The Role of Cognitive Dissonance in Coaching: A Study Analysis

cognitive dissonance in a study session.

Last week, I delved into the intriguing topic of cognitive dissonance and highlighted its potential as a pitfall for trainers. Recent research by Pablo E. Raya-Castellano and his team further reinforces this notion, especially within a coaching context.

Read more: The Role of Cognitive Dissonance in Coaching: A Study Analysis

Study Details and Methodology:

Analyzing Coaching Sessions: In their comprehensive research, the team meticulously analyzed a total of 22 sessions, spanning 459.18 minutes. The sessions varied in length: the shortest was 8 minutes and 18 seconds, while the longest extended to 33 minutes and 39 seconds. Two of these sessions were discarded due to either not being video-based or not aiming to enhance players’ game knowledge or decision-making abilities.

Coach Behavior Classification: The researchers developed a classification system outlining the different ways coaches communicate with players. This structure was pivotal in understanding the various coaching behaviors and their impact.

Findings and Insights:

Behavioral Time Distribution: A significant portion of the research was dedicated to examining how much time coaches spent on the aforementioned behaviors. This quantification was essential to draw relevant conclusions.

Interview Insights: Based on the data, the researchers also conducted interviews to gather deeper insights. Through the combined analysis of session observations and interviews, a significant finding emerged: among the four coaches studied, most frequently applied focused group feedback. In essence, they pointed out what was working well and areas of potential improvement.

Question-led Coaching: Two coaches, Peter and Kieran, who actively posed targeted questions, observed heightened player engagement. The study advocates that these probing questions can bolster complex reasoning skills, thereby enhancing cognitive activity among players.

Cognitive Dissonance Manifestation: The coaches showcased three distinct forms of cognitive dissonance:

  1. Using terms without providing sufficient explanation.
  2. The ability to present examples but failing to explain their underlying rationale.
  3. Presenting compelling reasons for specific in-game behaviors, yet showing contradictory behaviors during interviews.

Conclusion and Recommendations:

A pivotal recommendation emerging from the study is the value of video recording coaching sessions. Watching oneself can offer critical insights into one’s teaching principles. It begs the questions: Are you more talkative as a coach? Or do you engage players in the dialogue? Ultimately, are you willing to display the same vulnerability and eagerness to learn that you demand from your players?


Groom, R., & Cushion, C. (2005). Using of video based coaching with players: A case study. International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, 5(3), 40–46. 24748668.2005.11868336

Mahdavi, M. (2014, May/June). An overview: Metacognition in education. International Journal of Multi and Disciplinary Research, 2, 529–539. 0363d9d81f74f7fc94e62502a9ca40c61651.pdf

Pablo E. Raya-Castellano , Matthew J. Reeves , Martin Littlewood & Allistair P. McRobert (2020) An exploratory investigation of junior-elite football coaches´’ behaviours during video-based feedback sessions, International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, 20:4, 729-746, DOI: 10.1080/24748668.2020.1782717

Wright, C., Atkins, A., Jones, B., & Todd, J. (2013). The role of performance analysts within the coaching process: Performance analysts survey ‘The role of performance analysts in elite football club settings’. International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, 13(1), 240–261.

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