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Loughborough researchers collaborate with UK Coaching

Colleagues from Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences have collaborated with UK Coaching to provide a series of key online resources.

Challenging Situations Between Coaches and Participants’, developed in partnership with Doctoral Researcher Katelynn Slade, Professor Sophia Jowett and Dr Daniel Rhind, explores how to normalise challenging sporting situations.

The series also details the importance of the coach-athlete relationship and how it is one of the most essential interdependent relationships in sport.

Further learnings are outlined in ‘Challenging Situations: Understanding the Grey Zone’, detailing how coaching individuals can be complex and difficult at times. The resource outlines how to manage such situations effectively, resulting in a positive outcome.  

Katelynn Slade explained the importance of Loughborough’s contribution: “From our research, we have developed the Grey Zone Model (GZM) that can be applied to both coaches and athletes. This model places a challenging situation, such as deselection, in an area defined as "the space of indeterminacy upon which all determination ultimately depends” (Blum, 2011).

“Depending on how the deselection was delivered, perceived, and managed, an athlete and/or coach may move to either the White Zone (feeling respected, heard, understood, valued, etc.) or the Black Zone (feeling disrespected, unheard, misunderstood, disrespected, etc.). Included in the model is a sliding scale, whereas a coach and/or athlete can move up and down the scale, together or separately.

Professor Jowett added: “Almost three years ago, we set out to examine challenging situations coaches and athletes commonly encounter during the course of their sporting partnerships.

“These challenging interpersonal situations are often related to issues associated with performance (e.g., injury, burnout, lack of progress, deselection, unacceptable behaviours) and/or wellbeing (e.g., eating disorders, body image, depression, anxiety, lack of satisfaction and happiness). In this research, the aim was to understand the process by which coaches and athletes deal with such difficult situations and offer practical guidelines to support coaches and athletes to tackle even the most complex situations.

“In collaboration with UK Coaching, the opportunity was offered to translate a segment of this research as this specifically pertains to “deselection”, a challenging situation that all athletes and coaches identify with, in practical terms by exploring how it can be experienced by using a simple tool, namely, “The Grey Zone”.

“Collectively, this research underlines the importance of developing and maintaining sound coach-athlete relationships; relationships that are characterised by mutual trust, respect, loyalty and collaboration lay the foundation for productive management of tough problems or dilemmas.”

Additionally, Dr Carolyn Plateau (Senior Lecturer in Psychology) has produced a comprehensive series of online content around eating disorders and disordered eating in sport.

With up to 40 per cent of athletes suffering from eating disorders at one time or another – increasing the likelihood of injury, illness, and longer-term health issues – the interactive series delves into how coaches and wider coaching teams can spot the signs and symptoms in their athlete population, and the myths of eating disorders.   

Dr Plateau has also developed an evidence-based Continuing Professional Development (CPD) course on disordered eating in athletes that is available at a discount for UK Coaching subscribers.

Non-members can access the course at https://deia.org.uk /about.

Dr Plateau said: “Our research with coaches and athletes has highlighted a lack of confidence and awareness around identifying and supporting athletes with disordered eating and eating disorders, with a desire for further, evidence-based guidance.

“This seven-part series, developed in collaboration with UK Coaching and Dr Sebastian Sandgren (University of Stavanger), aims to provide accessible information and guidance about disordered eating and eating disorders in athletes for the UK Coaching community.”   

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 22/224

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2022 QS World University Rankings – the sixth year running – and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2023, 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2023 and 11th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.