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The 'mysterious “training tables”': British antipathy to an American coaching tradition

Day, Dave (2013) The 'mysterious “training tables”': British antipathy to an American coaching tradition. [Conference or Workshop Item] (Unpublished)

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Abstract

In 1895, athletes representing London Athletic Club were whitewashed by those of the New York Athletic Club. British reactions focused on the American commitment to coaching and the provision of funds to subsidize athletes, epitomized by the use of the ‘training table’ in clubs and colleges whereby selected men were provided with quality food in separate dining facilities. Later that year, the Amateur Athletic Union resolved that training tables should be abolished, but with little success. Critical comments appeared again in Britain in 1896 which suggested that British administrators insisted upon ‘purity’ while the ‘mysterious “training tables”’ in America enabled athletes to train and live in luxury at a club’s expense. Following the 1900 Amateur Athletic Association Championships one reporter challenged the notion that American victories were due to physical or psychological superiority. They were the result of a scientific system of supervised practice and the institution of the training table, a key factor because it implied the abolition of the British distinction between amateurs and professionals. This paper explores these debates, drawing attention to some of the hypocrisy involved and to the gulf between the rhetoric and the application of amateurism in the field of performance sport.

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