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Journal Articles Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy Year : 2020

Coaches’ perceptions of decision making in rugby union


Background: In team games situations, the ability to make fast and accurate decisions is crucial to performance. As such, effective decision making, characterised by the consistent and efficient ability to choose the right course of action at the right moment, is a key component of match performance in team sports such as rugby union. Previous research has identified pedagogical approaches to enhance decision making. However, there is dearth in research to investigate how coaches evaluate tactical decision making and subsequently develop context specific ‘on’ and ‘off-field’ coaching practices to improve it. Further, the value coaches place on decision making is under explored. Purpose: The aim of this study was to explore coaches’ perceptions of decision making in rugby union. The specific objectives to meet this aim were to: (i) Explore coaches’ perceptions of the value and importance of decision making in rugby union; (ii) Identify coaches’ opinions of the key decision making moments in games and how to evaluate them; and (iii) Investigate coaches’ on and off field methods for improving players’ tactical and strategic decision making. Participants: Purposive sampling was used to select five male coaches, whose ages ranged from 25 to 41 years, from a regional rugby union club in Wales to participate in the study. Coaching experience ranged from two years to 16 years. Methods: The interpretative paradigm was used within the study with data collected through semi-structured interviews with academy rugby union coaches. This type of interview gathered rich, detailed and complex accounts of coaches’ opinions of players’ in-game decision making in rugby union in order to inform practice and theory. Inductive and deductive qualitative thematic analysis was used to analyse and interpret the data. Findings: All five coaches agreed that decision making was a crucial part of the modern game of rugby union. There was some disagreement between them about the players’ autonomy to make their own decisions on the pitch and a general lack of clarity between ‘game plan’, ‘strategy’ and ‘tactics’ amongst the coaches. All the coaches agreed that the process of evaluation of players’ decision making should involve a joint discussion with the players. They also agreed that developing decision making was one of the hardest things to coach. Finally, they used a variety of ‘on’ and ‘off-field’ coaching methods to achieve this including video analysis, questioning and the use of games based scenarios. Conclusion: This study acquired the coaches’ voice on players’ decision making in rugby union by exploring its perceived importance to them and how they evaluated and attempted to improve it. A clear attempt was made among the coaches to develop a ‘non-judgemental’ atmosphere in the evaluation and improvement of players’ decision making. Future research should consider the use of explicitation interviewing, where the interviewer (coach) aims to get the player into a state of evocation, to relive the key decision making moments in an attempt to improve it.
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Dates and versions

hal-04332762 , version 1 (09-12-2023)



Kevin Morgan, Alain Mouchet, Gethin Thomas. Coaches’ perceptions of decision making in rugby union. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 2020, 25 (4), pp.394-409. ⟨10.1080/17408989.2020.1725458⟩. ⟨hal-04332762⟩


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