Soldiers, Animals and Machines: A Foucauldian Analysis of the Making of the Contemporary Endurance Running Body

  • Author / Creator
    Mills, Joseph P.
  • There can be little doubt that contemporary sport exists in a culture dominated by the circulation of rational and scientifically based knowledges (Andrews, 2008). It is not surprising, therefore, that to be considered effective, endurance running coaches are expected to design scientifically informed training plans intended to control an ever-increasing number of variables (Denison, 2010). However as Seidman (1994) argued, any practice that has a fixed meaning, such as how endurance running coaches currently understand how to design their athletes’ training plans, needs to be understood more as an act of power than an acknowledgement of the truth. Precisely how power works to produce endurance running coaches’ understanding of how to design and implement their training plans has yet to be examined by coaching scholars. As one perspective on power, Michel Foucault (1972, 1978, 1995) illustrated how knowledge and practice interacted with power to shape individuals’ understanding of their everyday experiences. Through Foucault’s theoretical framework, it was my intention to study endurance running coaches’ knowledge and understanding of planning in order to examine the effectiveness of their practices. To conduct my study, I purposively selected 15 endurance coaches from the United States and the United Kingdom. All of my participants were male and had coached numerous international athletes as well as made significant contributions to endurance running coach education. To collect my empirical material, I completed a semi-structured interview with each participant followed by a single observation of each participant administering a workout. To remain true to my Foucauldian sensibility and to analyze the inherent complexities surrounding my participants’ understanding of planning, I also conducted a follow-up interview with each coach. My findings revealed that the participants’ understanding of how to design their training plans was based on a very narrow understanding of the body. More specifically, the participants employed a number of disciplinary techniques to systematically monitor and control their athletes’ development. Further, through my Foucauldian lens I was able to articulate how the workings of power made it difficult for my participants to recognize many of the inherent limitations underpinning their planning practices. I concluded my analysis by illustrating some of the effects that endurance running coaches’ restricted understanding of knowledge and practice can have on their effectiveness.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2014
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.