Dr Robert Townsend

Robert Townsend

Lecturer in Sport Coaching and Pedagogy

Qualifications: BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD

Personal Website:

About Robert

Prior to joining Te Huataki Waiora School of Health at the University of Waikato, I completed my PhD at Loughborough University researching coaching in disability sport.

I am currently researching coaching across the disability sport pathway from community through to elite and Paralympic sport. In particular, I am interested in working closely with disability sport organisations to produce evidence-based resources to support Para coach development.

I have extensive experience of coaching in disability sport. Until recently I worked in the England and Wales Cricket Board's disability performance pathway with the national learning disability squad. I have consulted for Paralympics New Zealand, Special Olympics New Zealand and the European Paralympic Committee on para coach education. Most recently, I was invited to join the International Council for Coaching Excellence Para Coaching working group with other leading academics to develop a strategy for Para sport coaching across the European Union.

Check out these podcasts where I discuss my research:

In addition, I regularly serve as a reviewer for a number of international journals such as Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, Sport, Education and Society, Sports Coaching Review, International Sport Coaching Journal, The Sociological Review, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Sociology of Sport Journal, Psychology of Sport and Exercise, and Journal of Applied Sport Psychology.

Papers Taught

Research Supervised

I am willing to consider the supervision of graduate and postgraduate students interested in working in the fields of sociology, pedagogy and disability studies with sport and sports coaching as the focus. Specifically, students with a background in qualitative research are encouraged. My current areas of focus are:

Coach education, learning and development.

Disability sport.

Coaching and social policy.

PhD students

Amanda Lowry, Para athlete welfare, November 2019 -

Catriona McBean, Disability, sport and inclusion November 2019 -

Francis Asare, Disability, sport and assistive technology, February 2020 -

Research Interests

My research interests lie broadly within a framework of the sociology of sports coaching and the use of qualitative methodologies. I have a dual focus. First, my research bridges disability studies and the sociological study of sport. Second, I am interested in understanding the coaching process from community to high performance sport, with a particular focus on coaches' learning and development.

Recent Publications

  • Townsend, R. C., & Cushion, C. J. (2020). ‘Put that in your fucking research’: reflexivity, ethnography and disability sport coaching. Qualitative Research. doi:10.1177/1468794120931349 Open Access version:

  • Cushion, C. J., & Townsend, R. C. (2018). Technology-enhanced learning in coaching: a review of literature. Educational Review, 1-19. doi:10.1080/00131911.2018.1457010

  • Townsend, R., Huntley, T., Cushion, C., & Fitzgerald, H. (2018). ‘It’s not about disability, I want to win as many medals as possible’: The social construction of disability in high-performance coaching. International Review for the Sociology of Sport. doi:10.1177/1012690218797526

  • Townsend, R. C., Cushion, C. J., & Smith, B. (2017). A social relational analysis of an impairment-specific mode of disability coach education. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 10(3), 346-361. doi:10.1080/2159676X.2017.1407355

Find more research publications by Robert Townsend


Disabilities; Elite Athletes; Inclusive Education; Learning and Education; Pedagogy; Professional Learning; Social Issues in Sport; Sociology; Special Education; Sports

Coaching, Coach Education, Coach Development, Disability Sport, Qualitative Research, Social Theory

Contact Details

Name  Extn.  Username  Room  Department
Townsend, Dr Robert 9491 rtownsen TT.6.13 Te Huataki Waiora - School of Health

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