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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Schools, Sports, and Coaching: “Here Are the Keys to the Gym. Make Sure No One Gets Hurt.”

  • Author(s): Hernandez, Fred Ariel
  • Advisor(s): Traweek, Sharon J
  • et al.
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This dissertation concentrates on the pedagogical decisions of sports coaches and the underlying sports science, in order to analyze larger contemporary concerns about youth athlete safety, coach preparation, and competition-participation conflict in youth sports. I address how disability, class, heteronormative gender roles, and race & ethnicity inflect larger debates on education, competition, and safety. I have three main research topics with subparts: 1) what are the underlying assumptions of the regulatory and education systems for youth athletics, coaching, the high-performance sports industry, and the way those states produce athlete vulnerabilities; 2) how do coed and mixed sports operate within sex segregated sporting models dominant in coaching and sports science and what pedagogic strategies can disrupt such models; and 3) in what ways can concentrating on public school extracurricular sports, instead of high-performance setting, and the everyday circulation patterns of students, faculty, and staff within aging public school infrastructure, uncover sports related school spaces disrupting normal administrative control. My dissertation is a multi-sited, multi-method project employing principally ethnographic participant-observation fieldwork, archival research, media analysis, and oral history methods. I have more than eight years of ethnographic fieldwork experience at my two primary field sites and shorter fieldwork stints at three sites in Japan. My analytic approach is an intersectional analysis (attentive to structural inequality) using critical race, queer, and crip studies interpretive strategies (centered on the body and heteronormative gendered expectations).

My findings highlight the informal context of most coach education and the mismatch between coaches and the regulatory environments in which they exist. First, in high-performance sports, I document the Larry Nassar scandal and expand the case to indict win-at-all costs pedagogies as complicit with athlete abuse. Second, increasingly high school coaches are considered “walk-on” non-teacher coaches. The increase in non-certified teacher coaches follows an expansion of required online certificates in basic life-saving skills (CPR, First Aid, Mandated Court Reporter for Child Abuse, and others) but not coaching methods. My research found that standardized online coach education does not address the needs of young women, minority, LGBT, and disabled athletes thus leaving coaches ill-equipped to teach diverse students.

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This item is under embargo until September 23, 2021.