Manchester Metropolitan University's Research Repository

Patrimonial Dynamics and British Sports Coaching: A Century of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Day, David (2018) Patrimonial Dynamics and British Sports Coaching: A Century of Intangible Cultural Heritage. In: European Committee for Sports History (CESH 2018), 29 October 2018 - 31 October 2018, Bordeaux, France. (In Press)


Download (431kB) | Preview


This paper explores the impact of the ethos of amateurism on the peculiar development of sports coaching in Britain and the legacy left through the application of amateur values by a controlling sports elite that emerged in the late nineteenth century.[1] Confident in their social and political status, this sporting aristocracy subsequently used its power and prestige to marginalize other interested social groups and impose their own hegemonic version of what constituted acceptable and unacceptable sporting behaviour. The result was a long-lasting intangible coaching heritage in which the traditional centrality of the volunteer, rather than the professional, a preference for all-rounders rather than specialists, and a focus on participation rather than on performance, remained the central creed throughout the twentieth century for both individuals and organizations such as National Governing Bodies (NGBs).[2] In all these respects, sports coaching provides a useful exemplar of the processes involved in studying intangible heritages[3] and the role of patrimony in their evolution and consolidation. In discussing these issues the author utilises traditional archives, including newspaper reports, NGB minutes, and commission records, together with oral testimonies from mid-twentieth century professional coaches, most of whom reflect on the struggles they had to contend with the accepted, often unspoken, heritage of British coaching and the patrimonial dynamics of the organizations that employed them.[4] Data from recent Olympic Games performances is then presented to illustrate the changing nature of British fortunes following significant interventions from the government, representing a critical shift in influence from a patrimonial elite to a late-twentieth century bureaucracy, as epitomised by the quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations (quangos) established to distribute funding and resource elite performance.[5] The argument presented from this evidence is that a dominant patrimony within British sport at the end of the nineteenth century, whose vision of sports coaching was informed by their adherence to the amateur ethos, were able to set the agenda for British coaching for over a century and that is was only in the late 1990s, through increased bureaucratic rationalization,[6] that their control of sport weakened and that perspectives on this intangible heritage began to change. The paper also argues that, despite the changes of the last twenty years, driven by a tightly prescribed government agenda emphasizing targets for elite sports and athletes, the legacy of this intangible heritage is so strong that the volunteer remains the preferred coaching model in Britain. Sport is a cultural and political manifestation and both material and intangible sporting heritages, such as the traditional coaching cultures explored here, represent a vital link between the past and the future. The implications of this presentation are that patrimony, heritage and sports coaching are intimately connected and that studies of intangibles such as coaching cultures over time can enrich our understanding of sporting heritage and patrimonial dynamics. Similar studies of sports coaching in nations and continents where different patrimonial forces applied, and thus different coaching heritages were created, would help in understanding further the cultural nature of sports coaching and the social influences that impact on coaching practice. [1] Day, D. (2012). Professionals, Amateurs and Performance: Sports Coaching in England, 1789-1914. Bern: Peter Lang. [2] Day, D. and Carpenter, T. (2016). A History of Sports Coaching in Britain. London: Routledge. [3] UNESCO Convention for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage, 2003; see Kurin, R., 2004. Safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in the 2003 UNESCO Convention: A critical appraisal, Museum International, 56 (1–2), 67. [4] Day and Carpenter, History of Sports Coaching. [5] Sport England is a non-departmental public body whose role is to build the foundations of a community sport system by working with national governing bodies of sport and other funded partners to grow and sustain participation levels; Working alongside the British Olympic Association, UK Sport, established in January 1997 as the UK Sports Council and authorized to distribute lottery funding, is the government’s organization for directing the development of elite-level sport and concentrates on around 30 sports. [6] See Richard Swedberg; Ola Agevall (2005). The Max Weber Dictionary: Key Words and Central Concepts. Stanford University Press, 18–21. Rationalization refers to the replacement of traditions, values, and emotions as motivators for behaviour in society with concepts based on rationality and reason. Weber argued that bureaucracy constitutes the most efficient and rational way to organize human activity and that systematic processes and organized hierarchies are necessary to maintain order, maximize efficiency, and eliminate favouritism. The bureaucratic form is different from its underpinning bureaucratic rationality, the routine acts of semantics, drawing definitional boundaries, rules, procedures, codes, protocols, and writing the world in formalized terms, that enable bureaucratic structures to function and persist even when the organizational form, the bureaucracy, changes.

Impact and Reach


Activity Overview

Additional statistics for this dataset are available via IRStats2.

Actions (login required)

Edit Item Edit Item