Jones, R.  (2006)  'Dilemmas, Maintaining  "Face," and Paranoia An Average Coaching Life', in Qualitative Inquiry, 12 (5): 1012 - 1021

[This is a partly autoethnographic piece of work, consisting of a personal story about the dilemmas faced by a coach with dysfluency {stammer?}. The story represents a typical morning as the coach prepares for a game of semi-professional football. This is followed by some theoretical notes relating the story to Goffman. There are no page numbers on this electronic copy.

It is hard to summarise the story, of course, and you are best left to read that for yourself and experience what it is like to be a dysfluent coach. To summarise, the thought of meeting the team and giving them coaching advice obviously causes a lot of tension, and the coaches were worried that the players will discover his this fluency. He describes his feelings as  'mild panic', and, as he finally has to address the team, he feels  'very alone, vulnerable'. He is afraid that the players will find out his secret, and he comes to hate them, and suspect that they are either embarrassed or smirking. He finally copes with the tension by going through some familiar routines to get started -- using  'safe, well-trodden discursive ground. Cliches', and avoiding obvious  'speaking blocks'. After the ordeal, he comforts himself by seeking support from the trainer, and reassuring himself that he can repair any damage. As is common with sports people, all the anxieties disappear as soon as the referee's whistle blows.]

The notes refer to autoethnography and its claims that unexamined issues can be revealed by the technique, in this case the idea of coaching as 'a performance aimed at managing the impressions of others', and relying  'less on the mechanics of how or what to coach and more on who is coaching, their perceptions of how coaches ought to act'. There is a reminder that coaching identities can be particularly relevant to former players, permitting them still to be involved in the absorbing game and providing  'considerable social capital'.

At the same time, the  'hyperexpectant listening audience, not there in daily life, always exaggerated my fears of failure [at fluent speech]'. This particular dilemma reveals a general issue --  'obtaining and maintaining athletes' respect'. All coaches have to conceal weakness and project a particular persona.

An autoethnographic approach permits  'a more meaningful, evocative coaching story. A story more faithful to the every day micro reality of coaching', compared to the more  'sanitized and constrained accounts'. The technique hopes to increase  'empathetic understanding of interaction'. This will only work if readers also interpret it as  'believable, engaging, evocative, authentic, and perhaps most important useful'. [For me, some of these reactions might be incompatible]. Fictional writing like this aims at 'evocation as opposed to  "true"  representation'. The events are recognizable if dramatized. The technique illuminates the coach's side of the interaction with players. [Echoes of the old claim about drama and fiction revealing some 'deeper truth' unobtainabe by mere research. In the British context, this has also always been a claim for privilege by the 'educated' as sopposed to those who are merely 'trained'. It depends on some claim to having some intangible 'sensitivity' to get at the essences through personal introspection, not possessed by the lower orders -- Bourdieu explains it all really well]

There are links with broader cultural concerns, and this leads to Goffman on the motion of stigma and impression management. This provides the ability to generalize from personal experience, and also to link with sociological theory. The story reveals strategies to maintain respect and preserve power, including strategies to cope. Goffman illustrates the need to maintain  'a virtual as opposed to an actual social identity' in interaction, and stresses the need to be accepted as a member of social groups. His work on stigma illustrator range of coping behaviours  [although, curiously, Jones does not seem to have considered using  'disclosure etiquette', to  'come out' to his players as dysfluent but still a normal person -- he is still  'covering', and  'passing', denying and not challenging -- see my notes on Stigma ]. Jones finishes by suggesting, like Goffman, that the interactions of marginals can help illuminate interaction in general and its taken-for-granted features. [Which also depends on some claim about uncovering essences?]

key concepts