Moving forwards with the aim of going backwards fast: high-performance rowing as a learning environment

Rossi, Tony, Rynne, Steven B. and Rabjohns, Martin (2016) Moving forwards with the aim of going backwards fast: high-performance rowing as a learning environment. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 21 1: 55-68. doi:10.1080/17408989.2015.1043254

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Author Rossi, Tony
Rynne, Steven B.
Rabjohns, Martin
Title Moving forwards with the aim of going backwards fast: high-performance rowing as a learning environment
Journal name Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1740-8989
Publication date 2016-01-01
Year available 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1080/17408989.2015.1043254
Open Access Status File (Author Post-print)
Volume 21
Issue 1
Start page 55
End page 68
Total pages 14
Place of publication Abingdon, Oxon, United Kingdom
Publisher Routledge
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Background and purpose: This paper focuses on the learning culture within the high-performance levels of rowing. In doing so, we explore the case of an individual's learning as he moves across athletic, coaching and administrative functions. This exploration draws on a cultural learning framework and complementary theorisings related to reflexivity.

Method: This study makes use of an intellectually, morally and collaboratively challenging approach whereby one member of the research team was also the sole participant of this study. The participant's career as a high-performance athlete, coach and administrator, coupled with his experience in conducting empirical research presented a rare opportunity to engage in collaborative research (involving degrees of insider and outsider status for each of the research team). We acknowledge that others have looked to combine roles of coach/athlete/administrator with that of researcher; however, few (if any) have attempted to combine them all in one project. Moreover, coupled with the approach to reflexivity adopted in this study and the authorship contributions, we consider this scholarly direction uncommon. Data comprised recorded research conversations, a subsequently constructed learning narrative, reflections on the narrative, a stimulated reflective piece from the participant and the final (re)construction of the participant's story. Accordingly, data were integrated through an iterative process of thematic analysis.

Results: The cultural (i.e. the ways things get done) and structural (e.g. the rules and regulations) properties of high-performance rowing were found to shape the opportunities both to be present (e.g. secure a place in the crew) and to learn (e.g. learn the skills required to perform at the Olympic level). However, the individual's personal properties were brought to bear on reshaping the constraints such that many limitations could be overcome. In keeping with the theory of learning cultures, the culture of rowing was found to position individuals (a coxswain in this case) differentially. In a similar manner, a range of structural features were found to be important in shaping the cultural and personal elements in performance contexts. Finally, the cultural and structural elements in rowing appeared to be activated by the participant's personal elements, most notably his orientation towards quality performance.

Conclusion: The participant in this study was found to be driven by the project that he cares about most and at each turn he has bent his understanding of his sport back on itself to see if he can find opportunities to learn and subsequently explore ways to improve performance. The story here emphasises the importance of learner agency, and this is an aspect that has often been missing in recent theorising about learning. In this study, we find an agent using his ‘personal emergent powers’ to activate the resources in the culture and structure of his sport in an attempt to improve performance. We conclude from this account that this particular high-performance rowing culture is one that provided support but nonetheless encouraged those involved, to ‘figure things out’ for themselves – be it as athletes, coaches and/or administrators.
Keyword Elite sport
Learning culture
Olympic rowing
Insider –outsider research
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 3 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 1 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Tue, 15 Dec 2015, 19:55:37 EST by Dr Steven Rynne on behalf of School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences