Coaches as phenomenologists

para-ethnographic work in sports

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution


If performance studies is to explore sports from the perspective of athletes, coaches form a potential pool of allies as they are engaged in their own ‘para-ethnographic’ studies of athletes’ performance. This paper examines developmental coaching, that is, the teaching of skills, as a form of applied phenomenology, drawing on examples from the author’s fieldwork on capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian dance and martial art. In particular, the paper explores an instructor’s intervention when the author was trying to learn to plantar bananeira (‘to plant a banana tree’), the capoeira version of a handstand. The intervention had several stages, all revealing an acute perception of how the learning experience was structured: the coach pantomimed incorrect practice to increase the author’s self awareness, diagnosed what part of the skill I might be able to learn next, and created a tailored exercise to shift the author’s perceptions. Studying this sort of coach-athlete interaction helps us to better understand performance traditions, but it also poses a series of challenges in terms of shifting our scale, recognising that we will not produce certain forms of theoretical narrative, and taking phenomenological analysis seriously.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBeing there
Subtitle of host publicationafter : proceedings of the 2006 Conference of the Australasian Association for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherAustralasian Association for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies (ADSA)
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9781742100128
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventAnnual Conference of Australasian Association for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies - Sydney
Duration: 4 Jul 20067 Jul 2006


ConferenceAnnual Conference of Australasian Association for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies


  • sports coaching
  • capoiera
  • phenomenology
  • sport as performance
  • performance analysis
  • embodiment

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