Coaching with Latour: An ontological manifesto for the sociomateriality of sport



Maclean J (2021) Coaching with Latour: An ontological manifesto for the sociomateriality of sport. Doctor of Philosophy in Education. University of Stirling.

Something that I witnessed. Something that has led to fractured and isolated debates in coaching research. And something that might benefit from being looked at in a different way because very little is known about the ontological dimension of what things do in coaching practices. The aim of this thesis is to develop a relationist ontology of coaching as its own field of practice. The methodology draws inspiration from Latourian actor-network theory (ANT). ANT is a relationist ontology that examines the associations between humans and nonhumans. Five Latourian ANT concepts informed the inquiry into sport coaching: actors, who can be human and nonhuman; networks, which are how actors become assembled; trials of strength, which define what actors do; translation, which describes how actors relate to each other; and articulated propositions, which grant others the ability to speak about an assembled actor-network. An ANT ethnography forms the basis of the fieldwork which consists of observations in two community football clubs over a season. Fieldnotes are the main data gathering method in which I ‘followed the actors themselves’ (Latour 2005a). Actors become relevant as they acted in ways that empirically warranted attention. A sociomaterial analysis is set out which generates ‘anecdotes’ (Adams and Thompson 2016) that are short stories of how social and material relations come together in practices. Each anecdote forms a part in the cartography of coaching which is ordered as follows: (1) moving from The Game towards a field of practice, (2) delegation, (3) quasi-object, (4) interruptions, and (5) manufacturing. Each part is accompanied with a move inspired by Latourian ANT. The significant contribution of this thesis is coaching is a relationist field of practice resting upon five propositions: first, nonhumans are ‘matters of concern’ (Latour 2004a); second, coaching is ontologically different from The Game; third, materials give shape to, and materiality shapes, practices; fourth, coaches intervene with alliances; and fifth, a new sociomaterial competence is necessitated. A more “truthful” territory is articulated so that other coaches can become more object-oriented when translating the cartography into their own practices. An ontological manifesto for the sociomateriality of sport paves the way for a big picture outlook for how academics and practitioners conceptualise, understand, describe, and improve their own coaching.

FundersEconomic and Social Research Council
InstitutionUniversity of Stirling
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy in Education
Qualification levelDoctor of Philosophy

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Dr Jordan Maclean

Dr Jordan Maclean

Research Assistant, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology