‘Letters to an early career academic’: Learning from the advice of the physical education and sport pedagogy professoriate

Eimear Enright, Steven Rynne, Laura Georgina Alfrey

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)


    Taking our lead from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, this project represents our attempt to stimulatedialogue between 30 physical education and sport pedagogy (PESP) early career academics (ECAs)and 11 PESP professors. First, the ECAs were invited to write a narrative around their experiences asPESP ECAs. Second, a narrative analysis was undertaken and three composite ECA letters wereconstructed. Third, these letters were shared with the professoriate, who were each invited towrite a letter of response. Finally, six of the professors participated in a symposium, whichfocused on the letters. The professors’ letters and the transcripts of the symposium constitute the dataset for this paper. While the larger project engages with ECA voices this paper focuses on how the professors construct the university and PESP and the implications of these constructions for how they advise and mentor ECAs. Theoretically, we recruit the work of Pierre Bourdieu, and nascent ideas about mentoring, to challenge our interpretive complacency, and help us think ingenerative ways about the data. Our analysis engages with three broad themes: constructions of the university; constructions of PESP; and constructions of self. Findings suggest that while much of the professorial advice might be interpreted as targeted towards the development of more accomplished neoliberal subjects, there was some evidence of a more radical, collegial mentoring of sorts, through advice that foregrounded strategies of resistance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)22-39
    Number of pages18
    JournalSport, Education and Society
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • Bourdieu
    • Early Career
    • Mentoring
    • Narrative
    • Neoliberal University

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