Very little research has investigated co-regulated learning (CRL; Hadwin et al., 2011) in the context of sport coaching for skill acquisition. Although research indicates self-regulated learning (SRL) helps elite competitive athletes optimize their skill acquisition (McCardle et al., 2019), coaching literature has yet to examine how co-regulated learning experiences in joint work between a coach and athlete are associated with SRL competencies in an athlete. Thus, the objective of this instrumental case study was to describe the nature of joint work between an experienced female coach (aged 53, national level) and a male figure skater (aged 15, provincial level) in a naturalistic environment. Season-long data collection involved analysis of recorded dialogue at 16 practices and three interviews with each participant. Using inductive reflexive thematic analysis, we developed higher-order themes related to macro- and micro-levels of CRL, and implications of the coach’s progression on the development of SRL. The Co-regulatory Coaching Interface Model, representing micro CRL interactions, outlines contributions from each member and dialogue processes facilitating skill acquisition. SRL was both an expected contributor to, and a consequence of interface interactions. We discuss coach-athlete dyadic processes, what they mean for athletes’ self-practice time, and how the model contributes a new perspective on collaborative work between coaches and athletes that has not been emphasized in the coaching science on talent development.


coach-athlete dialogue, co-regulated learning, self-regulated learning, self-regulation of sport practice, skill acquisition, instrumental case study, thematic analysis

Author Bio(s)

Lisa Bain is a PhD candidate in the School of Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa. Her research is in sport psychology, with an interest in how coach-athlete interactions in practice relate to an athlete’s ability to self-regulate their learning. Her current work examines how coaches help regulate individual athletes in group settings, and how athletes help regulate one another to promote optimal practice conditions and expertise development. Please direct correspondence to lbain016@uottawa.ca.

Bradley W. Young is a full professor in the School of Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa. His research focuses on sport expertise and the psychology of practice as it relates to talent development and optimal skill acquisition. He also investigates effective coaching practices in competitive sport and non-linear pedagogies in sport coaching.

Dr. Bettina Callary is the Canada Research Chair in Sport Coaching and Adult Learning and an Associate Professor in the Department of Experiential Studies in Community and Sport at Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia, Canada. She researches coach education and development strategies, coach developers, and psychosocial understandings of inclusive coaching (e.g., coaching masters athletes, women coaches, or Indigenous coaches).

Lindsay McCardle is applying her background in educational psychology to her role as a Senior Manager, User Experience Research at D2L. She leads a team of user experience researchers who conduct qualitative and quantitative research with learners, instructors, and administrators. Research findings are used to inform improvements to D2L’s learning management system.

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