The purpose of this study was to analyze the practical knowledge of expert sailing coaches of the French team preparing for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Coaching knowledge was studied from a cognitive ergonomics perspective based on the task activity model. According to this model, a task is a set of constraints facing individuals. To meet the demands imposed by these constraints, an individual engages in an adaptative activity which can be studied from the point of view of his or her knowledge and cognitive operating modes. In-depth interviews were conducted after observation of five training sessions, and the verbal protocols obtained were coded inductively. The results showed that coaching tasks were considered by coaches as a set of interacting constraints which generate complex, contradictory, and ill defined problems. Coaches' operating modes appeared to be based on organization routines, cognitive anticipation on flexible plans, flexible on-site adaptation, joint control of training with athletes, and involvement in the training situation based on past experiences.
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