The Illusion of Competency Versus the Desirability of Expertise: Seeking a Common Standard for Support Professions in Sport

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Abstract

In this paper we examine and challenge the competency-based models which currently dominate accreditation and development systems in sport support disciplines, largely the sciences and coaching. Through consideration of exemplar shortcomings, the limitations of competency-based systems are presented as failing to cater for the complexity of decision making and the need for proactive experimentation essential to effective practice. To provide a better fit with the challenges of the various disciplines in their work with performers, an alternative approach is presented which focuses on the promotion, evaluation and elaboration of expertise. Such an approach resonates with important characteristics of professions, whilst also providing for the essential ‘shades of grey’ inherent in work with human participants. Key differences between the approaches are considered through exemplars of evaluation processes. The expertise-focused method, although inherently more complex, is seen as offering a less ambiguous and more positive route, both through more accurate representation of essential professional competence and through facilitation of future growth in proficiency and evolution of expertise in practice. Examples from the literature are also presented, offering further support for the practicalities of this approach.

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