An explicit look at implicit learning: An interrogative review for sport coaching research and practice

Dave Collins*, Alan C MacPherson, Ray Bobrownicki, Howie J Carson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Over the last three decades, implicit coaching has emerged as a potential skill acquisition tool and pre-emptive intervention to avoid choking under pressure. Despite advocacy in the sport coaching literature, however, we are concerned that theoretical, methodological, and practical issues have potentially inflated or obscured its utility for coaching practice. In this paper, we lay out and elaborate on these concerns in order to stimulate critical dialogue that benefits sport coaches, performers, and their support teams and better situates the tool within the realities of real-world practice and delivery. The main points addressed relate to the predominately academic focus, contentious investigative designs, need for internal checks, questioned mechanistic processes, recognised limitations of the approach, and its contribution to current and effective coaching practice. Based on this, we conclude that available implicit-instruction methods are impractical and presently offer limited utility for sport coaching. Going forward, if scholars are to establish the relevance and impact of implicit methods, then research must directly address and respond to the challenges presented in this paper and adopt a more pragmatic perspective that better accounts for applied sporting contexts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSports Coaching Review
Early online date23 Feb 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Feb 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • analogy learning
  • coaching
  • pedagogy
  • teaching strategies
  • verbal instruction


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