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Philosophy 2012

Philosophy 2012, erm, am I allowed to write that?

Thinking Space’s contribution to London 2012 has been two short films commissioned by The University of Leeds and funded by the Wellcome Trust.

The films explore ethical issues that face the parents, coaches and teachers of young athletes. In the case below we looked at the price paid for Olympic success in gymnastics. The films feature real athletes playing fictional parts but the details of training schedules and medical, psychological, and nutritional interventions come from our research.

Feel free to share the case below as a stimulus for students aged 14 upwards.


Rosie is 13 and has been doing gymnastics since she was four. During this time her mother Laura has been very supportive taking her to classes and competitions regularly and in recent years she has also taken her to private doctors, physiotherapists and nutritionists at significant cost of time and money.

Rosie is a very talented gymnast and has always been very enthusiastic and motivated. However as she has begun to compete nationally her schedule has become far more demanding and sometimes, especially on weekends, she doesn’t feel like training. Her Mum has noticed that she can be reluctant to get up early in the morning and can be undisciplined with her diet. Over the past year her involvement in gymnastics has also taken its toll on the rest of the family: both her father Dan and two younger brothers expressing unhappiness about the amount of time Rosie and her Mum spend away from home. In the past six months Rosie’s parents have separated and Dan has moved out of the family home.

Last year Rosie fractured her fifth metatarsal whilst training and has found the long recovery quite gruelling. Her Doctor has told the family that Rosie is almost back to health and so Laura expects that her daughter should soon start to find enjoyment in gymnastics once again. In the mean time she sees it as her responsibility to keep her on the right track and help her overcome this temporary dip motivation in order to achieve her long-term goal to represent the UK nationally perhaps even at the Olympics.

Rosie’s Dad Dan takes a different view. He see’s gymnastics as a hobby that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. He suspects that his estranged wife is pushing their daughter too hard especially since their separation. He is aware that his wife was a competitive gymnast when she was younger and fears that she might be encouraging their daughter to fulfil some of her unrealised ambitions.

Rosie herself is confused, sometimes she loves gymnastics and sometimes she can’t be bothered. She is very aware of the views of both of her parents and feels like a decision to quit or to reengage with her training will risk upsetting one of them

As Dan no longer lives with Rosie, he feels less able to influence her upbringing. He has considered speaking to Rosie’s coach about the intensity of his daughter’s training but feels that the competitive culture at the club and the clique of regularly attending Mums might be hostile to his criticisms. He loves his daughter and wants what is best for her but he is very worried that by pushing her hard when she is just entering her teenage years, they are putting her at risk of physical and perhaps even psychological harm.

Rosie’s Dad doesn’t know what to do.


The films have been made with friends Ogle Film & Media as part of the University of Leeds ‘Physiology and pharmacology of performance enhancement in sport 2012 Project’ Supported by the Wellcome Trust. Watch them here in August

This post is by Grace

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