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    'Exercise for the multitude, rather than competition for the specialist': British Sports Coaching Initiatives (1937-1947)

    Day, DJ (2018) 'Exercise for the multitude, rather than competition for the specialist': British Sports Coaching Initiatives (1937-1947). In: Recording Leisure Lives Conference 2018: Cultures, Communities and Class in Leisure in 20th Century Britain, 27 March 2018, University of Bolton. (Unpublished)


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    The pervasive influence of the amateur ethos, with its emphasis on volunteerism, permeated all aspects of British sport in the mid-twentieth century, including attitudes towards professional coaches and specialized training. While British international sporting performances continued to decline, for many middle-class sports administrators, who consistently focused on encouraging participation, other issues were more important, especially the poor fitness levels witnessed among the general population. The 1937 Physical Training and Recreation Act, introduced to improve the physical state of the nation, resulted in the establishment of a National Fitness Council (NFC) to provide financial assistance for sporting organizations to educate their teachers. Paradoxically, this inadvertently stimulated employment prospects for professional coaches, although the NFC declared from the start that it was not interested in supporting the training of Olympic prospects. This paper explores how British administrators in athletics and swimming responded to the opportunities afforded them by the creation of the NFC and, in the post-War period, by the Ministry of Education, which assumed control of the pre-war NFC Grants Committee and had a remit to finance national coaching schemes. While both sports developed coaching programmes, these continued to focus on the production of honorary coaches to expand participation. In adhering to their amateur values and traditions, rather than supporting specialized elite training, both associations struggled with the tensions between their philosophical objectives and the pressures of international sport, as reflected in ongoing debates about the values of ‘voluntarism’ as opposed to the benefits of ‘professionalism’. The paper also takes the opportunity to juxtapose the life courses and class attitudes of those who organized and administered British sport with the very different experiences and perspectives of the men and women they employed as coaches.

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