I have been supervising PhD research for two decades.
My journey started in 1994 with Gareth Potter at the University of Wales Institute Cardiff.
Last week, one of my more recent PhD students, Nehad Makhadmeh, submitted her thesis for examination. The title of her thesis is Talent Identification and Development in Women’s Football: Integrating Australian Insights in Jordan.
During her four years at the University of Canberra, Nehad researched girls’ and women’s football in Canberra and her home city of Al ramtha in Jordan.
Her overall aim is to contribute to the flourishing of football in Al ramtha at a time of immense demographic and economic change there in the wake of conflict in nearby Syria.
It has been a remarkable privilege to be Nehad’s supervisor. I have learned a great deal about Arab societies as we have debated the relevance of Australian models of talent identification and development.
This thesis investigates the possibilities for sustainable girls’ and women’s participation in football in Jordan. These possibilities are explored with insights gained from fieldwork in two cultural contexts: Al ramtha, Jordan and Canberra, Australia.
The research reported here uses a mixed methods approach to data collection about talent and identification systems. It combines desk study, semi-structured interviews with teachers, coaches and administrators and participant observation in teaching and coaching contexts. There were two phases in the research process. Phase 1 explored talent identification and development pathways in women’s football and involved preliminary fieldwork in Canberra and Al ramtha. Phase 2 investigated the teaching of football in two Jordanian schools with the context of the King Abdullah II Award for Physical Fitness. This phase included fieldwork in Canberra with my participation as a volunteer coach in a community football club.
The thesis concludes with a discussion of sustainable talent identification and development in women’s football in Jordan and considers opportunities to integrate insights gained from women’s football in Australia.
One of the topics Nehad and I discussed was her ability to be a professional stranger in her research. As her work developed she tried to see the strange as familiar in Canberra and the familiar as strange in Al ramtha. In Canberra, she was fortunate to meet a key informant who helped with the ‘familiarity’ of the structure and practice of football. In Al ramtha, she negotiated her way sensitively through local and national networks and organisations.
She achieved all this as an English as a second language speaker. Twenty years apart, her research took me back to Gareth’s research in performance analysis. He came from a Welsh speaking household in which English was also a second language.
Both photographs by Nehad Makhadmeh, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.