Coaches' perceptions of sport education : a response to precarity through a pedagogy of affect

García López, Luis Miguel and Kirk, David (2022) Coaches' perceptions of sport education : a response to precarity through a pedagogy of affect. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 27 (4). pp. 353-367. ISSN 1740-8989 (

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Purpose: The aim of this study was to investigate coaches’ perceptions of using sport education (SE) for the first time with socially vulnerable children in order to explore its suitability for equipping young people living in precarity with the skills they need to take positive action to challenge their socially vulnerable backgrounds. In doing so, we want to explore what experiences of learning to use SE these coaches had and what their perspectives of the children’s learning were. Settings and participants: The study developed in a community-based program in three economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods with high rates of delinquency in a city in Central Spain. The programme is run by a non-governmental organization and is funded by several public institutions and private donations. The study included three youth workers who acted as coaches and 31 nine- to eleven-year-olds from different ethnic groups. Programme: The SE season comprised 36 one-hour sessions which included an introduction to SE and the activity called ringo (two lessons), a pre-season (14 lessons), a season (18 lessons) and culminating event preparation and celebration (two lessons). Ringo is a net game, which was chosen to improve participation. Data collection/analysis: Four focus groups were conducted with the coaches and an open analysis format was followed, using open-ended questions. The first author also kept a diary of his experience as a participant observer, including field notes and participation in focus groups. The data were transcribed verbatim and analysed through thematic analysis. Findings: Three major results were found. First, although coaches perceived that sport had a great potential for children to get several benefits, the quality of the pedagogical strategies they used to implement before the study did not allow them to reach those benefits. Second, SE gave the coaches the possibility to enact an ethic of care with participant children; emotional labour played a key role in that process, allowing coaches to care both for children and for themselves. Third, coaches appreciated how SE features, especially competition, teams, festivity, and the culminating event, favoured motivation and engagement, what improved behaviour and the assumption of roles responsibilities. Conclusions: Sport per se is not enough to teach ethical conduct. However, a quality programme which exposes young people to the stimuli they need, and efficient physical educators who can develop the programme properly and with a coherent attitude are necessary. Pre-service education for any future professional working with youth from socially vulnerable backgrounds (teachers, coaches, youth workers) should consider the need of teaching pedagogies of affect like SE as well as the development of an ethic of care and emotional labour.