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London swimming professors: Victorian craftsmen and aquatic entrepreneurs

Day, Dave (2010) London swimming professors: Victorian craftsmen and aquatic entrepreneurs. Sport in History, 30 (1). pp. 32-54. ISSN 1746-0271

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Abstract

As sporting opportunities expanded during the eighteenth century, a number of individuals made a living from exploiting their skills, initially as competitors and later as instructors. Subsequent practitioners invariably drew from, and elaborated on, these existing practices, ensuring a degree of consistency both in how such knowledge was transmitted and in how it was subsequently sustained and developed. The key elements of this process were the linking of oral traditions to personal experience, the ongoing existence of a body of craft knowledge operating within communities of practice and an ability to innovate and apply entrepreneurial skills. The sporting context which provided a framework for these practices altered during the nineteenth century, was influenced by an increasing internationalization of sport, technological advances and mounting urbanization and commercialization, all of which enabled sportsmen, and women, to make greater entrepreneurial use of their expertise. However, constraints on traditional practice also emerged through the formation of governing bodies of sport by middle-class amateurs, who espoused views that marginalized coaching and training and subsequently employed regulatory mechanisms to exclude professional coaches. This paper explores coaching continuities and changes through the lives of some London-based professional swimmers of the Victorian and Edwardian periods who made their living as competitors, entertainers, promoters, teachers and coaches.

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