chapter  10
19 Pages

Conflict, Tensions and Complexities: Athletic Training in Australia in the 1950s

We want to pursue the theme of the underlying tensions in Australian society by looking at an area of sport - coaching - that has not been considered by historians, sociologists or those interested in popular

culture. Sport coaching in Australia emerged as modern sports became institutionalized with bureaucracies that administered rules with a fairly extensive degree of codification and standardization. Conditions were provided with sufficient uniformity to meet historically and culturally specific notions of achievement-orientated sporting competition.4 In order to facilitate performance in sports, coaches provided athletes with not only personal direction, motivation and inspiration but with skill acquisition and training methods to help achieve victory and break records. Coaches assumed an important role in achievement-orientated sport. The value of coaching, however, was not appreciated uniformly and the opportunity to coach as well as the availability of coaches varied considerably across the range of sports. In this sense, coaching like sport more generally, was not a unified or a unifying activity and tended at least to reflect, if not to reinforce, divisions in society along lines of sex, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and sporting ideologies.; From the 1850s for almost a century, those athletes who did receive coaching, and the coaches themselves, were usually white, Anglo-Saxon males. Women, indigenous peoples, and those of ethnic origins were very rarely coaches, and athletes of such backgrounds very rarely received coaching. Coaching emerged as a by-product of the rationalization of sport, so it was inextricably linked to tensions within modern society that ultimately translated into contradictions within sport. The ideology of amateurism divided coaching further. The expertise offered by professional coaches in Australia by the 1950s was accepted in amateur sports like athletics and swimming, but these coaches were shunned by amateur officialdom, particularly at Olympic and Commonwealth Games. 6 Professional coaches attended many international competitions but were not part of the official Olympic teams until 1968, having to meet their own travel and accommodation expenses and gaining admittance to events by stealth rather than right. 7

The amateur/professional dichotomy and the contradiction surrounding this ideological divide certainly exposes some of the tensions in sport during the 1950s, but this essay will take another tangent. We examine the different training regimes in coaching because they expose two opposing views of the athletic body, of science in coaching and ultimately the debates about coaching in this period helped to shape many of the features of contemporary sport including the rise of sport science in elite performance, in coach education and in academic institutions.8 We will detail the views of two of Australia's leading

professional athletics coaches in the 1950s: Percy Cerutty and Franz Stampfl. Other prominent coaches like Forbes Carlile, Harry Gallagher, Frank Guthrie and Sam Herford could have been utilized but Cerutty and Stampfl provide a lively case-study because they were contemporaries in the same sport, they devised competing training regimes and they were public adversaries at practical and ideological levels. Cerutty published seven books in Australia and Britain9 while Stampfl published Franz StamPfl on Running lO that was translated into several languages and sold 600,000 copies in the Soviet Union and Europe.ll By examining the coaches' publications and their athletes' recollections we interpret their coaching against the backdrop of Australian sporting culture. In particular, we speculate about what framed their approaches to coaching, we link their coaching styles with broader social and cultural issues and we briefly summarize their contributions to contemporary sport.