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Reflective Practice

International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives

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Caring as an important foundation in coaching for

social sustainability: a case study of a successful
Swedish coach inhigh-performance sport

Claes Annerstedt & Eva-Carin Lindgren

To cite this article: Claes Annerstedt & Eva-Carin Lindgren (2014) Caring as an important
foundation in coaching for social sustainability: a case study of a successful Swedish coach inhigh-
performance sport, Reflective Practice, 15:1, 27-39, DOI: 10.1080/14623943.2013.869204

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Published online: 10 Jan 2014.

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Reective Practice, 2014
Vol. 15, No. 1, 2739,

Caring as an important foundation in coaching for social

sustainability: a case study of a successful Swedish coach in
high-performance sport
Claes Annerstedt* and Eva-Carin Lindgren
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Department of Food and Nutrition, and Sport Science, University of Gothenburg,

Gothenburg, Sweden
(Received 7 November 2013; nal version received 21 November 2013)

The aim of this study is to describe and analyze the experiences and strategies of
one successful coach in high-performance sports. Through case study methodol-
ogy we have studied Bengt Johansson, one of the most successful coaches in
Sweden ever. From the perspective of social sustainability, caring seems to have
constituted an important basis for coaching the Swedish national team in hand-
ball during Bengt Johanssons years as head coach. Caring in this sense means
to respect the players, value them, involve them, have dialogue with them, listen
to them and support them as human beings. Johansson has demonstrated how
competitiveness, dedication and hard work coexist alongside compassion, empa-
thy, participation and caring.
Keywords: caring; case study; handball; sport coaching; sustainability

Coaches need to be competent in their profession and act in different domains. They
have to be instructors, motivators, strategists, organizers and character builders
(Gould, 1987) and their role is to communicate and maintain positive relationships
with their athletes. Thus, coaching is viewed as an educational relationship between
coach and athlete and the focus needs to be on the relation between the two
(Bergmann Drewe, 2000). When coaching is regarded as a pedagogical process
where coaches expand their perspective and move beyond a narrow focus on
physical skill acquisition to also include the affective and cognitive domains, they
need to care about their athletes not only as performers but also as human beings.
Coaches must, just like other educators, view their task as connecting with a wider
set of beliefs that involve ethical and moral questions as well as broader social
issues that relate to athletes health and well-being.
In this paper we argue for the relevance of using social sustainability as a useful
concept when coaches reect on their practice and propose that sustainability should
be considered as an approach rather than an end goal. The premises are that coach-
ing should be regarded as an educational mission, that learning is central, and that
coaching even in high-performance sport is not only limited to performance and
success but includes lifelong participation and well-being (Lawson, 2005).

*Corresponding author. Email:

2013 Taylor & Francis

28 C. Annerstedt and E.-C. Lindgren

Our point of departure is that it is fruitful to learn from a coach who has been
coaching successfully in high-performance sport for many years because it can give
insights into processes of learning and development that can be linked to social sus-
tainability. Thus, the aim of this study is to describe and analyze the experiences
and strategies of one successful coach in high-performance sports from a
sustainability point of view.

Research on successful coaching and learning

There is a widespread acceptance that what coaches do and how they act as coaches
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tends to be shaped by their personal beliefs, values and norms and, in turn, beliefs,
values and norms can be regarded as their coaching philosophy (Cassidy, Jones, &
Portrac, 2004). Many coaching scholars have attempted to dene coaching philoso-
phy. Wilcox and Trudel (1998) stated that coaching philosophy is dened as a set
of values and behaviors that serve to guide the actions of a coach (p. 41). Lyle
(1999) further suggested that coaching is a socially constructed activity that is devel-
oped from a personal set of views which, in turn, is a result of experiences, observa-
tions and education in social contexts. According to Jones (2000), successful
coaches can adapt their behaviour to meet the demands of their specic working
environment, and coaches clearly believe that interaction and engagement with other
coaches provides appropriate professional guidance (Jones, 2000; Lyle, 1999;
Potrac, Brewer, Jones, Armour, & Hoff, 2000).
Successful coaches generally have a clear and evident philosophy for how to
coach, based on knowledge about sport specic demands at the highest level and of
basic theory in sport (Annerstedt, 2006). A study by Gould, Collins, Lauer, and
Chung (2007) examined outstanding high school football coaches and the character-
istics they possessed. They were all well-educated, highly experienced, and had
sophisticated strategies for promoting their athletes development. Collins, Gould,
Lauer, and Chung (2009) explored the philosophical beliefs of these same football
coaches and showed that the physical, psychological and social development of their
athletes was a top priority. Thus, researchers (Hardman, Jones, & Jones, 2010; Lyle,
2008) have stressed that the role of a coach not only deals with physical aspects of
performance but also with other dimensions.
In recent years, several researchers have analyzed how coaches learn and
develop their coaching knowledge. Nelson, Cushion, and Potrac (2006) proposed
three learning situations: formal, non-formal and informal. Formal learning situations
represent coach education programmes that are delivered by specialists such as sport
associations or universities, and lead to a form of certication. Non-formal learning
situations are dened as organized educational activities, delivered outside the for-
mal system. Informal learning situations comprise a variety of opportunities through
which coaches acquire knowledge throughout their lives and include previous life
experiences, interactions with peer coaches and reading books. Mallett, Trudel, Lyle,
and Rynne (2009) added to the discussion by suggesting that informal learning situ-
ations can be either guided or unguided. Informal guided situations are generated by
outside sources, i.e. learners can choose to participate in these situations and can
choose the content. Contrary, informal unguided situations are not inuenced by
outside sources and can be either intentional (the coach intentionally chooses what
to learn) or incidental (learning as a by-product of another activity).
Reective Practice 29

Research suggests that coaches usually come to their profession already social-
ized into ways of acting prior to their formal coach education. Thus, from previous
experiences as athletes they have already been introduced into the cultures of coach-
ing that have made sense to them and even given them the means to work with
(Sparkes, 1993). In addition, research has also shown that formal learning situations
make varying contributions to coaches learning. Inexperienced coaches generally
consider formal learning as usable because they lack basic knowledge about the
sport they coach. However, more experienced coaches report that formal training
courses are often of limited use, because they fail to respond to coaches needs
(Erickson, Braner, MacDonald, & Ct, 2008).
The fact that coaches use reection and mentoring as a way to learn is now well
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established in the coaching science literature (Nelson et al., 2006) and coach educa-
tion has highlighted the importance of coaches reective thoughts upon their prac-
tice in advancing coach learning and development (Jones, 2006). Reection refers to
the ongoing process of critically examining past and current practice as a method of
improving future work and increasing knowledge (Standal & Moe, 2013). However,
coaches at most levels often view other coaches in the same sport more as oppo-
nents than collaborators (Culver & Trudel, 2008). Thus, for many coaches a major
hurdle in their educational experience is to learn how to share professional insight
with other coaches without giving away their own coaching secrets.
Success in coaching is mostly counted in how well your athletes have performed
and how many medals they have won. However, researchers also stress the impor-
tance of looking at the developmental side of success, i.e. how your athletes develop
as human beings through sport. For example, Lyle (2008) argued for what he called
a humanistic approach to coaching and that requires a transfer of priorities from per-
formance to the person. He stated that such an approach implies a leadership style
based on cooperation and athlete autonomy and that developmental and educational
processes ought to be foregrounded.

Theoretical framework
At present, sustainability is common, but there is little consensus about what the
concept means or what sustainability claims actually should include (Lindsey,
2008). A common approach to sustainability involves three interlinked dimensions
namely environmental, economic and social. The origin of the concept lies in the
environmental movement, where ecological sustainability the survival of the planet
has been the overarching expression. However, social sustainability has been used
increasingly in connection with societal questions, well-being and quality of life
(Wals & Jickling, 2002). Koning (2002) suggested that social sustainability refers to
a society that is just, equal, without social exclusion and with a decent quality of
life, or livelihood, for all (p. 70).
Research dealing with sustainability in sport is rare. Lawson (2005) focused on
the sustainability of social and human development through sport and he listed ve
contributions that sport can make to sustainable, integrated social and economic
development. Kirk (2004) recognized that there is a lack of research that examines
the sustainability of young peoples participation in sport, and Lindsey (2008) dis-
cussed the concept of sustainability in sport studies from a theoretical perspective,
but she did not add any empirical data.
30 C. Annerstedt and E.-C. Lindgren

Wals and Jickling (2002), like Lindsey (2008), proposed that there is a potential
in the concept if it includes debate about normative, moral and ethical convictions
and involves human responsibility. Having said this, they argued that with regard to
coaching, the sustainability concept involves discussing moral and ethical as well as
pedagogical questions, such as how to develop athletes both as performers and
human beings and how to promote positive values through sport. Thus, the concept
of sustainability appears to have utility in coaching situations if it is contextually
linked and connected to ideology and normative statements.
Given that the concept of social sustainability can be regarded as an approach in
sport coaching where athletes performance as well as their development as human
beings is in focus, then coaching can be regarded as relational and as an educational
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assignment (Jones, 2007). Noddings (1984) concept of caring will therefore be rele-
vant as a theoretical framework.
The starting point of Noddings ethic of care is the evident relationship between
the one caring and the one cared for. In a coaching context, the coach embraces
the role of the one caring and the athletes are those being cared for, where the coach
must listen attentively to the athletes and put aside his/her own values and interests,
and try to understand the expressed needs of the athletes.
Gordon, Benner, and Noddings (1996, p. xiii) dened caring as a set of rela-
tional practices that foster mutual recognition and realization, growth, develop-
ment, protection, empowerment, and human community, culture, and possibility.
Within academic literature the term care sometimes appears together with other
terms such as compassion, cooperating and helping. Boyatzis, Smith, and
Beveridge (2013) stated that compassion is an interpersonal process composed of
(a) noticing anothers need, (b) feeling empathic concern for the other person, and
(c) actively responding to enhance his or her well-being (p. 159), and with such a
denition there are certainly resemblances between coaching and the concepts
According to Noddings (1992), caring facilitates engrossment, commitment,
and a motivational shift to the cared-for-athlete. Engrossment takes place when the
one caring-coach establishes a caring relationship by accepting athletes experiences,
ideas and feelings. Commitment reects the attitude that there is nothing that has
priority over the caring coachs responsibility to care for the athletes. In addition to
this the coach must shift from focus on self as coach to focus on athletes as learners.
According to Noddings (1992), this means that constant dialogue, sharing and
responding in search for understanding, empathy and appreciation is a necessity.
Buber (1970) described dialogue to be in essence an encounter, a meeting with the
other face-to-face which includes listening to and afrming and encouraging the best
in others. This involves also being open to seeing things from the other persons

Aim of the study

The aim of this study is to describe and analyze the experiences and strategies of
one successful coach in high-performance sports. The specic research questions
are: How has he developed his coaching knowledge? What is characteristic for his
way of coaching? and How can his way of coaching be related to social
Reective Practice 31

The investigation is based on a case study approach. The method provides story-
telling (Bassey, 1999) and is a study of practice, with practitioners actions and
the theories that underpin such actions, in focus. A case study is expected to cap-
ture the complexity of a single case (Stake, 2000) and the essence of a case study
methodology is trying to understand the phenomenon through triangulation (Yin,
1984) the combination of methods, strategies or theories. In this study we con-
ducted two interviews, had informal talks with the coach on different occasions
and had access to a biography from 2001 that functioned as support (Johansson
& Simson, 2001). As researchers we have tried to understand this case per se,
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triangulate the data sources and focus on understanding the case from the perspec-
tive of the coach. A purposive sample was conducted based on the knowledge
that the person has been an outstanding coach, has reached excellent results in
high-performance sport and, at the same time, nurtured good relationships with
his players.

The case
In this case study we have studied Bengt Johanssons experiences of coaching the
Swedish national team in handball. He has now retired as a coach but is still
regarded as one of Swedens most successful coaches ever. Bengt Johansson was a
successful player in team handball with three Swedish championships and 83 inter-
national games for the Swedish national team. After his career as a player he went
into coaching with HK Drott, a team in the Swedish rst league, where he coached
for 13 years and won ve Swedish Championships. After being named head coach
for the Swedish national team in 1988, he stayed in that post for 16 years and the
team played 471 games with him as a coach. His record as a national coach is out-
standing and during his leadership the Swedish handball team won two World
Championships as well as two silver and two bronze medals, four European Cham-
pionships and three Olympic silver medals.
Johansson had an academic background as a teacher. He studied pedagogy, soci-
ology, and received a formal teaching education. In addition, he had a military edu-
cation from his time as an ofcer. He also had formal coaching courses in team
handball as well as coaching courses run by the Swedish Olympic Committee.
Bengt Johansson said that both his parents shaped him as a person. His father
was quite authoritarian, while his mother was more of an emotional and caring per-
son who could empathize with others. They both had characteristics that he recog-
nized and traits that he himself used during his years as a coach. He was dominant
and authoritarian in his early years of coaching, but over time he developed a coach-
ing style that was more inclusive and empathetic.
The experiences from his own schooling and sporting career also inuenced him
as both coach and teacher. He was disappointed as a school pupil because he was
not encouraged enough, but on the other hand he received a great deal of praise and
experienced success as an athlete, which made him very happy as a young man
growing up. From these experiences Johansson summarized that he was convinced
that people perform better if they are treated with kindness and encouragement, as
opposed to being constantly criticized and questioned.
32 C. Annerstedt and E.-C. Lindgren

Data production
In-depth, open-ended and semi-structured interviews (Creswell, 2003) were con-
ducted with the coach by the rst author on two different occasions. The rst inter-
view contained questions of life-history character, but also focused on coach
learning as well as questions about his fundamental coaching philosophy (Wilcox &
Trudel, 1998). The second interview dealt more with questions about his relation to
learning, sustainability and his inuence on the athletes. In the period between these
interviews we had informal conversations with Bengt about the nature of coaching
in high-performance sport. In addition to these interviews a biography on Bengt
Johansson has also been published (Johansson & Simson, 2001). We have been able
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to follow up some of the coaching aspects introduced in the book through informal
talks with Johansson.
The interview process was exible and resembled an informal conversation.
However, a semi-structured interview guide was used on both occasions. This inter-
view guide was pilot tested with another coach in advance, allowing the researcher
to verify the relevancy of the questions asked. Some questions were then slightly
modied to allow more description (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009). During the
interviews probing was frequently employed to allow the coach to clarify and
explain in further detail certain themes.
The rst interview (2008) lasted 56 minutes and the second one (2013) 68 min-
utes. Both interviews were transcribed verbatim. Before proceeding to the analysis
stage, a copy of the interview transcripts was sent to the coach in an attempt to
establish respondent validation (Neuman, 2004). He was asked to provide his writ-
ten comments directly on the transcripts and to mail them back. Several minor
changes were suggested and were made upon return of the transcripts. The tran-
scripts were then read carefully on several occasions, allowing the researchers to
immerse themselves in the data and to identify preliminary themes (Kvale &
Brinkmann, 2009).

The analysis involved the following steps: (a) reading each interview, and the biog-
raphy of the coach was read a number of times as open-mindedly as possible, in
order to acquire an understanding and a sense of the whole; (b) creating meaning
units (i.e. separate pieces of text containing one idea, or piece of information that
could be interpreted on its own); (c) coding each meaning unit; (d) creating and con-
ceptualizing categories that captured the essence of the ideas being discussed within
the meaning units and codes; and the nal step was (e) analyzing and interpreting
the categories to try to nd the underlying meaning in these and then describe them
under appropriate themes. Because we are two researchers in the project, we also
discussed our analysis with each other, i.e. the meaning of units and categories. We
analyzed the data in a reective and systematic manner in order to promote our
interpretations and perceptions.
The study was conducted in accordance with the ethical guidelines of the
Humanities and Social Sciences Board (Vetenskapsrdet, 1990). Because of the
study design, we could not guarantee condentiality, but Bengt Johansson has given
consent to be a known participant in the study.
Reective Practice 33

In this study we have tried to capture Bengt Johanssons own story about who he is
as a coach, how he has developed his coaching knowledge, in what context(s) he
has learnt to be a coach, as well as his reection upon his coaching practices and
specically his connections to social sustainability.
Johansson stressed that it is essential and a prerequisite that you actually have
very good knowledge about the sport you are coaching, and in this regard,
Johansson has substantial knowledge and experience related to handball. Apart from
having excellent knowledge about the sport you are devoted to, the following ve
themes emerged as being important for coaching, according to Bengt Johansson: (1)
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Progressive insight based on education and the inuence of others; (2) Learning in
interaction with players; (3) Educating players both as athletes and human beings;
(4) Building trust and team spirit; and (5) Developing players to be their own

Progressive insight based on education and the inuence of others

According to Johansson, all of his academic education, as well as the army educa-
tion he experienced, was valuable for the development of his coaching knowledge.
They all dealt with questions of leadership in one way or another. However, when
asked whether formal coaching courses in team handball helped him to enhance and
develop his coaching knowledge, Johansson dismissed these courses as almost
worthless. Instead, he proclaimed that the courses run by the Swedish Olympic
Committee, which included exchange of knowledge between coaches of different
sports, were fruitful and protable.
Johansson emphasized the inuence that four former coaches had on his devel-
opment as a coach. Two of these coaches coached him as a player, and the two oth-
ers were assistants in his earlier years of coaching. Johansson was cognizant
throughout his career of learning from others who coached him or who he coached
with. Thus, it can be said that learning from others was vital for the construction of
his professional coaching knowledge. Enthusiasm, determination, accuracy, being
visionary and having a social focus on what he did were some of the key aspects he
learnt from former coaches. He also stated that he has learnt a lot from observing
teachers, which means that not all coaching knowledge comes from the sports arena.
In this context, he often reected on his own weaknesses and tried to work on
improving himself. Self-reection is something Johansson emphasized as being of
vital importance to helping him develop as a coach: afterwards you always
reect on your mistakes what did I do that was right and what could have been
done differently?.

Learning in interaction with players

Johansson stated that individuals develop as human beings through interacting with
others. Before being assigned to coach the national team, he worked as a coach with
several clubs, and for many years he also coached while still playing as part of that
team. As coach of a number of different clubs he learned from trial and error. By
being confronted by certain players who questioned his ideas and his way of
coaching, he was forced to prepare himself in a more comprehensive manner, which
also helped him to further develop his coaching knowledge.
34 C. Annerstedt and E.-C. Lindgren

Knowing how to deal with conicts amongst members of a team is also valuable
coaching knowledge. It was through conicts in the national team that Johanssons
norms and values were challenged, and through this he had to reconsider some of
his ideas. At the start of his career as coach of the national team, Johansson had to
handle a conict based on different opinions about how the game should be played.
One side held the opinion that the game should be a type of systematized handball,
which he himself favoured, but on the other hand another group believed in the free
handball philosophy which was more improvised. Johansson subsequently authored
a book titled The Blue and Yellow for the National Team, in which he explained his
idea of how to play handball. This book, however, had no inuence until he invited
the players to take responsibility and reect on the content. Together they discussed
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what was worth keeping as part of their team strategy and what had to be cut out.

Then they were, so to speak, very absorbed in the game and we then started to use
video cameras at that time and recorded our combinations. As soon as somebody new
came in he received a video on how we played the game.

Johansson commented on his growing coaching knowledge and how he felt that
being secure in himself and his skills made him more comfortable with being able
to delegate tasks to players. He expressed that he was aware that players had experi-
ences and skills with regard to how to play the game that he himself as a coach did
not have. This knowledge that the players possessed was also important to his own
learning and development. Johanssons coaching knowledge actually increased when
he started to ask questions to his players:

They [naming players] all possess knowledge about the game that one has to respect.
As a coach you must not be afraid to ask them questions to continue to learn and
add more parts to your knowledge.

Educating players both as athletes and human beings

Johansson stated that he was convinced that a prerequisite for shaping a winning
team is that the players have the chance to develop their personality alongside their
career. Therefore, Johansson insisted gatherings with the national team had to be
characterized by a positive learning environment for the players, as well as to give
players the possibility to develop these qualities jointly. It has to do with educating
the players, both how to play the game of handball and to make them develop as
human beings. He was eager to express this and continued on about his own role:

In building a team, it is not only important to work on training aspects of physical t-

ness and the game of handball, but also to work with pleasure and have experiences
outside of the gym.

Johansson shared an example of a dialogue on ethical issues with the players and
demonstrated the importance of mutual respect and trust. The team negotiated and
agreed upon the understandings not rules that would guide them. Values such as
respect, self-condence, common courtesy and team-building were keywords for Jo-
hansson when he talked about how to build a team in which every player feels
Reective Practice 35

Looking more cordially at the relationships Johansson attempted to establish

with his players, his story also illustrates his belief in the need to try to view the
world from the perspective of his players. Essentially, the players learnt to learn
and recognized the importance of exposing themselves to a wide range of learning

A coach must be able to feel empathy and understanding and be able to treat every
human being with respect in any situation he or she experiences. It is simply about
being able to take the other persons position.
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Building trust and team spirit

To be able to build trust and team spirit, which is something Johansson strongly
emphasized, it is important to get to know the players properly deeply as he
stated it. It is also about respecting the players and caring for their well-being.
When you know your players and in certain cases even their families that is
how you can, according to Johansson, adjust your coaching, reach a more accurate
foundation for your decisions and understand your players manner of thinking and
acting. This is not to say that Johansson has not focused on results, as he cared
about winning, but this result-focused orientation did not always shine through
with equal clarity. His reason for getting to know each player better is that it con-
tributes to a relationship built upon trust, safety and understanding, and this in turn
makes the players play better and himself coach more effectively. Johansson

When you work as a coach you must get to know every one of them profoundly not
only supercially, but you must yes, see the person, involve the family in the activ-
ity in order to get to know the persons background.

Consequently, Johanssons whole coaching philosophy was geared around delivering

his message in an empathetic way. He tried to facilitate a condent and relaxed
coaching environment, something he believed originated directly from his ideas
about involvement and responsibility.

To create a team spirit and trust is probably the most important thing a coach can bring
about. Involvement and joint responsibility are two important parts in this context.

Johansson usually talked with each player in order to get to know them better. He
went on to state that he cared about his players and respected them for who they
were. He believed it was very important that they felt acknowledged and appreci-
ated, and in this sense he cared for each player on an individual level.

Developing players to be their own coaches

Every player has had some form of leadership assignments throughout Johanssons
coaching career, resulting in the fact that many of his players today coach them-
selves both nationally and internationally. In fact, at least 13 of his former players
are coaching at the elite level today, which is very unique for a team sport. Asked
how this has been possible, Johansson replied:
36 C. Annerstedt and E.-C. Lindgren

I think it has to do with how they have had to take responsibility as players in the
national team. And that they have learned a lot lots of combinations and systems of
how to play handball and developed as human beings.

Johansson went on to talk in more detail about how he gave leadership assignments
to players and he suggested that they join him as assistants when he went to coach-
ing clinics and symposiums:

And what should I do at such a symposium? OK, then it is better to bring some of
your players with you to the symposium and show them different things I used
them and they received leadership training.
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As already mentioned, Johansson moved from being quite an authoritarian and dom-
inant gure to a coach who involved the players, asked questions, listened and
allowed them to take part in decisions. His method of coaching his players and let-
ting them take more responsibility subsequently motivated his players in an entirely
new way:

Magnus said that he [obtained] a new dimension in his role in the team His role
became broader and more responsibility were given to him. I noticed that most of
the players grow after getting responsibility.

Outside the national team, people have not always appreciated the way Johansson
has gone about coaching. He has been criticized for listening too much to the play-
ers and for giving them too much responsibility and decision-making responsibili-
ties. However, Johansson insisted rmly on hanging on to his idea of inclusion,
participation and responsibility, as he truly believed this made the team better and
added value to his coaching techniques. He was convinced that players themselves
often perceived more in game situations than he did on the sidelines. When players
get the chance to make decisions in the game it helps them to become better players
and puts them on the path towards eventually becoming their own coaches.

The results indicate that even if Bengt Johansson is considered a coach who priori-
tizes results, he also emphasizes the importance and active nurturance of educational
coach-athlete relationships. Johanssons philosophy builds upon the concept of
coaching as an educational endeavor (Jones, 2007), in which the quality of the
coach-athlete relationship depends upon a coachs ability to foster a learning envi-
ronment. Findings also demonstrate that Johansson has cultivated an environment
imbued with the values of recognition, trust, responsibility and caring about players
athletic development as a humane undertaking. A vital aspect of this environment is
recognizing that caring depends upon personal responsibility, hence the coach
actively works towards developing the coach-athlete relationship (Jones, 2009;
Jones, Bailey, & Santos, 2013).
The results also show that listening, responding and having dialogues with play-
ers is central to Johanssons coaching philosophy. Respect for players individuality
based on their personal needs is expressed through constant dialogue in order to nur-
ture both trust and caring relationships, which is in line with both Noddingss
(1992) framework for the ethics of caring and Bubers (1970) theory of dialogue.
Reective Practice 37

Furthermore, Johanssons dedication to empowering players by fostering self-con-

dence and leadership skills signicantly inuences his personal coaching style.
Allowing players to develop their personalities while developing their athletic
careers has been a key strategy in Johanssons practice. Such an approach implies
that Johansson has interacted with each player in order to communicate the message
that I am interested in you and your development (Noddings, 1984). This coaching
style can also be considered a humanistic approach to coaching (Lyle, 2008) because
it implies leadership based on cooperation and athlete autonomy.
Findings moreover suggest that Johansson practices a coaching philosophy that
is neither theoretically-based nor related to any leadership models. Instead,
Johanssons practice relies more upon personal experience and his personal habitus
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(Bourdieu, 1999) after having learnt from others and from self-reection (Cushion,
Armour, & Jones, 2003; Jones, 2006). These experiences have proved to be vital
during the construction of Johanssons professional knowledge. From these ndings,
future studies should consider whether sustainable coaching can develop with a
more theoretically-based coaching philosophy, whether coaches in high-performance
sports collaborate with each other and with academia, and in what situations coaches
can better cultivate learning environments? In summary, Johansson has demonstrated
how competitiveness, dedication and hard work coexist alongside compassion,
empathy, participation, inclusion and caring. The empathy Johansson feels for his
players echoes those in the ndings of Ct, Salmela, Trudel, Baria, and Russell
Finally, this studys ndings show that a high-performance sport can be learnt
in a way that promotes outstanding performance while still incorporating ideas of
sustainability. More specically, the qualities of responsibility, respect and diver-
sity have been proven to relate to competition and selection and can thus play an
integral part in helping athletes to perform at their very best both on and off the

Bengt Johansson can be described as an athletes coach who believes that as a
coach you must respect your players, value them, involve them, listen to them, care
for them and support them as human beings. His goal has been to develop condent,
participating players who are able to think independently and who can step forward
and take leading positions.
From the perspective of social sustainability, caring seems to have constituted an
important basis for coaching the Swedish national team in handball during Bengt
Johanssons years as head coach. Caring in this sense means to respect the players,
value them, involve them, have dialogue with them, listen to them and support them
as human beings. These behaviours can also be regarded as a humanistic approach
to coaching. The national coach in this study has created an effective learning
environment by giving the players responsibilities and chances to develop their
personalities alongside their careers. He fosters their self-condence and their
leadership skills. However, the coaching philosophy shown in this case study is nei-
ther theoretically based nor related to any leadership models, but rather based on
experience, the coachs own habitus and from having learnt from others as well as
from self-reection.
38 C. Annerstedt and E.-C. Lindgren

Notes on contributors
Claes Annerstedt is a former professor of pedagogy and physical education from Oslo,
Norway but is now head of Department of Food and Nutrition, and Sport Science, University
of Gothenburg, Sweden. He teaches sport coaching and PE and his research interests are in
teaching and learning in coaching as well as in PE.

Eva-Carin Lindgren is an associate professor at the same department and teaches coaching
and health promotion. Her research interests are in coaching, health promotion and gender

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