Apprenticeship learning among elite trampoline athletes
Background: Often elite athletes take part in group trainings and use teammates as learning resources. Despite this, research on the learning and development of elite athletes tends to characterize these processes as primarily individual. Purpose: This study explores interrelated learning processes among elite athletes by exploring the learning that takes place between elite trampoline athletes in their training environment. The case will be made that such learning may be described most accurately as apprenticeship learning. Participants: The research focuses on a case study involving two Danish synchronised trampoline jumpers, Daniel and Peter, and their training as part of the Danish national trampolining team. Data collection: The data were generated through participant observation. During the 10 days of observations, the principal researcher held informal talks with the athletes and the coach and took descriptive field notes. At the conclusion of the observation period, each athlete submitted to an individual, semi-structured interview. Data analysis: A theoretical reading of the data was carried out to facilitate interpretations that went beyond observations and the athletes’ own descriptions, in order to reach a deeper understanding of how practice facilitates learning. Results: We encircle the athletes’ interrelated learning processes by introducing the training environment of the national team and situations in which the athletes guide each other verbally or by jumping together. Discussion: We argue that the practice of the Danish national trampolining team can be considered a community of practice (CoP). Taking point of departure in our theoretical perspective we discuss how verbal and tacit bodily exchanges between athletes become opportunities for learning. Conclusion: In a practice containing varied resources for learning, we show that athletes can be each others’ performance analysts, guiding each other through the use of metaphors and cues which disclose the practical meaning of how to overcome specific practical challenges. We also show that the athletes can be each others’ sparring partners when they perform their sport together. In this form of interaction they directly feel and impact the other’s performance, which means that both athletes encounter opportunities for learning.
Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 2013, Vol 19, Issue 4, p. 383-397