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Sports Culture and Communication Research Collective

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Introducing the Sports Culture and Communication Research Groupblurb photo

What difficulties do players and coaches experience when communicating in a professional sports team? How do leaders talk or need to talk? How can coaches and captains have tough conversations but maintain strong professional interpersonal relationships? Does everyone need to talk, or are silent members of the team okay? What role does communication play in the development of team culture? And, do multicultural teams experience particular communication issues? These are some of the questions members of the Sports Culture and Communication Research Collective explore.

We take language use as our data and use it to generate insights that help to better understand the issues high performance athletes, coaches and managers have with communication. Our reserach contributes to theory about effective professional communication and building supportive team cultures, but is also used by professional athletes, coaches, managers and high performance sports programmes to help improve awareness and skills in these important areas. If you have any questions about the group or the research we do, please contact Dr Kieran File at: k dot file at warwick dot ac dot uk.

Current Project: Research and impact partnership with Boxing England

Our current project is conducted in partnership with Boxing England and we explore how boxing coaches communicate in the one-minute between-round interactions during a fight.

Research strand: Communication Under Pressure
Case study: Boxing England
Communication encounter studied: The one-minute conversations coaches and fighters have between rounds.

Research outcomes: A profile of how time pressure constrains coaches and boxers in their one-minute, between round conversations and how they use language to manage these constraints.

Impact activities for Boxing England: 

  • one-day workshop and knowledge exchange with boxing coaches under the auspices of Boxing England
  • a booklet summarising the findings of the practitioners

Recent and upcoming events and meetings

One-day workshop for UK Coaching

The members of SCCRC hosted, organised and delivered a one-day workshop for UK's top coach developers aimed at exploring language use in high-performing sports coaching and discussing ways to apply the latest research to real-life coaching situations. The linguistics experts shared some of their latest research insights into language use issues and dynamics in elite sports and heard from coach developers from UK Coaching (the national body working to develop the quality of coaching across the UK) about communication issues they encounter in their disciplines. The PowerPoints of the workshop are available below in the Resources section below.

For more details about the event see:

SIETAR Panel and Talk


Daniel Clayton and Sol Wolfers will be giving a talk titled Banter, Racism & Acculturation: Intercultural dynamics in team sports for SIETAR UK. They will form a panel with Elizabeth Ryan (an NLP practitioner and coach at Ice Cool Confidence) and Roisin Wood (CEO of Kick It Out) to discuss issues of racism in football.

Date & Time: Thursday 16th November 2017 18:30 – 21:00 GMT
Location: AL Chelsea College of Arts, 16 John Islip Street, London, SW1P 4JU

For more details about the event see:


TLang keynote address


Kieran File will be presenting a keynote lecture at the next Network Assembly of the Translation and Translanguaging Group (TLang) to be held in Cardiff. The title of the talk is Constructing inclusive team cultures in professional sports teams: the issue of a coach’s power.

Event: Action in the Superdiverse City: A Network Assembly

Date & time: Thursday 7th December 2017 9:30 – 16:00 GMT
Location: Pierhead Building, Cardiff

For more details about this event see:


Guest lecture


Kieran File will be delivering a guest lecture for Masters students in the Department of English and American Studies at Klagenfurt University in Austria. This lecture will explore some of the findings from Kieran's recent research into coach-player communication.


Collective members

kieranDr Kieran File is an Assistant Professor in the Centre for Applied Linguistics at The University of Warwick and chair of the Sports Communication and Culture Research Collective. His research explores issues related to language use in professional and competitive sporting contexts. Kieran’s current research interests are in the areas of team communication in professional sporting contexts and the issues professional sports managers and coaches have when speaking to the media. Kieran also applies his research to help sports teams, coaches and other professional sporting stakeholders consider how they can use language in the media to manage their impressions or how they can use language as a high performance tool in their sporting context. He has worked with a number of professional clubs and national sports teams and athletes.


steph 2Dr Stephanie Schnurr is an Associate Professor in the Centre for Applied Linguistics at The University of Warwick. She has a keen interest in sports culture and communication with a particular focus on different forms and aspects of leadership and teamwork, and the multiple functions of humour. Together with her colleagues in the group she has researched how racial humour in a football team may contribute to team cohesion as well as fragmentation, and how easily humour can fail and what negative consequences this may have for athletes when this happens during media interviews. She is currently exploring the effects of different leadership constellations in a netball team, and how leadership becomes a collective activity when the coach is not present.


Ema UshiodaDr Ema Ushioda is an Associate Professor in the Centre for Applied Linguistics at The University of Warwick. She is interested in the psychology of human motivation. While her core interests concern motivation in relation to language learning and intercultural engagement, current work in this field points to the importance of considering people’s motivational systems holistically, in relation to the multiple parallel goals and competing pathways they are pursuing. For people who engage in performance sport and are also pursuing busy personal, social or professional lives, how they regulate these competing motivations is an interesting question. In addition, She is interested in how motivation is shaped and managed by significant others (e.g., managers, trainers, peers, teachers), and in the discourse of motivational feedback and pep talks.


solvejgwolfers.jpgSol Wolfers is a PhD Candidate at the University of Warwick researching sports discourse, identity construction and the multiple uses and functions of humour. She is currently working on a research project supervised by Dr Kieran File and Dr Stephanie Schnurr. Her research focuses on how professional football players from Germany communicate with each other and how their team talk influences the team and player's identities. She aims to gain a better understanding of how their discursive interactions influence team cohesion.


DanDaniel Clayton is a PhD Candidate at the University of Warwick. His research investigates the challenges and general experiences of migrating players who have moved to British clubs in a variety of team sports. The primary goal of the research is to better understand how transnational adjustment can impact on athletic performance and team cohesion, and to develop strategies that can facilitate a player's transition. He seeks to understand adjustment from a narrative perspective by focusing on the stories migrant athletes tell when relating their experiences.


ASAnastasia Stavridou is a PhD Candidate at the University of Warwick. Her research focuses on leadership, teamwork and communication in sports teams with a particular interest in cases where leadership emerges. She aims to investigate the concept of emergent leadership, to explore the discourse of sports when leadership practices occur, and to contribute to the largely under-researched context of a “leaderless” basketball team. Her research project is supervised by Dr Stephanie Schnurr and Dr Daniel Dauber.



BA students research in sports communication

baraBara Litvanova's dissertation looked at the way leading woman tennis players constructed their identities in media interviews. She found that the way female tennis plays constructed their identities was not always compliant with the stereotypical ways society traditionally views femininity.


Joe FJoe Furber's research explored the media circus surrounding modern professional football and in particular the media performances of football managers. His thesis looked at how football managers used evasive tactics when answering probing post-match interview questions, specifically during periods of intense media scrutiny.


Case study: a current project in focus

Exploring the language of coaching: understanding language use issues facing coaches in age-group football.

Principal Investigator: Dr Kieran File

So many of the tools in a coach’s toolkit are linguistic. For example, without language it would be harder for coaches to motivate players, impart advice, organise teams into training drills, outline team and player strategy, set boundaries and expectations, praise and reprimand players, and manage relationships, all of which are crucial to the success of a coach.

football coach

Yet, despite the obvious importance, little research has focused on how coaches actually use language when coaching. For that reason, many questions about best practice when using this important tool remain unaddressed, and, as a result, an area of development for coaches is not being taken advantage of.

In this project, we aim to address this gap in the research by analysing the way coaches in an English Championship football academy use language when conducting their coaching role. From this analysis, we aim to draw insights of value to coaches to help inform professional development in this important skill area.


Resources for teams and sporting bodies


Resources for academics studying sports culture and communication

Coming soon...



Our research interests include:

  • How can coaches and players communicate effectively with each other?
  • How do communication choices help and/or hinder team work and team cohesion?
  • How does humour and banter function in professional sports teams?
  • How do leaders in professional sports teams use language?
  • How can we help foreign players adjust to life in British sports clubs?
  • How can managers, coaches and players use language in the media to manage their impressions?

Recent public engagement by members of the Sports Culture and Communication Research Collective

Kieran gave an invited talk/webinar for British Rowing on The language of coaching: holding players accountable. The webinar explored how language choices by coaches can shape accountability talks in different ways that signal different implications for the players on the receiving end of an accountability talk.

For the German speakers out there, check out SCCRC member Sol Wolfer's mention on the Deutschland Football Association's (DFB) wesbite after a recent presentation she gave at a conference titled The Beautiful Game? Identity, Resentment, and Discrimination in Football and Fan Cultures. Read more:


Using language to manage your impression when apologising: an analysis of the recent apologies issued by members of the Australian cricket team after the ball tampering scandal. Read more at:

Check out a blog post by Daniel Clayton and Sol Wolfers on Banter, Racism & Acculturation: Intercultural dynamics in team sports. This post summarises a talk they gave to SIETAR UK. Available at:

Is derogatory language use ever an appropriate sports coaching tool? Read Kieran File's take on this issue that sporting bodies around the world are currently grappling with.

Interested in how sports managers negotiate losing in press conferences? Read Kieran File's recent case study analysis of the strategies used by Steve Hansen (the All Blacks manager) in a post titled Managing a loss in the media: Steve Hansen and the All Blacks.

Recent publications by members of the Sports Culture and Communication Research Collective


  • Schnurr, Stephanie, File, Kieran A., Clayton, Dan, Stavridou, Anastasia, & Wolfers, Sol (In Press). Exploring the processes of emergent leadership in a netball team. Providing empirical evidence through discourse analysis. Discourse and Communication, 15(1). 


  • File, Kieran A., & Schnurr, Stephanie (2020). Towards an understanding of linguistic consultancy: How do linguists approach the task of evaluating sociolinguistic practice in consultancy sessions?. In Mullany, Luise (ed.), Professional Communication: Consultancy, Advocacy, Activism (pp. 291-310). Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Wolfers, Sol (2020). Being a female researcher in a male world. Critical reflections on the role of gender and sexual identity when collecting qualitative data. Manuscript submitted for publication.
  • Wolfers, Sol (In Press). “Dude, just draw the racist card!” Self-directed racialized humor as in-group marker among migrant players in a professional football team. Discrimination in Football: Antisemitism and Beyond.


  • File, Kieran A., & Schnurr, Stephanie (2018). That match was "a bit like losing your virginity". Failed humour, face and identity construction in TV interviews with professional athletes and coaches. Journal of Pragmatics, 152, 132-144.
  • File, Kieran A. (2018). “You’re Manchester United manager, you can’t say things like that”: Impression management and identity performance by professional football managers in the media. Journal of Pragmatics, 127, 56–70.


  • File, Kieran A. (2017). ‘I didn't know you were allowed two goalkeepers’ : how football managers negotiate invitations to criticise referees in the media. In Caldwel, David and Walsh, John and Vine, Elaine and Jureidini , Jon, (eds.), The Discourse of Sport : Analyses from Social Linguistics. Routledge studies in sociolinguistics (12). New York, NY : Routledge, pp. 71-91. ISBN 9781138184688
  • File, Kieran A. (2017). “That was a bit daft though, wasn”t it?’ Strategic use of impoliteness in a post-match interview. In A. Bczkowska (Ed.), Impoliteness in media discourse (pp. 107–125). Frankfurt am Main: New York, NY : Peter Lang Edition.
  • File, Kieran A. and Wilson, Nick (2017) Adapting self for private and public audiences: the enactment of leadership identity by New Zealand rugby coaches in huddles and interviews. In: van de Mieroop, Dorien and Schnurr, Stephanie, (eds.) Identity Struggles. Evidence from Workplaces around the World. Discourse Approaches to Politics, Society and Culture (69). Amsterdam ; Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 321-337. ISBN 9789027206602 (In Press)
  • Wolfers, Solvejg, File, Kieran A. and Schnurr, Stephanie. (2017) Just because he’s black’. Identity construction and racial humour in a German U-19 football team. Journal of Pragmatics, 112, pp 83-96. ISSN 0378-2166.


  • File, Kieran A. (2015) The strategic enactment of a media identity by professional team sports players. Discourse & Communication, 9 (4). pp. 441-464. ISSN 1750-4813


  • File, Kieran A.. (2012) Post-match interviews in New Zealand rugby : a conciliatory media interview genre. New Zealand English Journal, 26 (1). pp. 1-22. ISSN 1173-9886

Recent presentations by members of the Sports Culture and Communication Research Collective


  • Stavridou, Anastasia (2019, December). Exploring the collaborative construction of emergent leadership: a case study of a basketball team. 7th New Zealand Discourse Conference, Wellington, New Zealand.
  • Wolfers, Solvejg (2019, October). Learning the limits of appropriateness: Failed humour among members of a professional football team and its impact on group membership. International Conference on Verbal Humour (CIHV2019), Alicante, Spain.


  • Wolfers, Solvejg (2018, November). Challenging the status quo – the positioning of female researchers in the footballing world (Opening Keynote). 3rd Annual Conference of The Football Collective, Glasgow, Scotland.
  • Wolfers, Solvejg (2018, September). "Are you the Black who can't dance?" – Identity construction and racial humour in German professional and elite football. British Sociological Association Sport Study Group Postgraduate Forum: Sporting Identities, Careers and Opportunities, Durham University, Durham, England.
  • Wolfers, Solvejg (2018, June). "At last - something pleasing to the eye!" - Experiences of a female researcher looking into male professional and elite football. 10th International Gender and Language Association Conference (IGALA 10), Gaborone, Botswana.
  • Wolfers, Solvejg (2018, April). "Did You Have Yummy Cats for Breakfast?" – Racial humour in German Professional and elite football. ZfA International Conference, Berlin, Germany.


  • Clayton, Daniel (2017). Narratives of Sports Migration: Acculturation through the Eyes of Migrant Athletes, their Teammates, and Coaches. 8th Sport and Society Conference, Imperial College, London.
  • Clayton, Daniel (2017). Narratives of Sports Migration. 5th i-Mean Conference, University of the West of England, Bristol.
  • Clayton, Daniel (2017, June). "It's not the home grown players and the others, it's everyone": Acculturation and Identity in Elite Sports Teams. 20th Warwick International Conference in Applied Linguistics, Coventry.
  • File, Kieran A. (2017, April). You’re Manchester United Manager, you can’t say things like that’: Exploring the influence of club culture on the discursive construction of self by football managers. Conference presentation presented at the iMean, Bristol; United Kingdom.
  • File, Kieran A. (2017, June). Interviewer alignment strategies by German and English post-match media interviewers: A contrastive analysis. Invited talk presented at the International Workshop: Linguistic Perspectives on the Mediatisation of Sport., Siegen; Germany.
  • Wolfers, Sol (2017, June). Racial Humour and Identity Construction in a German U-19 football team. 20th Warwick International Conference in Applied Linguistics, Coventry.
  • Wolfers, Sol (2017). Dealing with racial stereotypes in German professional and elite football. What discourse analysis can contribute? 2nd Annual Conference of The Football Collective, Limerick.
  • Wolfers, Sol; File, Kieran A. and Schnurr, Stephanie (2017). "Just because he's black". Racial Humour and Identity Construction in a German U-19 football team. 15th International Pragmatics Conference (IPrA2017), Belfast.