Exploring the role of experiential learning in the development and performance of elite endurance athletes




Jackson, W. David

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The primary purpose of this study was to explore how an athlete learns from experience and how this has impacted their development in becoming capable elite international athletes. Based on the qualitative theory of phenomenology, a purposeful sampling technique was used to identify participants who were experts in the phenomena being studied. In-depth interviews were conducted with four elite level triathletes (3 female; 1 male). A thematic analysis completed for each participant revealed a number of general themes. The four central themes that pervaded across participants included Learning from a New Coaching Approach, Learning from Performance, Learning during Performance, and Seeking out Learning. Different types of learning were evident and although the central themes fit with a number of different theories and models of learning, the best fit was the network model that recognizes multiple ways of learning. The relevance of experiential learning and the role of the athlete as an active learner were also highlighted. Implications for athletes and coaches include athletes being encouraged to explore various learning methods and coaches being challenged to create an environment that optimizes an athlete’s learning opportunities.



Experiential Learning, Elite, Endurance, Athletes, Performance, Development