Ten years on, thinking about desire paths

This month, I will have been away from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) for a decade.

The years seem to have raced by. My decade anniversary coincides with another AIS re-organisation.

I have tried to stay connected with my colleagues at the AIS but have stopped visiting the Bruce campus. Earlier this year (July), I wrote in response to Wayne Goldsmith’s Facebook post about the AIS.

My decade of absence, Wayne’s first line (“It’s breaking my heart’) and a visit to Sport Ireland for their High Performance Knowledge Exchange Conference have sent me off thinking about the place of the AIS in national and international sport.

There has been a consultation process in 2017 in Australia for a National Sport Plan that will be a long-term strategy for the whole of sport that will have four key pillars: participation, performance, prevention through physical activity, and integrity.

The Intergenerational Review of Australian Sport (2017) proposes a vision with four sub-components, and seven game-changers for the Australian sport community over the next twenty years.

My rewording of the vision uses strike through text:

For Australia to be the most an active sporting nation, known for its celebration of playinclusivity, integrity, thriving sports organisations, continued exceptional international success competitiveness in international competitions sport events, and a world-leading vibrant sports industry. (My emphases)

I am perplexed that we are aspiring to improve “our Summer Olympic performance from 10th in Rio to a top 5 place by 2036”. I had hoped that a visionary document for the 21st century might have gone beyond the sportive expressionism of a nineteenth century nation-state model.

Perhaps we might talk about optimising performance (at all levels) instead.

I could not find mention of ‘climate’ in the document. (It was not identified as one of the six megatrends in Australian sport in 2012.)

My decade away from the AIS and life in a rural community since 2007 have encouraged me to think about bottom up approaches to playful activity enriched by inclusivity and integrity. This to me is the essential transformation of a system that de-emphasises international success, celebrates personal growth  and acknowledges that performance at quadrennial festivals is a very small part of a much bigger task.

This task for me is to offer opportunities for young people to engage in physical activity and create desire paths one of which might lead to high performance sport. We can do this by valuing effort, championing integrity and inclusivity, and accepting that we are not defined by medal outcomes.

I am hopeful that the National Sport Plan in 2018 will provide an organic, long-term plan for the flourishing of play, games and sport in mid-21st century Australia … replete with expressive joy.


I am using ‘desire paths’ in the way that Kate Bowles does:

is that it represents shared decision-making between separate users who don’t formally cooperate. So a desire path is both a coherent expression of collective effort, and completely unplanned — in fact, it’s the opposite of planning. Simply, each one puts her or his foot where it feels most sensible, and the result is a useful informal path that’s sensitive to gradient, destination, weather, terrain, and built through unspoken collaboration among strangers.

Photo Credits

No limits (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

The parsnip field home (Steve, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Coach Watching

I am on my way to England to meet a group of coaches with whom I have been in contact since 2013.

It is my tenth visit to watch them coach and to talk about their life in coaching. We meet up twice a year in season and out of season. This is a perfect sequence given my cohort of coaches is drawn from cricket and rugby union.

I am fascinated by the coaches’ lifeworlds and how they go about the art, science and magic of coaching.

I have not mentioned Edmund Husserl to the coaches but I have been profoundly influenced as a coach watcher by his discussion of phenomenology. When I spend time with the coaches, I am mindful of Edmund’s observation:

There are two sorts of truth: on the one hand, everyday practical situational truths … on the other side are scientific truths, and their grounding leads back … to the situational truths …

These situational truths exist in each of our lifeworlds that Edmund describes as “a realm of original self-evidences … and the world of straightforward intersubjective experiences”.

I try to be clear about my lifeworld experiences when I watch and meet the coaches. I have really enjoyed the opportunity to engage with their lifeworlds.

Packing my suitcase to travel to England is a very tactile way of thinking about my situational truths. Today they were brought more into focus by a Guardian article about the New Zealand rugby union coach, Wayne Smith.

I have been an admirer of Wayne’s coaching from the mid 1990s.

The Guardian article includes this observation from Tana Umaga:

Smithy treats everyone with respect, and sees the good. He wants to keep teaching. That’s what engenders everyone’s trust; buy-in from players. That’s why people think he’s one of the best coaches in the world, if not the best.

In the article, Wayne notes:

I was exposed to people like Andre Buonomo and Pierre Villepreux, who’s probably one of the greatest coaches ever.” Their mantra was athlete-centred coaching, focusing on decision-making over skills, on adapting skills to on-field situations. So rather than being instructional all the time, asking questions and getting descriptive answers to know whether the players understood or not.

When I turned up at Crusaders…[I was about] playing games for learning, asking questions to create self-awareness, working on people’s strengths rather than not just what they can’t do.

The article concludes with this paragraph:

After 2015, we lost six guys at the same time, who were quite possibly the best players that ever played in their position. Losing them at the same time should have been a massive hole for any team,” he says. “We thought, how do we get better?” He concluded that counterattack was the best form of defence. “The two things are linked: the counterattack is a really inspiring part of the game for me. We switch quickly. A lot of people say how creative the All Blacks are, or how much flair there is, but creativity is just practice that’s camouflaged. It comes from hard work.

The task of packing my case was much easier after reading Alexander Bisley’s Guardian article about Wayne. My lifeworld is permeated by a passion for teaching and the understanding approach that has pervaded Wayne’s coaching.

I am hopeful that my journey with cricket and rugby union coaches provides further support for teachers who are able to entangle their leadership with the following that is essential to athlete-centred coaching … and the creative expression of practice.

Photo Credits

On the pitch at Worcester (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

About to go out in Nottingham (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

Athele-led warm up at Loughborough (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

Sharing Scholarship Openly

I followed a lead to Mark Carrigan yesterday. It was the start of a day of finding other connections too … around the theme of scholarship.

In his post, Mark observes:

Social media didn’t create the ambition to rethink scholarly communication, it gave us the tools to do it effectively.

He reminds us that rethinking communication has some fascinating precursors, including Pierre Bourdieu. Mark shares a quote from a 1975 paper in Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales:

We shall present here, side by side, texts differing very greatly in their style and function: ‘finished’ texts, on the one hand, as they are called by academics journals, but also short notes, accounts of oral presentations, work in progress such as interim research projects and reports, in which theoretical intentions, empirical procedures of verification, and the data on which these are based, are all that much more visible. The desire to provide access to the workshop, which has different rules from those of method, and to present archives of a work still under way, implies a rejection of the most clearly ritual formalisms: justified typography, standard rhetoric, articles and issues of similar length, and more generally, everything that leads to the standardisation and ‘normalisation’ of the products of scholarship.

Pierre Bourdieu wrote about the importance of this workshop approach in a 2002 paper, The Social Conditions of the International Circulation of Ideas:

Texts circulate without their context; they don’t carry with them the field of production they come from, and the receivers, themselves integrated in a different field of production, reinterpret them in accordance with their position in the field of reception.

I enjoyed Mark’s discussion of Pierre Bourdieu’s work and the consideration of making visible of scholarship as a representational activity in a formative ‘field of production’.

I followed up on Mark’s post with an article in the Straits Times, recommended by Stephen Downes, Every space is a learning space. Toh Wen Li shares news of the Singapore Ministry of Education’s investment in flexible learning environments:

A jamming room and an outdoor music garden have more in common than making tunes. These are some of the informal learning spaces that some schools have been offering to students to get them to tinker in and explore in their spare time.

These are playful spaces and resonate, I think, with the open scholarship ideas Mark discusses.

The availability of social media platforms to play with and explore ideas and to share context goes beyond “ritual formalisms”. In recent years, I have really enjoyed the ways the LSE Impact Blog, has challenged this formalism and supported the formative and summative sharing of impact and curiosity.

By coincidence, Andy Miah was discussing science communication as a way of life this week too. He reports:

For me, science communication became a way of life at a very early stage in my postgraduate studies… I heard this at a time when the Internet was really taking off and so I started to think about how I could use the Web to share my work.

Andy suggests “science communication is best approached as a creative practice” and share a link to a new Masters course in Science Communication and Future Media. The course is delivered through distance learning, collaborative tasks, a creative portfolio and a final project.

It will be fascinating to learn if this new course stimulates the curiosity and creativity evident in DS106.

I imagine the future media conversations will include discussions about artificial intelligence. My final read of the day around open scholarship was David Smith’s Living with an AI. In his post, he shares his encounter with Amazon’s Alexa. He includes this section:

Let’s take a look at an Alexa skill called ArxivML. It was written by Amine Ben Khalifa, to allow him to scan the Machine Learning literature updates on arXiv whilst getting ready for work. Alexa will read out the abstracts of the ones Amine wishes to delve into further, and a more traditional title and abstract summary will be deposited into the Alexa app (where all your interactions with her are documented for posterity). The next few iterations of functionality aren’t exactly hard to think of, and not that hard to achieve either.

* Alexa Send to [Mendeley/zotero/DodgyFacebookForScholarsSites]

* Alexa Get me The PDF

* Alexa Share with …

* Alexa Save to my filestore

* Alexa Get the data from the paper

* Alexa Alert me when the authors are speaking at a conference

And so on.

Part of David’s conclusion includes:

AI is going to eat the world, and this time, it’s Scholarly Publishing that has the juicy data with which to feed the beast.

Which brings us back to 1975 and the immense opportunities that workshops will create for open, scholarly sharing connected by linked data protocols that facilitate discoverability.

Photo Credits

Keith Lyons (CC BY 4.0)


I have written about blogging as a scholarly activity in this post. I have written about blogging too. Their APA references are:

Lyons, K. (2012, June 7). Considering blogging as a scholarly activity [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://keithlyons.me/blog/2012/07/06/considering-blogging-as-a-scholarly-activity/.

Lyons, K. (2012, June 1). Blogging about blogging [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://keithlyons.me/blog/2012/06/01/blogging-about-blogging/.