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The transatlantic trainer: Manchester’s James Robinson and the American coaching system

Oldfield, SJ (2016) The transatlantic trainer: Manchester’s James Robinson and the American coaching system. In: C3S, AFRAPS, UPFRSport de Besancon, Universite de Bourgogne/Franche-Comte International Seminar, 28 April 2016, Besancon, France. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Coaching and training practices during the nineteenth century were a feature of many professional sports, relying heavily on the influence of ex-professional athlete-cum-trainers to devise successful programmes and regimes to aid competition, with their methods being shared amongst their communities of practice. Within athletics, or more notably its professional predecessor, pedestrianism, the role of the trainer was highly regarded and Britain became a hub for professional competitions. However, by the 1860s, the sport was in decline and the emerging amateur athletic organisations marginalised practices and individuals associated with pedestrianism, discrediting the previously valued skills of the trainer from their club constitutions. Owing to the perceived transferrable nature of athletic training, some professionals obtained employment in working-class activities, such as soccer, whilst others migrated to foreign climes where coaching was viewed more pragmatically. Many made the transatlantic journey to American where private organisations, athletic clubs and college teams secured the services of successful British trainers who subsequently became responsible for the conditioning and wellbeing of a diverse range of athletic performers. This paper presents the biography of one of these individuals, James Robinson, who successfully made the transition from British pedestrianism to the American college system, providing insight into the changing nature of transatlantic coaching attitudes during the long Victorian period.

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