Exploring the effectiveness of a pilot parasport coach mentorship program.
Informal learning involves acquiring knowledge outside of a structured setting in which
learning is self-directed and developed from experience, exposure, and interactions with their
environments (Nelson et al., 2006). Examples of informal coach learning includes experience
as an athlete, coach observation, self-reflection, reading books, exploring the internet, and
learning from experts or mentors in the field (Fairhurst et al., 2017; Taylor et al., 2014).
Mentorship has been considered and utilized as an informal learning opportunity where coaches
seek out more experienced professionals in their field to shadow and learn from (Bloom, 2013;
Kram, 1985; Ragins & Kram, 2007). One of the first studies on coach mentorship in parasport
was conducted by Fairhurst and colleagues (2017) who interviewed six Canadian Paralympic
coaches on their experiences with formal and informal learning opportunities. The results
revealed that four out of six coaches had a mentor, three of which were informal relationships
and one from a formal mentorship program, and all coaches acted as mentors throughout their
careers. Coaches described learning highly-specialized parasport-specific skills from their
mentors, such as information pertaining to the physiology of their athletes’ disability and
developing a parasport training program, and considered this relationship to be their most
significant learning experience.