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‘Magical and fanciful theories’: sports psychologists and craft coaches

Day, Dave (2012) ‘Magical and fanciful theories’: sports psychologists and craft coaches. Sports Coaching Review, 1 (1). pp. 52-66. ISSN 2164-0637

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Abstract

Victorian and Edwardian coaches and athletes often referred to their training regimes as ‘scientific.’ However, the impact of experimental science on coaching programmes was minimal, and coaching was considered an art as much as a science. Coaching operated as a trade or a craft with the typical coach relying on traditional practices, experience, intuition, and the ability to innovate. In particular, experiential learning taught these craft coaches much about psychological issues. During the early twentieth century, however, American academics began to explore sport as a site for psychological experimentation. Many psychologists promoted their work strenuously, and by 1921 had created a professional organization, professional journals, research laboratories and university courses. Stimulated by work in Eastern Europe, sport psychology gradually became a disciplinary subculture and similar structural controls were established to enable sports psychologists to become the gatekeepers of their specialist and increasingly esoteric knowledge. This paper utilizes a historical approach to explore, firstly, what coaches traditionally learnt about psychological issues. It then briefly considers both the process by which sports psychology was institutionalizsed, and how this professionalization of sports psychology led inexorably to the exclusion of craft coaches from the knowledge transfer process.

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