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Coaching as craft: a forgotten legacy

Day, Dave (2010) Coaching as craft: a forgotten legacy. [Conference or Workshop Item] (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Late eighteenth century boxing manuals argued that the appropriate methods of training ‘wind’, ‘bottom’, and ‘science’, were at last fully understood, and it was this body of experiential knowledge which informed early nineteenth century coaching. As in other specialised crafts, expert coaches relied on personal experience, oral traditions, often situated within close-knit communities, and their skills as innovators and entrepreneurs. Although this craft approach could lead to traditionalism it also enabled coaches to impose their own ideas in training regimes, to experiment, using trial and error, and to use intuition in the implementation and evaluation of training. This paper argues that many of these valuable practices have gradually disappeared as a result of external pressures. In the late nineteenth century, coaching communities came under threat, especially from the medical establishment, as their traditional skills and knowledge were publicly attacked by men who preferred a more positivistic approach to training. Craft coaches were further marginalised when academics established themselves as gatekeepers of their specialist knowledge and created structural boundaries around sport science. More recently, initiatives to professionalise coaching leave little scope for a craft interpretation of coaching by awarding credibility only to those who progress through science orientated coach education programmes.

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