Coaching and Pedagogy Research Group

The coaching and pedagogy research group (CaPRG) aims to take a multidisciplinary approach to developing research in the areas of coaching and teacher education, pedagogical approaches to practice and issues linking to social justice and equality, diversity and inclusion.

Watch the video below from research group lead Dr Amy Whitehead:

For any enquires please contact Dr Amy Whitehead as the group lead.


Our research aims to make positive changes to coach, teacher and practitioner development and inform policy and practice to improve people’s lives. We provide multidisciplinary approaches to our research with the aim of solving real world problems and pride ourselves in collaborating with industry partners.

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Outdoor PE Project

Using a Natural Curriculum approach to develop outdoor learning within Physical Education and to enhance wellbeing and engagement with the natural environment.

The project is being led by Dr Avril Rowley and Ceri Magill and will explore the Natural Curriculum approach to outdoor learning in PE. Through this, LJMU PE students will develop their subject knowledge and skills to facilitate outdoor learning within a PE environment. LJMU PE students will further support project staff in the delivery of practical workshops to secondary schools pupils and develop teaching and learning resources for secondary school PE teachers.

Staff: Dr Avril Rowley, Ceri Magill

Collaborating Organisations: Woodchurch High School


The UK Para Pentathlon Project was established in January 2023 with a group of internal and external colleagues to LJMU. The aim of the project is to create a functional disability strand for inclusion in modern pentathlon events within Pentathlon GB ‘family of sports’. The objectives have been formed with the Union International federation of Pentathlon Moderns (UIPM) guidance, to create a UK classification system for Laser Run (LaserSport). The project wants to establish networks with disability clubs, schools and organisations to offer taster events to have a go across the UK.

The project will help Pentathlon GB as a national governing body understand their own current memberships disability diversity and help them engage with the projects activities. There will be several invitational training camp days to explore upskilling and testing the event with athletes and coaches where athlete profiling can be understood. There will be a large recruitment and awareness strategy targeting key national disability federations to identify current and past para-athletes to test and co-create the discover event and potentially compete in the World Para-Laser Sport Championships in August 2023 in the elite para laser run event.

The project group will also be creating and developing contingency plans for post August 2023 and devising policies to the national federation on building in the inclusion of para-laser sport in the UK. It is hoped that this evidence of engaging, developing and raising awareness of this exciting new disability multi-sport will provide strong evidence of possible inclusion in some format, into the Paralympics in LA28.

Staff: Dr Nic Robinson, Danny Cullinane

Collaborating Organisations: Union International Federation of Pentathlon Modern, Pentathlon GB


The ParaCoach was an Erasmus Plus funded project, led by staff at LJMU, aimed at enhancing the learning, mobility and employment of para coaches across the EU, through the development of a number of outputs: a Para-Disability European Sport Coaching Framework, ParaCoach Work Force Audit, Best Practice Case Studies, Free Massive Open Online Course and the ParaCoach website.

Staff: Dr Tabo Huntley, Dr Amy Whitehead, Dr Gus Ryrie, Dr Colum Cronin, Amy Hardwick (Dr Charlotte Williams, UCLAN)

Collaborating Organisations: The International Council for Coaching Excellence (ICCE); European Paralympic Committee (EPC); Dutch Olympic Committee*Dutch Sports Federation (NOC*NSF); Institute of Sport Poland (ISP); Hungarian Paralympic Committee (HPC), The Immersive Learning Studio

9 members of the ParaCoach team with Project Director Dr Tabo Huntley, at the DisSPA Conference hosted at LJMU.

Find out more information on the Paracoach website.


Small-sided Games in Football Training

“The state of play of small-sided games”

Small-sided games are training formats derived from the official match and aim to replicate the football demands. It’s a proven training tool to provide an adequate physical, technical, and tactical training stimulus to football players. It fits in any training program, regardless of age, gender, playing level, and even sport. It creates a learning environment with a meaningful context of the match. Previously, Dr Sigrid Olthof completed her PhD on the representativeness of small-sided with the official match.

In this project, we survey coaches’ use and knowledge of small-sided games, and we monitor the small-sided games across a season. We address the following aims:

  • Capture current understanding and knowledge of small-sided games
  • Determine the applications of small-sided games in football practice
  • Identify where coaches have obtained knowledge from about small-sided games.

Take part in "The state of play of small-sided games" - survey. 

Staff: Dr Sigrid Olthof, Dr Stephen McQuilliam, Dr Colin Lewis, Dr Tabo Huntley, James Bush, Dr Amy Whitehead

Special Olympics

Workforce audit and eLearning course

Our collaboration with Special Olympics came to fruition through the ParaCoach Project. We conducted a workforce audit and follow-up interviews with Special Olympics coaches which aided the development of the ‘Introduction to Coaching Developmental Sports’ eLearning Course. The aim was to provide an evidence based understanding of the coaching workforce in order to inform policies and practice of Special Olympics.

Screenshot of the Special Olympics Developmental Sports Introduction to Youth Coaching eLearning Course

Staff: Dr Tabo Huntley, Dr Amy Whitehead, Amy Hardwick

Collaborating Organisations: Special Olympics, The Immersive Learning Studio

Resources: Special Olympics International Workforce Audit

Multidisciplinary approach to coaching Laser Run

The LaserRun Project is looking at developing coach education knowledge around the technical and tactical elements of the Laser Run discipline in Modern Pentathlon. We will be utilising an interdisciplinary approach to the data collection covering biomechanics, physiology and psychology. Currently recruiting athletes!

Staff: Dr Nic Robinson, Dr Joe Causer, Dr Amy Whitehead

Collaborating Organisations: Pentathlon GB

Image of group of children practicing laser shooting

More information: please email Dr Nic Robinson

Caring Culture in Sport Coaching

The Caring Culture project is being led by Dr Colum Cronin alongside UK Coaching. We are exploring Care within sport coaching, specifically how coaches experiences of care and how organisations can care for coaches. This study hopes to understand how coaches can experience care in their everyday situated lives. In doing so, the project will; 1) identify the needs of coaches; 2) provide a baseline assessment of coaches’ perceptions of care and help seeking strategies across four coaching domains. Data has been collected through a survey with over 300 respondents and through interviews with a number of sport coaches.

Staff: Dr Colum Cronin, Dr Amy Whitehead, Dr David Tod, Dr Fran Champ, Dr Gus Ryrie. Dr Colin Lewis, Dr Tabo Huntley, Amy Hardwick (Dr Fieke Rongen, Leeds Beckett University)

Collaborating Organisations: UK Coaching

Think Aloud and Coach Reflection

Dr Amy Whitehead submitted an impact case study for REF 2021 on her research that uses the Think Aloud method to develop coach reflection. Amy has developed the Think Aloud Programme which has impacted 375 coaches, mentors and coach educators and adopted by the England Football Association (FA), Rugby Football League (RFL) and UK Coaching. The FA Regional Mentor Manager stated, “The TA programme has helped the mentors realise the benefit of reflection, it has given them another tool in the tool box for reflection and perhaps more importantly, it has actually improved their understanding of reflection because it’s about the why. Why do I reflect? So they can actually make some adjustments or challenge their thinking or actions and it helps the mentor go on and help the coach or the person they’re working with. The impact of this research is that it has improved the mentor-coach relationship, the mentors communicate more effectively with their mentee coaches which in turn has improved the coach’s we work with.”

Amy is also currently developing a Think Aloud resource for Sport and Exercise psychologists is current leads the Think Aloud Research Group, funded by the British Psychology Society. She has also recently created a series of resources for UK Coaching providing guidelines on how coaches can use Think Aloud within their practice.

Staff: Dr Amy Whitehead, Dr Tabo Huntley, Dr Colum Cronin, Prof Zoe Knowles, Dr Gus Ryrie, Dr David Tod, Steven Vaughan, Dr Hayley McEwan (University of West Scotland), Dr Phil Birch (University of Chichester), Dr Trish Jackman (University of Lincoln), Dr Laura Swettenham (International Federation of Esports Coaches).

Collaborating Organisations: UK Coaching, England Football Association, Rugby Football League, British Psychology Society (Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology)


Improving young children’s physical and cognitive outcomes through a gamified at-home intervention

“Closing the physical and cognitive attainment gap for early years children through a home-based, gamified stability skills intervention: a pilot study”

Image of the Parents Guide to Movement skills and cognition used for this project

A 12 week gamified intervention based on developing stability skills of 4-5 year old children. Children work with their parents to complete 24 challenges within 6 missions based in a space adventure story arc. Children are assessed on certain physical, cognitive and affective aspects. If effective, it is hoped to create a free resource for families and schools to use.

Staff: Dr Katie Fitton-Davies, Professor Mike Duncan and Dr Sam Clarke (Coventry University, Professor James Rudd (Norwegian School of Sport Sciences)

Collaborating Organisations: Coventry University, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences

Warrington Youth Rowing Club Project

Warrington Youth Rowing Club logo – blue background with yellow crest, white and yellow oarsUnderpinned by a new logic model developed in collaboration with Warrington Youth Rowing Club in 2021, this qualitative study seeks to explore key stakeholders’ experiences and perceptions of the influence the Warrington Youth Rowing Club’s school’s rowing programme on student’s physical, mental, social, and scholastic wellbeing and performance. It is using focus groups and interviews to collect data from youth rowers, rowing coaches and coordinators, teachers and head teachers, and parents/guardians.

Staff: Dr David Todd, Scott Whitfield, Danny Cullinane, Milly Blundell, Cath Walker

Collaborating Organisations: Warrington Youth Rowing Club

Postgraduate Research

Our postgraduate students study a range of PhD’s and Professional Doctorates in the areas of coaching, education, and pedagogy. In addition to applying multiple approaches in areas such as sport psychology, nutrition, physiology and strength and conditioning to coaching and teaching practice. For more information on postgraduate study with us please see our Postgraduate research opportunities in Sport and Exercise Science webpage.

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Amy Elizabeth Hardwick

Programme: PhD

Thesis title: Exploring the Nature of Coaching in Special Olympics Sport

About my research: The aim of Amy’s research is to provide an original exploration of coach learning, development and practice within the context of Special Olympics. This area is extremely underrepresented and so research is needed in order to provide and evidenced understanding of coaches within this context, how they can best be supported and in turn how they can best support their athletes.

Andrew Newland

Programme: PhD

Thesis title: Exploring the Athlete-Coach relationship within high performance football.

About my research: The aim of Andy’s research is to explore the Athlete-Coach (A-C) relationship within high performance football. The research focuses on developing our understanding of the knowledge and skills required in order for coaches to develop and maintain high quality relationships with athletes. Initially, the research explores the role of formal coach education and looks specifically at the conceptualisation of the A-C relationship and focuses on how knowledge and skills are developed through the English FA’s coaching pathway at Level 3 and Level 4. Subsequently, the research captures the perceptions of high performance coaches. This includes the realities and challenges of forging and maintaining these relationships in practice. Lastly, the athletes voice is captured in order to better understand their perceptions and experiences relating to the key competencies of coaches they were able to develop high quality relationships with.

Guangze Zhang

Programme: MPhil

Thesis title: TBC

About my research: The aim of Guangze's research is to analyse team tactical behaviour in football using GPS tracking technology. In addition to physical monitoring that has been widely applied in this sport, GPS positional data can also be used for tactical analysis while several steps are needed to prepare the data ready. This project aims to present a workflow of data processing with which football teams using GPS technology are able to have insights into tactical behaviour. A secondary aim of this project is to explore and compare tactical behaviour of a professional football team in different phases (e.g., attacking, defending and transition) of the official match, which potentially in turn benefits team tactics and strategy of each match phase.

James Bush

Programme: PhD

Thesis Title: TBC

About my research: My PhD thesis covers online coach education, and is an overall exploration of online coach education given the increased prevalence in online coach education in the last 5 years, due to advancements in technology, increased user knowledge of technology use, and the forced use to the pandemic.

Jason Doggett

Programme: PHD Sports Coaching

Thesis title: Working title: An holistic -ecological perspective of elite women’s academy football transition: a case study of the environment.

About my research:

The aim of Jason research is to explore how women’s regional talent centres (RTC) create holistic ecological talent development environments to support players development and transition without jeopardising the ethos of the club or aspects of personal and educational development. The second part of the research aims to gain insight into players perceptions of their experiences of holistic talent development environments and its support mechanisms.  Upon completion the aim is to frame these findings within the holistic-ecological framework, and, by doing so inform future practice in an underrepresented field.

Jenna Louise Rice

Programme: PhD

Thesis title: The effect of a gamified motor skill intervention on emotional intelligence in 10-11-year-old disadvantaged primary school children.

About my research: The aim of Jenna’s research is to increase the emotional intelligence of 10-11-year-old primary school children through the improvement of motor skill via the development and evaluation of a gamified approach in physical education. This area of research has not been directly investigated before and offers significant theoretical and practical implications for teaching and learning, whilst promoting positive development trajectories of motor competence and emotional intelligence.

Jono McPhail

Programme: PhD

Thesis title: Coaching Philosophy and the Authentic-Self – A Journey from Conception to Action

About my research: The aim of Jono’s research is to further explore the process of developing a coaching philosophy from conception to action and its associated implications for coaching practice/ process. Whilst research into the area is by no means sparce, this to date has been found to lack philosophical underpinning and in turn, lacks a genuine connection between coaching philosophy and the act of sports coaching. To this end, the intention is further to developing an intervention strategy to positively impact practice and/ or process for the individual coach, organisation and wider groups.

Noel Dempsey

Programme: PhD

Thesis title: An Examination of Coach Education Provision in Grassroots Football

About my research: The aim of Noel’s research is to examine formal coach education provisions within the English Football Association (FA) grassroots provision. This research focuses on coach education courses from a policy perspective and their initial creation and dissemination processes that are then reproduced in-practice. The complex and contested nature of policy development requires greater focus of research around initial course design, content and structure, and pedagogic methods to be examined prior to any course observation taking place. This focus aims to support NGBs when designing future coach education provisions.

Reece Chapman

Programme: PhD

Thesis title: An Investigation into the Past and Present Practices of FA Grassroots Coach Education

About my research:

The aim of Reece’s research is to examine the past and present practices, and policy, of The Football Association Coach Education. By applying a Freirean lens Reece’s work considers if coach education is oppressive or instead liberates. Reece has already reported how coach education in more recent times has developed ( and the remainder of his thesis explores the experiences of coaches in their own contextual and nuanced world.

Sam Richardson

Programme: PhD

Thesis title: Understand before we act: Exploring a golf coach’s perception and application of a game-based approach and a female cricket coach’s perception and application of nonlinear pedagogy. 

About my research:

My research is focused on coaches’ and teachers’ perceptions and application of game-based approaches (GBA), nonlinear pedagogy (NLP) and constraints-led approach (CLA), and how best to support their understanding and application of these pedagogies. From conducting a systematic review on coaches’ and teachers’ perceptions and application of GBAs, NLP and CLA, the findings revealed a dearth of research evidence on target and striking/fielding games, as well as female coaches’ perception and application of the pedagogies. Therefore, I am investigating a male golf coach’s perception and application of a GBA and a female cricket coach’s perception and application of NLP. This research aims to provide a much-needed insight on how these coaches’ perceive and apply these pedagogies in their practice, as well as providing the basis to how these coaches could be supported with their understanding and application of the pedagogies. 

Steven Vaughan

Programme: Professional Doctorate

About my research: Steven’s research relates to cognitions and mental performance within endurance sport, with his systematic review exploring the efficacy of psychological interventions. His first research project is an explorative study to qualitatively examine perspectives of cyclists on factors which determine their attentional focus and control during virtual-world cycle races. This is a novel study with implications for coaches working in this area to best support their riders.

External Engagement

We are always trying to make our research transferable to the intended population. Therefore, our team are busy engaging in creating edited books, book chapters, blogs, podcasts, and online webinars:

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Care in Sport Coaching: Pedagogical Cases

Edited by Dr Colum Cronin and Prof Kathleen Armour. While it is accepted that sport coaches should safeguard participants, Care in Sport Coaching: Pedagogical Cases argues that coaches have a duty of care that moves beyond protection and involves the development of caring relationships with athletes. Recent high-profile incidents of abuse in sport highlight the need to reposition coaching as a caring activity and to embed care within coach education and coaching policy.

Based around extended case studies, this book provides grounded accounts of how coaches care in their everyday practice. These case studies are analysed using multidisciplinary theoretical perspectives to illustrate and problematise how coaches care. Conclusions are provided, based on these analyses, that will help coach educators, researchers and policy makers establish care as a key facet of everyday sport coaching activities. Additionally, the book offers guidelines that will aid practitioners to enact care in their practice.

This is important reading for coaches, researchers, lecturers and students who are concerned with the role of coaches and the development of coaching practice.

Myths of Sport coaching

Front cover of the Myths of Sport Coaching book – red back ground with yellow tennis balls scattered around.Dr Amy Whitehead and co-editor Jenny Coe recently edited the new text Myths of Sport Coaching, which aims to challenge common misconceptions within coaching and offer new perspectives within coaching practice. Amongst the chapter authors are our current group members and LJMU staff, Dr Colum Cronin, Dr Jonathon Foulkes and Dr Liz Mahon.

Amy and Jen are running a monthly seminar series throughout 2022-23 which involves a different chapter author each month presenting their chapter and answer audience questions.

See our May Webinar with Dr Colum Cronin: Myths about Caring in Coaching - YouTube


Pitch Sizes in Football (Dr Sigrid Olthof)

Paralympic Special (Dr Tabo Huntley)

Think Aloud podcast (Dr Amy Whitehead)

Dr Amy Whitehead discussed the Think Aloud method with Dan Abrahams, specifically how it works in practice; how it can help coaches and athletes analyse their performances; self-reflection and flow.

Myths of Sort Coaching podcast (Dr Amy Whitehead and Jenny Coe)

Dr Amy Whitehead and Jenny Coe join Dan Abrahams on his Sport Psych Podcast where they discuss some of the key chapters in the Myths of Sport Coaching book. They discuss the idea behind the book, why these myths might exist, and considerations for coaches.

Care in Sport Coaching (Dr Colum Cronin)

Sensible Soccer with Mike Phelan and Dave Horocks (Dr Nic Robinson and Dr Amy Whitehead)

Dr Nic Robinson and Dr Amy Whitehead joined former Manchester United coach Mike Phelan and his business partner Dave Horrocks. Mike and Dave now own the company Sensible Soccer and are creating a series of educational resources for grassroots coaches. The group discussed Amy’s Myths of Sport Coaching book and the considerations for grassroots coaches.


Marias Coaching Corner (Dr Tabo Huntley and Amy Hardwick)

As part of the Erasmus funder ParaCoach Project, Paralympic athlete Maria Lyle hosted a webinar series, consisting of conversations with coaches, athletes & academics all about sport, coaching and their individual journeys and experiences.

Myths of Sport Coaching Webinar Series (Dr Amy Whitehead)

Teaching Games for Understanding 40th Anniversary – Systematic Review on Sport Coaches’ and Teachers’ perceptions of games-based and constraints-led pedagogy (Sam Richardson)

The following video presentation was presented at the TGfU 40th Anniversary Conference 2023. The presentation provides a summary of a study entitled: Systematic review of sport coaches’ and teachers’ perceptions and application of game-based and constraints-led pedagogy: A qualitative meta-study.

Industry collaborators

Our research team work collaboratively with national and international organisations. In addition, we work collaboratively with researchers across the world in attempt to bring multicultural perspectives to our research. We are also open to working with new collaborators and if you or your organisation would like to discuss further, please contact Dr Amy Whitehead

  • Association for Physical Education
  • Blackburn Rovers Football Academy
  • British Cycling
  • British Educational Research Association
  • British Modern Pentathlon
  • Coaches’ association of Ontario
  • Disability Alliance
  • Disability Sport Wales
  • England Cricket Board
  • England Netball
  • International Council for Coaching Excellent

  • Saint Helen’s Rugby Football League Club
  • Special Olympics Great Britain
  • Special Olympics International
  • Sport Northern Ireland
  • The English Football Association
  • The English Rugby League Association
  • UK Coaching
  • UK Sport
  • Union International Federation of Pentathlon Modern
  • West Ham Women’s Football Club

CaPRG News

Research Visit from Norwegian University of Science and Technology colleagues

Last week, The Coaching and Pedagogy Research Group (CaPRG), met with former PhD student Dr Niels Feddersen and colleagues, Dr Stig Arve Sæther (Associate Professor and Research Group lead), Dr Nils Petter Aspvik (Associate Professor), Dr Ingar Mehus (Associate Professor), and Dr Rune Høigaard (Professor at University of Agder and visiting Professor) from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology for a research visit.

To start the session, colleagues from both LJMU and NTNU shared their research backgrounds and interests. The group then discussed research currently being conducted by members of the CaPRG. Dr Amy Whitehead, (CaPRG lead), delivered a presentation titled “Case Study: Ultra Tour Monte Rosa, Investigating the interactions of diet and mental coping strategies in an ultra-runner using Think Aloud”. Following this presentation, the group explored research ideas and potential future collaborations between colleagues from Norway and members of the Coaching and Pedagogy Research Group.

As well as potential collaborations with NTNU colleagues, discussions also sparked a number of potential research projects ideas within the research group.

Thank you to Niels, Stig, Nils, Ingar and Rune for visiting and engaging with the Coaching and Pedagogy Research Group.

Members of the Coaching and Pedagogy Research Group with colleagues from Norwegian University of Science and Technology


Cluster for Research into Coaching Symposium

Members of the Coaching and Pedagogy Research Group are working with Cluster for Research into Coaching (CRiC), to host a one-day symposium, here at LJMU.

PESSPA Summer Event

The event will:

  • disseminate the research activity and projects within the LJMU PESSPA network
  • facilitate practical workshop activities that showcase innovative examples of work in PE, School Sport, and Physical Activity
  • provide opportunity for membership discussion and networking

Please feel free to join us by signing up to the event via Eventbrite.

Lunch and refreshments will be provided, please ensure that you note any special dietary requirements when registering your attendance. Don’t forget to bring kit for practical activities.

If there are any queries or you would like to provide some input at the event please email


View our publications

Related Networks

Physical Activity Exchange

Network Lead: Professor Lynne Boddy

Find out more information about the Physical Activity Exchange.

Disability Sport and Physical Activity Network (DisSPA)

Network Leads: Dr Tabo Huntley and Milly Blundell

Find out more information on the Disability Sport and Physical Activity Network.

Physical Education, School Sport and Physical Activity Network (PESSPA)

Network Lead: Ceri Magill

Find out more information on the Physical Education School Sport and Physical Activity Network.

Football Exchange

Network Lead: Dr Martin Littlewood

Find out more information about The Football Exchange.

Football Exchange Women’s Network

Network Lead: Dr Fran Champ

Find out more information about the Football Exchange Women’s Network.

Postgraduate students:

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