Exploring the science behind sport science and medicine: the what's, why's and how's of good practice in interdisciplinary support
The roles on offer to sport science and medicine (SSM) practitioners are varied and expanding. Within these applied roles there is a constant challenge of demonstrating impact in complex dynamic delivery settings, impactful support may be defined by a plethora of different measures whilst perceptions of this may vary greatly. A true maze of complexity! With this in mind, I suggest that the delivery of good practice (GP), enhancing the likelihood of quality service delivery, is key and inherently linked to optimising impact and, hopefully, success in a role. Therefore, the understanding of what defines GP in delivery and how this is achieved, supported and encouraged becomes important. Delivery of GP by practitioners is, clearly of interest, with numerous books offering interesting although anecdotal insights (e.g., Ingham, 2016; Kyndt & Rowell, 2012). Unfortunately, however, little empirical literature exists exploring the mechanisms of GP. Nor does any literature take the important step of offering solutions and principles to assist practitioners and teams striving for GP delivery, or those supporting them, in the successful negotiation of their roles. Accordingly, this thesis aimed to develop empirical, evidence-based insight into GP across SSM disciplines. The intention was to extend this insight to develop a series of guidelines on leadership, management and systemic features for the effective support of GP delivery. Initially I sought to examine factors underpinning GP in high level support environments and explore existent literature which may offer sources of knowledge. I then examined the perceptions of GP, from both practitioner and lead consumer (namely the Performance Directors) in these environments, before gaining a more longitudinal insight into the practitioner’s perceived sources of pressure and support in their daily delivery. Finally, I sought to gain consensus from high level leaders on world class practice in the leadership, direction and operation in support of GP delivery by both practitioners and teams. Findings supported the generation of guidelines and relevant implications. The intention was to generate findings with practical applications for all those involved in SSM delivery. Therefore, the investigations were undertaken in a pragmatic paradigm as I sought to develop an understanding of practice and gain depth of knowledge through the thoughts and experiences of those participating. Mixed methods were utilised; however, the emphasis was on qualitative research, chosen for its suitability for sensemaking of socially interactive phenomena and the associated meanings that people bring to them (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000). Results indicate the following; i) the application of relevant technical knowledge within the context (the environment, the role, the team and the people) is the critical component of GP, and supported largely by non-technical and interpersonal skills; ii) numerous challenges, both organisational and interpersonal, exist for practitioners and teams striving to deliver GP, suggesting a critical support role for the organisations and leaders in offering structure, leadership, training and development, iii) a number of existing theoretically grounded constructs offer sources of knowledge for both those delivering and those supporting delivery, iv) support for the practitioner’s and teams’ delivery must be well led, considered, organised and facilitated. In summary, this thesis offers an empirical look at defining GP for the practitioners, understanding the mechanisms and constructs which may support them, and identifying key roles and principles in support of optimising delivery. Clear implications are offered for the practitioners, leaders and employing organisations with the provision of a set of evidence-based guidelines to help navigate the maze, optimise support, and enhance the likelihood of GP delivery.