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Soldiers, Animals and Machines: A Foucauldian Analysis of the Making of the Contemporary Endurance Running Body Open Access


Other title
Sports coach education
Endurance running
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Mills, Joseph P.
Supervisor and department
Denison, Jim (Physical Education and Recreation)
Markula, Pirkko (Physical Education and Recreation)
Strean, Billy (Physical Education and Recreation, seconded to Faculty of Extension)
Examining committee member and department
Foster, William (Business)
Pringle, Richard (Education), University of Auckland, NZ
Physical Education and Recreation

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
There can be little doubt that contemporary sport exists in a culture dominated by the circulation of rational and scientifically based knowledges (Andrews, 2008). It is not surprising, therefore, that to be considered effective, endurance running coaches are expected to design scientifically informed training plans intended to control an ever-increasing number of variables (Denison, 2010). However as Seidman (1994) argued, any practice that has a fixed meaning, such as how endurance running coaches currently understand how to design their athletes’ training plans, needs to be understood more as an act of power than an acknowledgement of the truth. Precisely how power works to produce endurance running coaches’ understanding of how to design and implement their training plans has yet to be examined by coaching scholars. As one perspective on power, Michel Foucault (1972, 1978, 1995) illustrated how knowledge and practice interacted with power to shape individuals’ understanding of their everyday experiences. Through Foucault’s theoretical framework, it was my intention to study endurance running coaches’ knowledge and understanding of planning in order to examine the effectiveness of their practices. To conduct my study, I purposively selected 15 endurance coaches from the United States and the United Kingdom. All of my participants were male and had coached numerous international athletes as well as made significant contributions to endurance running coach education. To collect my empirical material, I completed a semi-structured interview with each participant followed by a single observation of each participant administering a workout. To remain true to my Foucauldian sensibility and to analyze the inherent complexities surrounding my participants’ understanding of planning, I also conducted a follow-up interview with each coach. My findings revealed that the participants’ understanding of how to design their training plans was based on a very narrow understanding of the body. More specifically, the participants employed a number of disciplinary techniques to systematically monitor and control their athletes’ development. Further, through my Foucauldian lens I was able to articulate how the workings of power made it difficult for my participants to recognize many of the inherent limitations underpinning their planning practices. I concluded my analysis by illustrating some of the effects that endurance running coaches’ restricted understanding of knowledge and practice can have on their effectiveness.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Denison, J., Mills, J.P. & Jones, L. (2013). Effective coaching as a modernist formation: A Foucauldian critique. Routledge Handbook of Sports Coaching. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.Mills, J.P. & Denison, J. (2014). Coach Foucault: Problematizing endurance running coaches’ practices. Sports Coaching Review.Mills, J.P. & Denison, J. (2014). Analysing discourse and practice in coaching research. Handbook of Coaching Research. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

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