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Author: Dave Day

Mussabini Myths: Lacking Wisdom

Mussabini Myths: Lacking Wisdom. In December 1998, the National Coaching Foundation honoured Scipio Africanus (Sam) Mussabini by striking a ‘Mussabini Medal’ awarded to British coaches who have coached outstanding elite athletes. The rationale for this award was based on an interpretation of Mussabini’s life that has been repeated ad nauseum in both popular and scholarly literature, normally verbatim and invariably without adequate reflection. When English Heritage erected a blue plaque to Mussabini in July 2012 their justification followed the standard script. According to this narrative, Mussabini had coached eleven Olympic medal winners including, apparently, the 1908 sprint champion Reggie...

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‘No fee’ was to be charged for their services: Amateur athletics advisors in 1935. Part 2. Henry Rottenburg, Athletics Innovator.

In December 1935, the Manchester Guardian produced a list of men willing to give talks, lectures and demonstrations to clubs and schools (see Table 1 in Part 1 for details). No fee was to be charged for their services, although it was expected that out-of-pocket expenses would be met.[1] Whilst never professing to be a coach, one of the most interesting men on the Guardian list was Henry (Harry) Rottenburg, M.A., M.I.E.E., who was prepared to give talks of the ‘Correlation of science and athletics’. Born in Glasgow on 6 October 1875, this son of a chemical merchant was...

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Crawling to Success: Swimming Coach Bill Howcroft

William (‘Bill’) Howcroft was born in 1875 in Tamworth, Staffordshire. By 1901 he was a self-employed ‘hardware dealer’, working from home, and ten years later he was a ‘gas works weighman’ in Garston, which is where he made his reputation as a swimming coach and swimming journalist. Howcroft visited the US to study their techniques and acquire a ‘thorough knowledge of the American crawl’, adop­tion of which had been particularly slow in Britain, subsequently passing on this knowledge to other British coaches. By the 1920s, he was effectively the leading swimming coach in the country. Howcroft, right of picture,...

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‘No fee’ was to be charged for their services: Amateur athletics advisors in 1935. Part 1. Coaches and Administrators.

Resistance to the use of professional coaches in British athletics during the first half of the twentieth century has been well documented[1] and an ongoing preference for amateur coaching from one’s peers was clearly evident in the year before the Berlin Olympics. In February 1935, a number of amateur coaches were appointed to instruct at the Loughborough summer school for athletics, including R. St. G. Harper for hurdles, J. Cotter for the javelin, J.E. Lovelock for running events, M.C. Noakes for the hammer, R.L. Howland for the shot put, and R.W. Revans for the long jump.[2] Howland was a...

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Sam Fritty: A Life in Athletics and Trotting

In January 1912, the Amateur Athletic Association (AAA), having decided to appoint ‘a supervising trainer’ and subsidiary trainers prior to the Stockholm Olympics, asked F. W. Parker to accept the position of Chief Athletic Advisor. In March, they accepted his nominations for trainers, selected from a ‘very large number of applications’, including Alec Nelson, William Cross, Bill Thomas, and one S. Fritty. Parker considered Fritty ‘one of our best trainers and if not required for Reading would advise his appointment to one of the London tracks’. While the life courses of many trainers are gradually being uncovered, Fritty has...

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