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Exploring sport coaching and psychology
Exploring sport coaching and psychology

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3 The anatomy of a world record

The evening sunshine of Gothenburg, Sweden, in August 1995, was the setting in which British athlete, Jonathan Edwards, broke the world record in the triple jump. The record still stands at the time of writing (February 2017). In the next activity, you’ll get some insight into Jonathan’s circumstances in the build-up to his world record that night, which will help you explore sporting success further.

Activity 2 A giant leap for mankind?

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Read the short article The other giant leap for mankind: how this athlete set a world record that’s still standing 20 years later [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . Identify the components of Jonathan Edwards’ success. Note down 6–10 words or phrases from the article that suggest these components. Can you group any of them together into different categories e.g. those related to physical or other categories?


Some of the main words and phrases are shown in Figure 1. The size or colour of the words has no particular significance other than there are a range of components.

The word cloud contains words/phrases,
Figure 1 Some of the main words and phrases used in the article.

Your challenge was to begin to make sense of these and you may have identified three main categories in the article:

Category Contributing words and phrases
Mental Resilience, coping with pressure, sports psychology, supreme confidence
Physical Conditioning, rest and recovery
Childhood Where you grow up, rich mix of different sports

In addition to this, while there are no direct references to coaching: the ‘craft of athlete improvement’ and ‘jumping technique’ are obviously both integral parts of a coach’s work.

The ‘facile nature–nurture debate’ was mentioned at the end of the piece. This alludes to nature–nurture being an oversimplification of a complex topic. Richard Dawkins calls this ‘the dichotomous mind’ – the human tendency to divide up complex ideas into simple either–or positions. Both personality and diet are often presented in this manner, as introvert against extrovert and low-fat diets against high-fat diets, respectively. This reduction of complex arguments also makes it easier for the media to present to a mass audience. In reality, things are never that clear cut, with a range of aspects interacting, especially in sport, coaching and psychology.

Next, you will hear from some sporting champions.