Category Archives: Books
Making the nation fit, one book at a time…
Guest post by Ben Oakley, author of Podium: What Shapes Sporting Champions
First person autobiographical insights interest me since they provide examples of what shapes their path to the top. My fascination with these accounts, and my own experience as an Olympic coach (1988, 1992) and Open University academic, led me to research 25 autobiographies from serial champions. Amongst these were a number of teenage champions.
The youngest medallist at the Commonwealth Games was 13 year old para-swimmer Erraid Davies and the whole event narrative was dominated by young, up-and-coming athletes, many in their teenage years. Likewise the new Premiership season will no doubt see new 18-year-old, or younger, talents emerge.
Child champions’ breakthroughs are fascinating as they have no medal success at the top level to help build supreme optimism to succeed. They often defy the form books to breakthrough to senior success while still at school. Take Cathy Freeman who, aged 16, won a relay 100m gold medal at the 1990 Commonwealth Games. ‘[She] spent the first few days [in the athlete’s village] with [her] mouth open, staring at everyone and everything.’ Problems with dropped batons in practice meant self-doubt began to gnaw away.
But confidence to succeed has a social element. What others say and their behaviour around us matters. If others believe in you and make this abundantly clear, it is a real fillip. In this case it came in the form of the team’s top sprinter, Kerry Johnson, who had been Freeman’s number one supporter and looked out for the ‘baby of the team’. Johnson threatened the management that she would boycott the team unless Freeman ran. Her pre-race advice to Freeman, ‘I think we’ll win this today,’ arguably helped convince the schoolgirl that she deserved to be there. They surged to gold and Freeman’s life changed in that moment.
Coaches and hormones
Likewise, the other person that helped instil self-belief in 15-year-old Michael Phelps was his coach, who ignited his desire to become the youngest ever swimming world record holder. But natural hormonal support was also at play. In the preceding year Phelps experienced his most accelerated growth spurt – a two-inch height gain on the marks on his doorway at home. His coach lit the fuse by writing ‘WR Austin’ (World Record, Austin, Texas) on all the notes he left for Phelps over six months preparing to break the 200m butterfly world record. At the Austin meet he was the first ever to swim under 1 minute 55 seconds.
Ian Thorpe has also described growth spurts, which caused a huge five-second improvement in his 400m freestyle time between the ages of 15 and 16. Imagine the exuberance and confidence of seeing almost monthly gains in performance. Mix this with youthful naïvety and there is a recipe for great things. Describing winning his five-medals at the Sydney Games aged 17, Thorpe said, ‘I had been devoid of nerves – dazzled by the lights and attention, unaware of the true pressure of an Olympic meet and oh-so calm.’
At the 2012 Olympics a shocked 15-year-old Lithuanian swimmer, Ruta Meilutyte, emerged from the pool astonished and in tears at winning gold. Appropriately, it was Ian Thorpe who defended and rationalised her teenage success to a suspicious media.
When former England footballer Michael Owen spoke about as an 18 year old scoring a wonder goal against Argentina in the World Cup he captured the clutter free thoughts of youth:
‘When I did it I wasn’t surprised at all, now as you get older and look back you think what an attitude I had, I wasn’t scared of anyone, I didn’t even know who I was playing against. We’d have team meetings and they’d say you’re playing against this man and this man: I didn’t even listen, I didn’t care. I just knew that I was playing, that I was going to score … You get older and you start worrying about things, you know, you just worry too much … You only have that not being scared as a kid.’
Not being scared sums it up nicely – the benefit of being a child. As he reminds us, life gets more complicated as an adult – relationships, mortgages, media commitments, expectations, elevated pressure, the weight of history and other athletes gunning to beat you.
Child champions’ unique experience are all part of the complex mix that contribute to examining what shapes champions’ paths. My research and writing Podium has also been a real journey that often challenged my own beliefs.
Ben Oakley is the author of Podium: What Shapes a Sporting Champion, order your copy today
30% off selected sports books from Bloomsbury
Browse our books and discover a wealth of sporting information on the games and the athletes who take part. From sports journalist Brian Oliver’s new book The Commonwealth Games, which brings the games to life with stories of the athletes who have competed over the years; to Podium a fantastic book that reveals the attributes and influences that are needed to become a champion and bring home gold. We have every book for the sporting fan.
Offer valid until 3rd August 2014.
We don’t like to boast, but, well, some of our books are just so bloomin’ great that we can’t help but sing their praises. And for this beaut, we’ve borrowed some words from people who’ve beaten us to it…
‘MILLIONS upon millions of words have been written on Eddy Merckx over the decades and it will get to the point soon when there is nothing new to say, which is possibly why Bloomsbury came up with the interesting idea of revisiting a year in the life of cycling’s nonpareil with a series of documentary type photographs. As all my snapper friends constantly remind me a great image is always worth a thousand words. Damn them, but they are right.
Not any old year mind and not any old photos. 1969 was an incredible career defining 12-months for Merckx while the project collaborators Tonny Strouton and Jan Maes boldy opt for a montage of huge black and white snaps when presumably there are plenty of fine colour shots available if desired. A great black and white image is worth 10,000 words in my opinion because they instantly convey and historical importance and almost timelessness which makes it easier to relive that moment.
Merckx 69 will stretch the budget but I suspect will prove irresistible for any serious collector of cycling books. Just as the man himself had to win every race – or at least try – Merckx fans tend to be ‘completests’ and their ‘Merckx corner’ of the bookshelf will look bare without this mighty tome.’
Brendan Gallagher, The Tour
‘featuring some utterly fabulous, grainy, black and white photographs from eddy’s 1969 season, tentatively holding your breath and opening the first few pages brings to mind nothing more or less than a pristine copy of rouleur magazine. you can argue the case for e-books all you like, there’s simply nothing to match the heady aroma of printer’s ink on heavy art paper. the photos are not only glorious, fascinating, engaging and addictive, but undoubtedly the very reason you’d part with your £35 in the first place.
this is an absolute doozy, one that will continue to offer those rouleur moments for ever and ever and ever.’
Real Results – No Gimmicks – No Airbrushing
Read a few sample pages from these fantastic books, based on a real-life challenge, these are the only fitness & nutrition books to show real results with no airbrushing and no gimmicks.
Covering fitness, health and nutrition, each book contains over 60 different workouts with 80 different exercises to choose from, explaining their purpose and technique. With the basics of training, warm-ups, cool-downs and stretching explained, the books also contain information on what fitness tests are used and the training routines followed, and a training diary for the reader to keep track of their programme and progress.
Order your copy today
How is it June already?! Fortunately, there’s plenty of sport to help keep you entertained while you get over the shock of it almost being midsummer’s day…
12th-16th First Test Match England v Sri Lanka
20th-24th Second Test Match England v Sri Lanka
9th-15th Aegeon Championship Queen’s Club, Baron’s Court, London
23rd-6th July Wimbledon Championships, Wimbledon
12th-15th US Open, Pinehurst, North Carolina
8th Canadian Grand Prix
22nd Austrian Grand Prix
14th-15th Le Mans 24hr
12-13th July 2014 FIFA World Cup, Brasil
15th Cartier Queens Cup, Windsor Great Park
Ever wondered a bit about the history of professional sport and the ingredients that magnetise millions around the globe? Well, if you fancy a spot of reading about the marvels of spectator sport, then look no further than Floodlights and Touchlines. It tells the stories that matter: from the gladiators of Rome to the runners of Rift Valley via the innovator-missionaries of Rugby School; from multi-faceted British exports to the Americanisation of professionalism and the Indianisation of cricket. Rob Steen traces the development of these sports which captivate the turnstile millions and the mouse-clicking masses, addressing their key themes and common links, from creation myths to match fixing via race, politics, sexuality and internationalism.
If you don’t believe me, why not read some of the great reviews it’s received already…
In his deftly-written and engrossing new book, Rob Steen reminds us again why, beneath the floodlights and along the touchlines, sport has consumed so many of us for so long. It’s as compelling as your favourite sporting memory – and more informative and amusing.
Donald McRae, The Guardian
Rob Steen is the wittiest and most astringent English-language sportswriter. And this book provides a brilliant narrative of spectator sport. Internationalist, progressive, cosmopolitan, yet earthy, it is an instant classic.
Toby Miller, author of SportSex
I believe that you will never fully understand the game behind the game without reading Floodlights and Touchlines. Rob Steen is the perfect guide to take you through this remarkable history.
Dr John Carlos, 1968 Olympian, medal stand protester
Rob Steen’s intoxication with sport’s dramatic qualities, his familiarity with the sporting scene on both sides of the Atlantic and his writing verve all shine through in this penetrating study.
Nick Pitt, The Sunday Times
Rob’s obstinate belief that sport and thought are not incompatible is an inspiration to us all.
Simon Barnes, Chief Sportswriter for The Times
Floodlights and Touchlines is a triumph. People who dismiss sports as mindless entertainment need to read this. People who love sports but find their ardor doesn’t extend beyond the numbers, need to read this as well. The sports world is better for its publication.
Dave Zirin, Sports Editor of The Nation and author of Brazil’s Dance with the Devil
For more info, or if you want to get your hands on a copy to read in between world cup matches and the tennis, click here.
Get a kick out of these fantastic football books
As all eyes are on Brazil at the moment, back here in the UK we are offering 30% off all our football books! Brush up on your refereeing skills with the fantastic You Are the Ref and discover the story behind the coolest international football team in history in Danish Dynamite.Offer ends 13th July 2014
And now for something completely different…
PHILOSOPHY AND SPORT might not appear immediately to be obvious bedfellows, but sport has often captured both the intellectual and personal imagination of innumerable philosophers throughout the ages. From Albert Camus’ love of football, and time playing as goalkeeper for Racing Universitaire d’Alger (spawning the famous declaration that: “after many years during which I saw many things, what I know most surely about morality and the duty of man I owe to sport and learned it in the RUA”) to Jacques Derrida’s notoriously perplexing and gnomic formulation “there is nothing beyond the touchline” (neither certainty nor truth, just le terrain and le foot)—philosophy and sport have often been entangled in an intersectional and productive relationship.
The Bloomsbury Companion to the Philosophy of Sport features specially commissioned essays from a team of leading international scholars. The book, by providing an overview of the advances in the philosophical understanding of sport (and related practices), serves as a measure of the development of the philosophy of sport, but it also constitutes an expression of the discipline’s state of the art status. The book includes a critical analysis of the historical development of philosophic ideas about sport, three essays on the research methods typically used by sport philosophers, twelve essays that address vital issues at the forefront of key research areas, as well as four essays on topics of future disciplinary concern. The book also includes a glossary of key terms and concepts, an essay on resources available to researchers and practitioners, an essay on careers opportunities in the discipline, and an extensive annotated bibliography of key literature.
‘Drawing on the very best scholars, this volume provides the intellectual foundations for a philosophy of sport from four major intellectual philosophical traditions – the Analytic, the Continental, the Eastern and Pragmatism. This volume is essential reading for anyone desiring a comprehensive philosophical understanding of the phenomenon that plays such a major part of our lives.’
Norman E. Bowie, Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota, USA.
‘This excellent collection of specially written articles is organized in a n innovative way, combining a comprehensive account of the history and the research methodology of the philosophy of sport with the critical reflections on current theoretical issues and future developments in the area.’
Claudio M. Tamburrini, Senior Researcher, Stockholm University, Sweden.