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Audio Forbes Carlile discusses development of Australian sports science, 2008

TLF ID R10262

This is an edited sound recording of the leading sports scientist and swimming coach Forbes Carlile speaking about his work in sports science. Carlile says that he worked under the 'father of sports science in Australia', Professor Frank Cotton. His own interest in the field was as a physiologist, measuring physical changes in the bodies of swimmers. He talks about how sports science has expanded beyond physiology into many other aspects of performance. The recording was made in October 2008.

Educational details

Educational value
  • Forbes Carlile (1921-) was one of the two main pioneers of sports science in Australia. He studied and worked at the University of Sydney from 1945 until 1955 under the leadership of Frank Cotton (1890-1955) and often described him as the father of Australian sports science. Together they initiated scientific training techniques in the 1940s and 1950s and were pioneers in the field of talent identification. Carlile later carried out important research into the physiological stress of training.
  • In this recording Carlile points out that at the time he began his work on the changing physiology of swimmers in training, little was known about the field. One result of this lack of knowledge was over-training of swimmers, causing the condition of 'failing adaptation' in which a workload greater than the body is used to leads to inadequate oxygen supply for the increased needs of the body. This problem can be addressed by better training methods.
  • While he was scientific adviser to the Australian swimming team for the 1960 summer Olympics in Rome, Carlile undertook a study that he mentions here. This study, conducted over two months of hard training in Townsville, became the central part of a book that he suggests became 'nearly a classic' in the world of sports science. The book, 'Forbes Carlile on swimming' (1963), has been described as the first modern book on competitive swimming.
  • Carlile tells how his 1963 book discussed the physiological changes that occurred in athletes' bodies as they underwent hard training, how these changes could be measured, and how this could help to determine an athlete's training program. Of particular significance was the book's promotion of the new concept of 'tapering', involving tapering off hard training and having enforced rest ahead of competition. This method is widely practised today.
  • The revolution in training techniques for swimmers that was promoted by Carlile from the 1940s was based on his knowledge of human physiology and reflected his interest in using scientific knowledge for the improvement of sports performance. His methods replaced earlier training methods that used short sessions of daily swimming with much longer programs of varied training, taking into account the body's ability to adapt to increased stress.
  • Carlile's work as a swimming coach, which began at Palm Beach north of Sydney in 1946, included being coach of the Australian Olympic teams in London in 1948 and Melbourne in 1956. In recognition of his outstanding coaching, he is honoured in the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. At the time of this recording in 2008, the company he founded with his wife Ursula was operating 11 swimming schools in Sydney.
Year level

6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • Science

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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
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  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia
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  • Person: Forbes Carlile
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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
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  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
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  • Audio
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