Coach Foucault: Problematizing Endurance Running Coaches’ Practices

Review by: William A. Harper
By Joseph P. Mills and Jim Denison

The Big Idea

The Big Idea

While this research topic is specific to endurance running coaches’ practices, these authors believe their findings have implications for all sports.  The more obvious sports would include those with family resemblances to endurance running, such as triathlon, rowing, swimming, cycling, cross-country skiing.  But their findings could easily apply to the wider range of sports where human performance limits are not the primary impact on success.

The topic these authors pursue is the relationship between how conventional endurance running coaches coach and the possibilities for an inverse relationship between such training practices and coaching effectiveness.  But the same question can and should be asked within all coaching venues, and in all sports, whether they depend on peak endurance or not.  For the big idea in this paper is a recognizable tendency for coaches in general to set themselves up as the ultimate “be-all-and-end-all” of their practice planning and training modalities.

We will see that if another perspective is applied for ways to organize our training—let’s say, for starters, that we look over the shoulder of Coach Michel Foucault—we learn how devastating it can be for coaches not to see the potential unintended consequences of misusing their power of social control, where manipulation and coercion unknowingly compromise the courage and heart of our competitive athletes.