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Bricoleurs Extraordinaire: Sports Coaches in Inter War Britain

Day, DJ (2017) Bricoleurs Extraordinaire: Sports Coaches in Inter War Britain. In: Context, contingency and culture: The sports coach as 'bricoleur', CRiC 4th International Coaching Conference, 05 September 2017 - 06 September 2017, Cardiff School of Sport, Cardiff Metropolitan University. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

In Inter War Britain, individuals exploited their athletic skills by pursuing professional careers, or adopting amateur roles, as instructors, trainers and coaches, invariably drawing from, and elaborating on, existing practices. The coach was the master of a body of specialist craft knowledge, the tacit nature of which was transmitted through ‘stealing with the eyes’ as the apprentice watched the master in action (Gamble, 2001). Professional coaches saw themselves as practical men whose experiential knowledge concerning diet, physiological and psychological preparation, stimulants, massaging, medical treatments, talent identification, and so on provided critical components in their coaching ‘toolbox’ (Nelson, 1924, 25-26). Craft knowledge was never static. Coaching expertise is a fluid, cyclical process with practitioners continuously redeveloping their competencies (Turner, Nelson and Potrac, 2012, 323), and part of traditional craft expertise was the ability to react positively to shifting circumstances. Coaches were constantly stimulated to experiment by competitors, commercialisation, and emerging technologies (Clegg, 1977, 244), and they exemplified the notion of the ‘Bricoleur’ in constantly trialling emerging knowledge, intuitively accepting or rejecting appropriate material. This paper explores the ways in which practitioners developed their coaching ‘toolbox’ in Inter War Britain by drawing on examples from newspaper reports, personal and public archives, and instructional texts (eg. Tilden, 1920; Gent, 1922; Nelson, 1924; Mussabini, 1926; Lowe and Porritt, 1929; Abrahams and Abrahams, 1936). The author highlights the range of knowledge that coaches had at their command, well before the emergence of sports science and coaching certification programmes, and questions assumptions that coaches can no longer rely solely on ‘learning the trade’ through experience (Evans and Light, 2007). As Winchester et al. (2013) have emphasised, knowledge, skills, attitudes, and insights are developed from daily experiences in sport, work and at home, as well as through exposure to the coaching environment, and contemporary coaches still employ a largely implicit form of knowledge, closely connected to past experiences, which shares similarities with Inter War craft knowledge (Smith and Cushion, 2006, 363; Jones, Armour and Potrac, 2003), while identifying experimentation and experience as key reference points (Irwin, Hanton and Kerwin, 2004, 436, 439; Potrac, Jones and Cushion, 2007).

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