MSc Applied Sports Coaching: Developing reflective practice with sports coaches – Dr Phil kearney.

Reflective Practice

Reflective practice is universally recognized as vital for effective practice within sports coaching (Gilbert, 2016) and indeed within the sport & exercise sciences more broadly (Knowles et al., 2014).

However, reflective practice is not a simple process (Gilbert & Trudel, 2006); there are many guides to aid reflective practice, which may be undertaking individually or with someone else, recorded in a variety of formats, involve various degrees of structure (e.g., answering specific questions) and involve various levels of experimentation before the subject of the reflection is resolved or the key learnings identified. Notice my use of the word “subject” rather than “issue” or “problem” – reflective practice is as applicable to positive experiences as to negative ones, increasing the likelihood that experience is transformed into knowledge which supports future practice.

Reflective practice is not easy, and should not be applied without thought for the (often unintended) consequences (Cushion, 2018; Downham & Cushion, 2021). Effective reflective practice is a skill that requires careful practice to develop. Effectively applied, reflection can fuel coaches’ continued development. Ineffectively applied, reflection can be unsettling and disruptive, or can restrain coaches within accepted ways of thinking and doing. So how is reflective practice developed on the MSc Applied Sports Coaching?

Reflective Practice on the Masters in Applied Sports Coaching

The below video blog revisits a presentation given by Phil Kearney and Ian Sherwin at a Learning and Teaching conference, explaining how they have designed the Masters in Applied Sports Coaching at the University of Limerick to evolve experienced coaches’ reflective practice. Key take home messages include: (1) it is essential to explore approaches to reflective practice; and (2) reflective practice is not the application of one method, but the drawing upon a suite of skills which are embedded into the process and journey of the coach (Gallimore et al., 2014; Nater & Gallimore, 2005; O’Dwyer & Bowles, 2020).

Where can I read more about the MSc Applied Sports Coaching?
Take a look at #MScAppliedSportsCoachingUL where you will find insights such as exemplar pre-course activities and examples of the type of research we will be engaging with. You can also explore these FAQs.

Applications are reviewed on a monthly basis, and places awarded based on the calibre of application until the course is full. The next deadlines are:

  • May 31st 2022
  • June 30th 2022*

*subject to places remaining on the programme.

If you are interested in the programme or require further information please contact:

Dr Philip Kearney PhD
Course Director – MSc Applied Sports Coaching
Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences
University of Limerick

Tel: 00-353-61202844


Cushion, C. J. (2018). Reflection and reflective practice discourses in coaching: A critical analysis. Sport, Education and Society, 23(1), 82–94.

Downham, L., & Cushion, C. J. (2021). Reflection is ‘wholly beneficial’ for coaches. In: A. Whitehead & J. Coe (Eds.). Myths of sport coaching (pp. 145–153). Sequoia Books.

Gallimore, R., Gilbert, W., & Nater, S. (2014). Reflective practice and ongoing learning: A coach’s 10-year journey. Reflective Practice, 15(2), 268–288.

Gilbert, W. (2016). Coaching better every season: A year-round system for athlete development and program success. Human Kinetics.

Gilbert, W. & Trudel, P. (2006). The coach as a reflective practitioner. In: R. L. Jones (Ed.), The sports coach as educator: Reconceptualising sports coaching (pp. 113–127). Routledge.

Knowles, Z., Gilbourne, D., Cropley, B. & Dugdill, L. (2014). Reflective practice in the sport and exercise sciences: Contemporary issues. Routledge.

Nater, S. & Gallimore, R. (2005). You haven’t taught until they have learned: John Wooden’s teaching principles and practices. Fitness Information Technology.

O’Dwyer, A., & Bowles, R. (2020). Exploring the potential value of self-study to support coach learning. International Sport Coaching Journal7(1), 95-101.

Dr. Phil Kearney is the Course Director of the MSc Applied Sports Coaching within the PESS Department here at the University of Limerick. View Phil’s profile:

Phil Kearney round

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