Paul’s PhD

Paul Perkins, PhD candidate.

Paul Perkins (link) is about to submit his PhD at the University of Canberra. His title is Can a modified, low-risk form of boxing achieve significant community uptake? It is the culmination of a fascinating six-year journey for Paul and his supervisors.

This is a wonderful achievement. It is one founded on a profound friendship with Allan Hahn (link) and enriched by Paul’s thirst for knowledge. I have included pictures of Paul in India and at today’s unmeeting at the University of Canberra.

His abstract is:

Boxing has long been surrounded by debate. It has been subject to criticism on medical, legal, ethical and sociological grounds. Conversely, supporters argue that it is an excellent sport for physical fitness development, embodies egalitarianism, builds character, offers hope to depressed population sectors, has inherent aesthetic qualities and provides a cathartic outlet for emotions that otherwise could lead to anti social activities. Recent years have seen small- scale emergence of modified versions of boxing aimed at retaining positive aspects of the sport but eliminating negative aspects. The research reported in this thesis was directed at determining whether such a version could attract substantial community uptake.

A literature review was conducted to objectively evaluate arguments for and against conventional boxing and to assess the need for a modified form of the sport. A modified boxing program based on an existing model was established at a community club in Canberra, Australia, with the author of this thesis as its coach. It rapidly grew to include more than 100 regular participants. Design methodology was employed to progressively adjust program characteristics over an almost 5-year period, based on continual participant feedback. After ~2 years, several participants who had been present almost from the outset underwent in-depth, semi-structured interviews. Interpretative phenomenological analysis of interview transcripts revealed that their sustained involvement in the program was motivated primarily by a sense of belonging to a special community and by perceptions that coach-athlete relationships were strong, the training was purposeful, and there was a focus on safety. A follow-up study showed that the most valued coaching practices were an holistic approach to participant development, treatment of the participants as serious athletes, use of constrained games to promote skill acquisition, and an emphasis on athlete improvement rather than competition. These findings were instrumental in shaping ongoing program refinement.

At the start of the program, previously developed automated scoring technology was employed. This technology was then progressively adapted through repeated cycles of evaluation, reflection, planning and action. It proved effective in attracting public attention to the modified boxing concept but there were issues associated with its cost and the logistics of its regular use. In addition, several technical problems affecting system accuracy and predisposing to occasional system failure were identified. The technology was found to influence the style of boxing favoured by contestants and to reward all-out attack over skilled performance. Solutions to all these problems were conceived and partially implemented, but it was eventually decided that in the program setting that provided the basis for the research, use of the technology to judge contests between individuals was inconsistent with the shift of the program emphasis away from traditional notions of competition.

Throughout the duration of the program, specialised boxing gloves capable of markedly reducing peak impact forces were iteratively developed and refined to enhance participant safety and enjoyment. In laboratory trials, pneumatic gloves with capacity for air release and re-uptake afforded protective effects superior to those provided by conventional boxing gloves or by pneumatic gloves with sealed bladders. This remained true when target conditions in the laboratory were altered so that measured peak impact forces more closely resembled those reported to occur during boxing matches. Further research showed that the pneumatic gloves with capacity for air exchange were robust when subjected to a long series of consecutive impacts, with drift in various impact parameters less than that observed for conventional gloves. The development of the pneumatic gloves and their use in constrained games that formed part of the modified boxing program was highly regarded by the program participants.

When the Canberra modified boxing program eventually closed, the participants completed a written survey in which they recorded their impressions of it. Thematic content analysis of the feedback from 38 participants who had been involved in the program for three or more years revealed four major themes relating to the program environment, the underlying concept, the timetable and the training itself. The environment was seen as friendly, welcoming and supportive. The concept was perceived as entailing the development of a community, not just a sport program. The timetable was considered flexible and accommodating and the training itself was regarded as safe, fun and beneficial in multiple respects. These findings complemented and extended those obtained through interviewing a much smaller number of program participants earlier in the research process.

The Canberra modified boxing program underwent considerable dynamic change over its duration and this apparently allowed it to become highly effective in meeting the needs of its participants. The research surrounding the program demonstrated that a modified, low-risk form of boxing can achieve substantial uptake if tailored to the interests of a target population. Although there can be no guarantee that the Canberra program in its final form would be equally popular in other settings, it is likely that at least some of the knowledge acquired through the research that produced it is transferable. There may be a future for a form of modified boxing focused on safety, fitness improvement, learning of skills through constrained games, building of a sense of community among participants, and cooperation between participants instead of competition. Judicious use of advancing technologies could enhance the potential.

Paul Perkins, Wednesday Unmeeting

A Community-Focused Modified Boxing Program

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Paul Perkins is involved in an exciting initiative.

Paul and Allan Hahn have been successful in securing funding to introduce a Community-Focused Modified Boxing Program in twenty schools in Uttarakhand, India in 2017.

The project aims to use an adapted form of boxing (ModBox) to:

  • provide health and fitness outcomes
  • develop life skills for participants
  • raise awareness of environmental issues
  • increase opportunities for female participation in sport

ModBox has been designed to be a low-risk form of boxing. It takes place in encouraging and supportive environments led by sensitive, appreciative coaching and teaching. Emphasis is placed on athlete enjoyment and safety. Participants wear impact-absorbing gloves. There is no contact with a co-participant’s head or neck.

ModBox has five core values:

  • Safety
  • Continuous learning
  • Fair play
  • Inclusiveness
  • Respectfulness

The program aims “to provide space and time for young people to enjoy the benefits of regular exercise and to use informal learning through sport to teach important life skills”.

The course of study can be found here.

Photo Credit

Bridge over Alakananda (Runa Bhattacharjee, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

About Paul and the ModBox Program

Paul Perkins is a PhD Scholar at the University of Canberra Research Institute for Sport and Exercise (UCRISE) and the Participation Manager at Boxing Australia. Allan Hahn has provided support and guidance with the development of this program. The ModBox program is being supported by the Australian Government, Boxing Australia and SEDA India will be supplemented by contributions from an Australian company, VTara Energy Group Pty Ltd, the University of Canberra, and the NungshiTashi Foundation. The program is funded through a partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as part of an upcoming aid initiative.

Open for Learning: Supporting Coach Education and Development

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Introduction

I was hoping to attend the Sport Leadership sportif Conference in Calgary in November.

I was looking forward to presenting a paper with David Legg and Stephen Price. The title of the paper is Open for Learning: Supporting Coach Development Online. Our aim was to combine insights from Australia and Canada to discuss open access to coach education and development resources.

I was very keen to link open learning opportunities with the insights and practices of Canadian connectivist thinkers and practitioners.

I am disappointed that I am unable to go to Calgary.

I have posted my part of the presentation as a SlideCast. I use experience of a Small Open Online Course (SOOC) to introduce Box’Tag as the focus for the paper.

Given the time constraints on an oral presentation, I thought I would provide some background information here as part of the story behind the story.

The story itself is: two remarkable people decide to offer an open, online coach education and development opportunity. They use the OpenLearning platform to host the course.

Mentor, Driver, Steward

I mention Allan Hahn in the presentation.

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I was not sure how to talk about Allan’s role in the course. His wisdom, gentility and guiding hand were omnipresent. Allan is an exemplary mentor and has developed a very close working relationship over a number of years with Paul Perkins, the driver of the course.

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Allan and Paul are passionate about Box’Tag. They welcomed participants to the course in this video.

Whenever I meet Allan and Paul, I am struck by their energy and excitement. Anything seems possible. I admire immensely their work at the Erindale PCYC and their connections with their communities.

I see this mentor/driver relationship as the key to the success of the course. There is a profound Socratic element at play in this relationship. It has been fascinating observing Paul transform his coaching as a result of his mentee experiences.

As the technology steward for the course and had a very privileged opportunity to watch Allan and Paul at work.

OpenLearning and Accredible

We were very fortunate to use the OpenLearning platform for the course. In the SlideCast, I note the role Adam Brimo played in helping us realise our ambitions for the SOOC. Open access needs champions and advocates. I feel very fortunate to have met Adam. I think the functionality offered by OpenLearning was invitational and easy to use.

Technology did not get in the way of the course.

Whilst acting as a steward on the course, I found Accredible. I admire their work in documenting learning journeys. I see this as a remarkable opportunity to develop e-portfolios to share. Jenny Kim writes:

What we realized was that we’re far more interested in documenting educational journeys from their beginning rather than signaling their ends. Instead of a certificate, we needed a symbol of openness, possibility, potential. This is where “slate” came from; a “blank slate,” from the Latin tabula rasa, is meant to be filled with new ideas and experiences.

Paul has developed his own Accredible slate as a result of his SOOC experiences. You can find it here.

Shortly after I completed the SlideCast I shared it with Paul. By coincidence one of the participants in the course, Sabrina, was asking me to endorse her participation in the course to share with her college. This is Sabrina’s Accredible slate.

As part of her work experience, Sabrina, spent some time at the PCYC and at the end of the week made a presentation of her experiences to Allan Hahn.

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I was very pleased to receive a Vocaroo message from Sabrina and Paul. We have used Vocaroo and Audioboo on the SOOC to share messages with these free online recorders.

Their message (included here with their permission):

My reply:

The Kicker?

In sharing this story behind a story, I hope I have given a feel for the richness of being involved in open learning.

There are three Ps involved in this back story: Passion, People, Platforms.

My aim, in presenting this story in Calgary, is to affirm that by sharing openly and fallibly our learning journeys, we can transform coach education and development.

Photo Credit

Calgary, Alberta (Reg Natarajan, CC BY 2.0)