Negotiation and capital: athletes' use of power in an elite men's rowing program

LAURA PURDY, Robyn L Jones, Tania Cassidy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this paper is to examine how power is given, acquired and used by athletes in the elite sporting context. It focuses on a top-level athlete’s reactions to the behaviors of his coaches and how such actions contribute to the creation of a coaching climate, which both influences and ‘houses’ coaching. The paper centers on Sean (a pseudonym), a top-level rower and his preparation for crew selection to the upcoming international regatta season. Specifically, it illustrates Sean’s interaction with those responsible for a national rowing program following his decision not to participate in an aspect of that program. Sean’s story, from both his own and the perspectives of his coaches, is presented using a variation of realist tales which draw upon excerpts from fieldnotes and interview transcripts. Bourdieu’s notion of capital is primarily utilized to analyze the data. Findings demonstrate how the various aspects of capital are defined, used and negotiated by social actors within the context of elite sport. The significance of the work lies in generating a greater understanding of power dynamics within the coaching context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-338
JournalSport, Education and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2009


  • Social power
  • Coaching
  • Rowing


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