Surveillance and conformity in competitive youth swimming

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    Underpinned by a Foucauldian analysis of sporting practices, this paper identifies the disciplinary mechanism of surveillance at work in competitive youth swimming. It highlights the ways in which swimmers and their coaches are subject to and apply this mechanism to produce embodied conformity to normative behaviour and obedient, docile bodies. The data were drawn from a wider ethnographic study of 17 competitive squads and 13 coaches at three competitive swimming clubs in England. Data from participant observations of squad training sessions and semi-structured interviews with swimming coaches indicate that the pressure of being under constant surveillance leads athletes to submit to intensive training protocols and coaches to perform according to norms dictated by discourses of child safety. For athletes, submitting to these normalised training protocols increases risk of short and long-term injury and psychological harm. Meanwhile, working in a climate where discourses of child safety position every act of child�adult touch as suspicious leaves coaches feeling resentful, angry and constrained and denies them and their swimmers one of the most fulfilling, rewarding relationships available: that between a coach and an athlete.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)19-37
    JournalSport, Education and Society
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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