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Communication and working relationships in sport and fitness
Communication and working relationships in sport and fitness

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6 Proximity

Proximity concerns the distance people stand (or indeed sit) from each other in given situations. Anthropologist Edward Hall introduced the concept in 1969; he recognised four basic degrees of intimate, personal, social and public space.

Activity 6 What is your personal space limit?

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Watch up until 2 minutes 45 seconds of the following video in which a comedian tests Hall’s four degrees of space with members of the public. This clip is not a scientific experiment but its purpose is to stimulate you to reflect on the following question: in a sport or fitness workplace, might proximity considerations be different in any way – if so, how?

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While a coach or instructor whose proximity was too distant might be perceived as uncaring, at the other end of the scale legitimate touching and manipulation of adult athletes into the appropriate position might be appropriate if there is consent (Kerr et al, 2015). For example, it would be common practice to ask ‘is it OK if I move you into position?’ or similar.

The following information on the NSPCC website offers guidelines for how physical contact between adults and children in sport can take place appropriately and safely [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .