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Professors Beckwith and Brickett: from the “Aq” to the Olympics

Day, Dave (2008) Professors Beckwith and Brickett: from the “Aq” to the Olympics. [Conference or Workshop Item] (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Bourdieu regarded biographies as illusions, arguing that the straightforward, one- dimensional life story could not exist and that lived lives are chaos. For C. Wright Mills, however, observers need to fully understand how biographies intersect with social structures. The changing nature of the sporting context in the late nineteenth century was reflected in the significantly different lives experienced by swimming professors Frederick Beckwith and Walter Brickett, whose careers overlapped, spatially and temporally. The creation of the Amateur Swimming Association, in 1886, forced many professional swimmers from the Beckwith era to predicate their aquatic entertainments at places such as the Westminster Aquarium, the “Aq”, and by the time Brickett began coaching, a generation later than Beckwith, swimming was an amateur controlled activity. The social networks that Walter established with leading amateurs, especially through involvement with the life saving association, allowed him to remain an independent professional but one acceptable enough to be appointed as trainer to the 1908 and 1912 Olympic teams. Both men achieved a measure of recognition, although the considerable variation in their coaching biographies, despite their temporal proximity, is lasting testimony to the power of sporting bodies to structurally determine the nature of the coaching context.

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