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Uneasy bedfellows: amateurism and coaching traditions in twentieth century british sport

Carpenter, Tegan Laura (2012) Uneasy bedfellows: amateurism and coaching traditions in twentieth century british sport. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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Amateurism acted as the guiding principle for the many sporting clubs and governing bodies that were created and developed by the late Victorian middle-classes. While some forms of coaching and training were tolerated, many organisations, such as the Amateur Rowing Association, expressed a preference for amateur honorary coaches rather than professionals. Through the use of archival material, oral history interviews, and ongoing case studies in athletics and swimming, this thesis traces the trajectory of the less than harmonious relationship between amateurism and professional coaching in Britain throughout the twentieth century. In the pre and interwar period, a number of proposals for coaching schemes emerged, especially after poor Olympic performances, but continuing resistance within the amateur establishment meant that these initiatives were uncoordinated and experienced short life-spans. Even in the post-war period, characterised by an increasing number of centralised coaching schemes and the appointment of national coaches, amateur officials sought to maintain strict control over their appointments. A reluctance to accept advice from professional coaches, coupled with a struggling economy and a government determined to remain distant from sport, contributed to a further decline in international sporting performance. British athletes had long proved unable to compete with the Americans and the emergence of another sporting superpower at the 1952 Olympics, the Soviet Union, finally prompted a number of responses, including the 1960 Wolfenden Report. The government subsequently took a more active role in sport, resulting in an inevitable shift towards greater specialisation as centralised funding became inextricably linked with targets and results. Although this encouraged a more widespread utilisation of professional coaches and improved the integration of sports science, the ethos of amateurism proved farreaching, even at elite levels. The evidence suggests that, while it is no longer considered a guiding principle, its legacy continues to impact on the working lives of many British coaches.

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