Role of a needs assessment – based learning community experience on artistic gymnastics coaches’ professional knowledge and practices
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The purposes of this study were to 1) identify coaches’ needs by evaluating athletes’ developmental outcomes, 2) design, implement, and evaluate a learning community program (LCP) for the coaches based on the needs identified, and 3) evaluate the long-term effects of the LCP on the coaches’ views and practices. A mixed methods research design was used to answer the research questions. In Study 1, an adapted and validated form of a measurement toolkit that measures youth athletes’ “Competence”, “Confidence”, “Connection”, and “Character” was applied to 45 youth gymnasts. The gymnasts were from Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Bolu, Mersin, and Bartın cities of Turkey. Data were analyzed by using descriptive and inferential statistics. Findings indicated a decrease in gymnasts’ perceptions in each of the developmental outcome as they age. Also, girls had significantly higher scores in “Competence” and “Character” outcomes (p < 0.05). A six-week LCP was developed based on the findings of Study 1. A LCP was conducted with six coaches and one facilitator. The data comprised video-recorded and fully transcribed six-week LCP, researcher notes, and a focus-group interview. In understanding the long-term effects of the LCP, a long-term participant observation was made and unstructured interviews were conducted with two participant coaches after two years. Qualitative data were analyzed using thematic analysis. The coaches found the LCP quite effective regarding the learning environment created, and the way the knowledge is built and shared. Additionally, the program strongly raised the coaches’ awareness and knowledge of athletes’ holistic developmental outcomes. Findings regarding the long-term effects of the LCP indicated the coaches’ actual adoption of the view of holistic athlete development and started to make positive changes in gymnasts’ developmental outcomes using the professional knowledge they obtained.