Robin Poke’s PhD Submission: A Narrative History of Australian Rowing

Robin Poke holding his PhD Submission

Robing Poke submitted his PhD thesis for examination today at the University of Canberra. It is the culmination of six years assiduous research that is titled A Narrative History of Australian Rowing 1770-2016.

I have been fortunate to be Robin’s primary supervisor.

I believe it to be a magnum opus in the history of rowing. It extends to two volumes and shares some remarkable primary sources to build the narrative.

The abstract is:

This thesis describes in detail the beginnings, development and progress of rowing in Australia through fifteen chapters that set out chronologically how the sport transitioned from the days of settlement, the early watermen, and to the 19th century and the onset of professional sculling. Then came, in the 20th century, the era of pure amateurism before, given the massive funding in contemporary sport, it reverted at the very least to the semi- professional level.

The initial chapters describe the early use of boats by settlers and the exploits of the earliest professional scullers, who captured the imagination not just of the citizens of New South Wales but of all the colonies. Then comes the rapid expansion of rowing and sculling at all levels: club, colonial and national, and the onset of the amateur ideology. The transition from inter-colonial to inter-state competition is described, as is the emergence of women’s rowing. Then comes Australia’s growing involvement at the international level between the two world wars. The retirement of professional sculler Bobby Pearce and the eventual decline of professional sculling are discussed.

A continuing swing away from amateurism towards at least semi-professionalism is seen. Also described is the improvement in the administration of national rowing, at the hands, initially, of John Coates, assisted by John Boultbee. Australia’s first professional Director of Coaching, Reinhold Batschi is introduced.

An extraordinary decade in the history of Australian rowing arrives, during which the sport experiences hitherto unforeseen success and at the end of which hosts an Olympic Regatta. At the heart of this success are the stunning results obtained by a crew that had become known as the Oarsome Foursome.

The period between the celebrating of a successful ‘home’ Olympic Games in 2000 and the London Olympic Games in 2012 is described. In the interim were the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Games. The thesis ends with a discussion about Rowing Australia’s high performance plans for the future of rowing and contemplation about the process of writing a narrative history of rowing.

Robin at the Graduate Office at UC handing in his thesis

We await with great interest the external examiners’ responses in 2019.

Photo Credits

Robin Poke (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

Australian Paralympic History Project: October 2018 Workshop

A picture of the APC workshop with four of the participants creating and editing content for Wikipedia
Workshop participants

The Australian Paralympic History Project held a workshop in Sydney on the weekend of 27 and 28 October.

Tony Naar shared news of the workshop on the Project’s Facebook page (link).

Seven people attended the workshop. The project team were delighted to welcome a new member, Cecelia Hutchinson-Parsons. Cecelia came to the workshop after a week of volunteering at the Invictus Games in Sydney.

Cecelia created a Wikipedia article about the Iceroos (link) and helped update the 2018 Invictus Games article.

A picture of the Iceroos team
The Iceroos

The APC’s CEO Lynne Anderson visited the workshop as did the APC’s  Communications General Manager Tim Mannion. They met the workshop organiser, Tony Naar and Cecilia, as well as Ross Mallett, Greg Blood, Gary Osmond and Patricia Ollerenshaw.

Patricia is working on articles about the 2000 Paralympics at the moment.

Tony noted of the workshop:

Creating and updating Wikipedia articles about Australian Paralympic sport relies almost exclusively on a handful of volunteers, who do an incredible job. As a result of discussions on the weekend, we have decided that we will now pursue a ‘small scale’ approach of catch-ups in the cities where we have active editors and seek to expand these groups by individual contact and one-on-one support.

He added:

We desperately need to expand the core group of contributors to maintain this unbelievable project.

I do try to keep an eye on this project. It has made an enormous impact on the open sharing of Paralympic stories with an Australian focus. I do monitor the articles and hope to be more active in supporting the editing of the articles created and maintained by the project team.

For anyone thinking of finding ways to use their creative talents, this is a project most worthy of consideration.

Photo Credits

Sydney Workshop (Tony Naar)

Iceroos (World Para Ice Hockey)

Netball observation and analysis connections: Sheffield City Polytechnic

When I attended Celia Brackenridge’s memorial service in October 2018, I had an opportunity to meet some of her colleagues from her time at Sheffield City Polytechnic.

One of those colleagues was Nicky Fuller.

Nicky has had a lifetime involvement in netball. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, she joined the game analysis research group at Sheffield City Polytechnic as an MPhil student.

Nicky submitted her thesis in August 1992. The title was A Computerised Analysis of Netball. It is available from the Sheffield Hallam University Research Archive (Link).

The abstract for the thesis includes:

This research stemmed from the observation that much netball coaching is based on relatively superficial and subjective observations of a team’s performance and a lack of longer term coaching strategy or recognised ‘benchmarks’ for relevant aspects of technical and strategic play. … The findings of the literature review, combined with discussions with the national coach for netball, led to the development of two main aims for this project. (My emphasis)

The aims of the thesis were:

To develop a means of providing netball coaches and players with useful post-game feedback from individual matches, which of itself could be accumulated into individual and squad performance statistics over periods of time.

To investigate the possibility of developing a model of ‘winning’ netball performance which coaches might use as an aid to coaching.

Nicky worked closely with the national netball coach, Heather Crouch, to identify parameters of netball performance that should be analysed.

The game analysis group at Sheffield had been using microcomputers for some time. Their experiences informed the design of a software system and a modified keyboard for Nicky’s research.  She used a lapsed-time analysis method to collect data from 28 matches taken from two international tournaments.

Nicky’s research led to development of a ‘profile’ of winning performance that was statistically different from losing performance. She identified nine performance characteristics.

Nicky’s supervisors were John Alderson and Malcolm Brewer. With them and others, Nicky wrote in 1990 for the National Coaching Foundation a state of the art review of match analysis in sport.

The review included details of the work of the Sheffield game analysis research group. These included:

Brackenridge, Celia H. with Alderson, G. John K. (1982) ‘The implications of sport classification for sport science’, in R. Bartlett et al.. (Eds.) Proceedings: Sport and Science Conference, British Association of Sport Sciences, pp. 2-14.

Brackenridge, Celia H., and G. John K. Alderson. (1983) “Interaction Analysis in a team game with particular reference to the use of microcomputers.” In Proceedings of the Sport and Science Conference, Liverpool University.

White, Anita and Brackenridge, Celia. (1983). Understanding and developing team interaction. Paper for the seminar on ‘Coaching Team Games’, West Midlands Regional Sports Council.

Brackenridge, Celia H. (1984). Match Analysis.

Brackenridge, Celia H., and G. John K. Alderson. (1985) Match analysis. National Coaching Foundation, Leeds.

Alderson, G. John K. (1985). Scene-setter paper to the BANC/NCF/BASS workshop “Match Analysis in Sport“, Sheffield City Polytechnic.

Mackinnon, Gordon. (1985) Racket sport analysis; computer applications. Paper to the BANC/NCF/BASS Workshop, Sheffield City Polytechnic.

Mackinnon, Gordon. (1986) Match analysis of squash rackets; applications for coaches, unpublished paper sports science scholarship seminar, The Sports Council, London.

The game analysis research group played a very important role in the emergence of notational analysis in the United Kingdom. My meeting with Nicky brought back memories of my visits to Sheffield to meet analysts there.

As with other people interested in notational analysis in academic institutions, the Sheffield group mixed a passion for sport, educational technology and coaching. Nicky’s supervisor, John Alderson, had an academic interest in skill acquisition and studied for his PhD with HTA Whiting. John published a number of papers in the early 1970s including:

Whiting, H. T., G. J. Alderson, and F. H. Sanderson. (1973). “Critical time intervals for viewing and individual differences in performance of a ball-catching task.” International Journal of Sport Psychology.

Alderson, G. J. K., Diane J. Sully, and H. G. Sully. (1974). “An operational analysis of a one-handed catching task using high speed photography.” Journal of Motor Behavior 6, no. 4 (1974): 217-216.

Alderson, G. J. K., and H. T. A. Whiting. (1974). “Prediction of linear motion.” Human Factors 16, no. 5: 495-502.

His PhD at the University of Leeds was completed in 1974. The title was The development of motion prediction ability in the context of sport skills.

Nicky’s MPhil research took place in this epistemological context. She was an early adopter of the BBC microcomputer that enabled the use of a programmable data input instrument (a purpose-built keyboard using microswitches).

As such, her work was a seminal contribution to cumulative research interest in hand and computerised notation. I think it makes invaluable reading for students interested in the analysis of sport performance.

When I met Nicky in October she was working with coaches in a variety of sports and was still an active coach in her local netball community … thirty-six years on from her Sheffield days.

Photo Credit

Sue Keal flying at Wembley (Our Netball History)

Nicky Fuller (Women Make Coaching)