Dr Robert Townsend

Robert Townsend

Senior Lecturer in Sport Coaching and Pedagogy

Qualifications: BSc (Hons) Sheffield Hallam, MSc, PhD Loughborough University

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 support Para coach development and inclusion.

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:

I am a member of the International Sport Coaching Journal and Sports Coaching Review editorial boards. 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 an interest in the use and advancement of qualitative research methods are encouraged.

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

  • McBean, C., Townsend, R., & Petrie, K. (2022). An historical analysis of disability sport policy in Aotearoa New Zealand. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics. doi:10.1080/19406940.2022.2052147

  • Townsend, R., & Cushion, C. (2022). Understanding disability and cultural (re)production: An ethnography of coaching practice in high performance disability sport. Sociology, 003803852110732. doi:10.1177/00380385211073229

  • Lowry, A., Townsend, R., Petrie, K., & Johnston, L. (2022). ‘Cripping’ care in disability sport: An autoethnographic study of a highly impaired high-performance athlete.. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health. doi:10.1080/2159676X.2022.2037695

  • Townsend, R. C., Huntley, T. D., Cushion, C. J., & Culver, D. (2021). Infusing disability into coach education and development: a critical review and agenda for change. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy. doi:10.1080/17408989.2021.1873932

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, Pedagogy, Disability Sport, Qualitative Research, Social Theory