for the ideas, principles and beliefs that form the foundation of our coaching.

Cushion and Partington (2016) reason that philosophical methods such as questioning, critical discussion and rational argument are effective methods for a coach to implement and challenge their underlying coaching beliefs, values, assumptions, attitudes, principles and priorities. Therefore, philosophical thinking can improve coaching but is itself a process and not an accurate descriptor for identifying a coach’s underlying beliefs, values, attitudes, assumptions, principles and priorities. Coaching ideologies more accurately describe the grouping of beliefs, values, assumptions, attitudes, principles and priorities. However, we should ideally use the correct terms wherever possible to avoid confusion and standardise future approaches to research.


Cushion, C., & Partington, M. (2016). A critical analysis of the conceptualisation of ‘coaching philosophy’. Sport, education and society, 21(6), 851-867.

Nash, C. S., Sproule, J., & Horton, P. (2008). Sport coaches’ perceived role frames and philosophies. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 3(4), 539-554.


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