3 Tips for the new AQA AS/A2 PE Specification 2016

This blog follows on from the previous one in trying to provide information about the new topics in the AQA AS and A-level specifications, trying to be helpful by providing suitable notes / explanations of each (most) of this new content.

In the previous blog, we looked at venous return and vitamins and minerals; stability and Vygotsky; today we’ll investigate the history of mob football, real tennis and the Much Wenlock Olympic Games together with the emergence of female performers in football, tennis and athletics.

History of mob football and real tennis

We should all be familiar with the idea of popular recreation and mob football because of the current specification, so we’ll not go there.

Real Tennis was played long before the industrial revolution, but was very much ‘exclusive’ to the upper classes, and as such can be looked at as a contrasting activity to mob football.

Real tennis was (and still is) played on an indoor court that has unique features. You should ‘Google’ the sport to find images or the court to show students. Unlike mob football, real tennis had complex rules which links to the idea that the players were upper class, educated and could therefore read! Being upper class the pre-industrial players would play the game to a strict moral code and in a civilised manner showing respect to their opponents. You should compare that side of the game to the occurrences in mob football.

Whereas mob football was occasional and spontaneous, the upper classes had the time to play real tennis on a regular basis because of their extensive leisure time. In a similar vein, travel was not a problem for the upper classes and so real tennis could be described as non-local. The game was played in purpose-built suitable facilities and used specialised equipment / technology e.g. rackets. With standardised equipment the game became highly skilful to cope with the technical demands of the complex court and rules.

Rural communities in pre-industrial times often established festivals to celebrate certain times through the year, such as ‘harvest festival’. These festivals would contain demonstrations of athletic ability and became competitive.

Much Wenlock Olympic Games

The Much Wenlock Olympian Society (not ‘Olympian Games’; the spec’s wrong!) is an example of such a festival. Again a simple ‘Googling’ of the name will provide extensive resources.

The Much Wenlock games almost fits in-between the ideas of mob football and real tennis. It was organised, but with simple, unwritten rules. The events were local and included running, hurdling, but also football and cycling. The Much Wenlock festival was annual, not spontaneous or regular, and took place in a rural location. There was restricted entry for some events and prizes awarded (usually be upper class patrons) for the winners. So at these festivals there was some mixing of the different classes. The presence of athletic events and the upper classes meant that gambling and the placing of wagers was common.

Mob football was very much male dominated and the sport remained that way during rationalisation and the early development of the Football League and professional teams. With the outbreak of World War One (1914-18) there was a growth in women’s football as a means of mass entertainment while the men were away at war. By 1921 there were 150 teams, mainly playing in the North and Midlands to very large crowds, but when the men returned from war, interest in women’s football declined. During this and the subsequent second World War (1939-45), the myths and stereotypes that had previously pervaded society about the capabilities of women broke down. The Women’s Football Association was formed in 1969 and by 2002, football had become the most popular sport for women.

Emergence of female performers

The increase in interest of women’s football was led by the advent of drive towards equal opportunities. More sports, including football, were becoming available and socially acceptable. Other factors that have led to the surge of interest in women’s football included the increased media coverage of women’s football. There are also more female roles models as performers, coaches and officials. There is more provision through school PE programmes and extra-curricular opportunities. There has been increased approval and even encouragement from FA, such that the Women’s FA Cup Final being held at Wembley. More clubs have and are forming at local, and ‘professional’ levels leading to increased participation through more funding into grass roots as well as elite level. Women’s traditional domestic role has decreased in importance, giving them more free time.

While the upper classes played Real Tennis and still do so today in the limited number of courts, the emerging middle classes invented their own variation called lawn tennis, which was suited to suburban housing and gardens with lawns. The lower classes were excluded from participation by presence of walls and hedges that ensured the segregation of the sport. Unusually for the time, women were ‘allowed’ to play, because the sport was played in isolation and they remained suitably dressed; lawn tennis suited women because of its dress code and the lack of exertion. The middle classes went on to establish ‘private’ tennis clubs, which excluded the working classes through costs and/or membership rules. The middle classes purchased tennis ‘kit’ that contained a rulebook that standardised the game as it was played to the same rules no matter where it was played. Tennis allowed respectable mixing; it was a good ‘social game’ as both sexes could play. The game eventually spread to the working class through provision of courts in public parks.

Tennis is one of the few sports where women are regarded as equal to men. The Women’s Tennis Association had a professional circuit in late 20th century; women played in ‘open’ events and organised their own tournaments. By 1980 there were 250 women playing tennis professionally. Since 2007 there has been equal prize money available for both men and women at US Open and Wimbledon. Professional players have the potential to earn large incomes; in 2013 Serena Williams won $12 million in prize money. There are now lots of female role models receiving large sponsorship deals and there is world-wide media coverage of women’s elite tennis tournaments.

The development of women’s athletics has followed a different path. Early track and field events were for men as was seen as ‘unladylike’ for women to over-exert themselves and become exhausted. There was also the problem of the clothing required to perform athletic events being seen as ‘inappropriate’ for women. The Women’s Amateur Athletic Association was not founded until 1922. The men who ran the International Olympic Committee limited women’s involvement and women were not allowed to compete at Olympic track and field events until 1928, and even then there were no races above 400 m until 1960. The first Olympic marathon for women was not until1984, with the first triple jump event in1996 and the first hammer Olympic event in 2000. Even in these days of equality, athletics remains divisive, for example there is the women’s heptathlon, while the men compete in the decathlon.

The development of Title IX in 1972 in the US prohibited gender discrimination in American schools and colleges. This led to a massive increase in participation in athletics by women, which was spread by globalisation. This quickly dispelled the negative myths and stereotypes about women’s capabilities. In the 2012 Olympics, women competed in every sport. The current Diamond League athletics has equality in terms of numbers of female participants and distribution of prize money, but there is still less than 10% of the media coverage given to women’s athletics.

Hope this helps some people. We’ll cover more – The key data terms qualitative and quantitative; Definitions, equations and units of example scalars; Understanding the impact of physical activity and sport on the health and fitness of the individual; Impact of poor lifestyle choices on the respiratory system and The health, fitness and social benefits of raising participation in the next blog.

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