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Voice and vocal health in elite sports coaching: considerations for elite football coaching staff
  1. K Buckley1,
  2. P O'Halloran2,
  3. J Oates2
  1. 1University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia
  2. 2La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia

Abstract

Background While voice is integral to sports coaching, currently there is a dearth of research considering coaches' occupational vocal health.

Objective To investigate football coaches' occupational voice use and vocal health (including the role of voice in coaching and the identification and management of workplace risk factors).

Design A mixed-methodological approach (interviews, a questionnaire and acoustic voice measurement) using descriptive statistics and thematic analyses.

Setting On-site at three Australian Football League clubs and one Australian Super 14's Rugby Union club.

Participants 12 male coaches volunteered to participate. Inclusion criteria required participants to be employed full time as elite level football coaches.

Results Participants perceived their voices as crucial for the frequent verbal communication required while coaching. Acoustic measurements revealed that, across work contexts, participants engaged in heavy vocal loads. Coaches also identified various aspects of their physical and organisational environments that impacted negatively on their voices. These vocal demands appear to be associated with negative health consequences. All participants reported experiencing voice symptoms (such as vocal fatigue and hoarseness) at least some of the time while coaching. Coaches suggested several strategies that reduced these symptoms, but were generally unaware of why these assisted their voices. Furthermore, coaches did not actively contemplate how to address risk factors or promote positive vocal health experiences at work.

Conclusion This study demonstrates the critical reliance coaches have on their voices. It also suggests that the nature of vocal demands and workplace environments may negatively impact on coaches' vocal health. While participants demonstrated some insight into their voice use, this did not necessarily translate to awareness of vocal health or management of risk factors. A greater understanding of risk factors and their management is required to better support the occupational vocal health of coaches.

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