OU Sport Research Group

Team members: Dr Caroline Heaney, Dr Nichola Kentzer, Dr Ben Langdown, Candice Lingam-Willgoss, Ben Oakley, Dr Helen Owton, Jessica Pinchbeck, Simon Rea, Dr Alex Twitchen, Gavin Williams, Jeremy Wilcock, Professor Emeritus Kath Woodward


Dr Caroline Heaney (@caheaney) is a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Fitness at The Open University. Her research interests primarily relate to the psychological aspects of sports injury, with a particular focus on the education and training of sports injury rehabilitation professionals such as physiotherapists. Her work evidences the value of sport psychology education to the attitudes and practices of these professionals and seeks to influence professional practice and training. Recent publications (full list available) include:

Caroline Heaney -2________________________________________________________

Dr Nichola Kentzer (@nicholakentzer) is a Lecturer in Sport, Exercise and Coaching at the Open University. Before starting as a full time academic at the university, she worked as an Associate Lecturer at the OU from 2010. Prior to moving full time to the OU, she worked as a higher education (HE) lecturer in sport and exercise science/psychology and teacher education for almost 10 years. Nichola’s specialist area is sport psychology. She is a British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) accredited and Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registered Sport Psychologist and has provided sport psychology support to a wide range of performers. Despite her professional qualifications and accreditations in sport psychology, Nichola completed her PhD in education, more specifically examining the experiences of in-service trainee teachers in further education with a focus on mentoring.


Dr Ben Langdown (@BenLangdown) is a lecturer in sports coaching at the Open University. His research interests lie in the fields of motor control, sports biomechanics, strength and conditioning and junior development in sport. Having been head of sports science for The PGA from (2005-2016) his previous research has a particular focus towards the sport of golf. Specifically, Ben has researched into the areas of movement variability and strength and conditioning for golf, exploring the differences between high and low skilled players as well as the relationships between physical screening and sports kinematics. His recent publications  (full list available) include:

  • Langdown, B.L., Wells, Jack E.T.; Graham, Sean and Bridge, Matt W. (2019), Acute effects of different warm-up protocols on highly skilled golfers’ drive performance, Journal of Sports Sciences, 37(6), pp. 656-664.
  • Langdown, B.L., Bridge, M.W. and Li, F.X., (2013). Impact Position Variability in Golfers of Differing Skill Level. International Journal of Golf Science2(2), pp.142-151.
  • Langdown, B.L., Bridge, M. and Li, F.X., (2012). Movement variability in the golf swing. Sports Biomechanics11(2), pp.273-287.

Ben Head Shot BW_MG_7090________________________________________________________

Candice Lingam-Willgoss (@caliwi) is a Lecturer in Sport and Fitness at The Open University. Her research interests primarily relate to issues related to exercise adherence as well as career transitions in sport. Candice is currently undertaking her PhD which is looking at risk and transitional experiences of elite sports women. Recent publications include:

  • Howells, K. & Lingam-Willgoss, C. (2016) Becoming a superhero: what are the limits of human performance? [online]  Openlearn
  • Lingam-Willgoss, C. (2015) The Colour of Success: Can uniform colour impact on team success? [online] Openlearn
  • Lingam-Willgoss, C. (2015) Will Davis Cup victory spur on a new generation of British tennis stars.  [online] The Conversation

C LW________________________________________________________

Ben Oakley (@Oakley212) is Senior Lecturer in Sport & Fitness. He originally established Sport and Fitness qualifications at the Open University in 2006 having previously been an Olympic Coach in windsurfing at the Seoul and Barcelona Games. The majority of Ben’s recent work explores talent development in sport. Ben is particularly interested in the complex blend of genetic, personal, environmental and practice/training factors that contribute to sporting success. Recent publications include:

  • Oakley, B. (2014). Podium: What Shapes a Sporting Champion?, Bloomsbury
  • Oakley, B. (2015). Insights from Chasing Perfection; a close look at how technology, data and the mind contribute to the fine margins of sustained sporting success, Channel 4.
  • Oakley, B. (2015). The other giant leap for mankind: how this athlete set a world record that’s still standing 20 years later, The Conversation, 5th August.


Dr Helen Owton (@Dr_HLO) is the Founder of The OU Sport Research Group, Chartered Psychologist and Lecturer in Sport and Fitness. Helen’s research specialisms lie in innovative qualitative investigations of sporting embodiment (and the embodiment of motorcycling), sensory work and gender. Helen has successfully supervised PhD students to completion, currently supervises 2 PhD students and welcomes applications from prospective PhD students in the areas of sport and physical activity. Links to her current projects can be found here (DanceAsthma), Video abstracts (AsthmaBoxing); and Podcasts. Recent publications (full list available) include:


Jessica Pinchbeck (@open_jessica) is a Lecturer in Sport and Fitness at The Open University. Her research interests primarily relate to youth sports participation, with a particular focus on the role of the family. Jessica is currently undertaking her PhD which comprises an ethnographic case study of a women’s netball club and within this a particular focus on the role of the family in female sports participation. Recent publications (full list available) include:

  • Pinchbeck, J. (2016) ‘Making young children give everything to football is a bad idea – here’s why’ [online] The Conversation.
  • Pinchbeck, J (2016) ‘Rugby: A game of risk and reward’ [online]. Openlearn.
  • Pinchbeck J. (2015) ‘Siblings in the scrum: long history of brothers makes rugby a family affair’ [online]. The Conversation.

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Simon Rea (@SimonRea4) is researching experiences of offender learners on sport and fitness courses. The aims of this project are to understand why degree level study of sport and fitness is popular with offender learners and their experiences of studying whilst in prison.  Also, he is interested in assessing the value of degree level study once offenders have been released from prison and the rates of recidivism. He has recently written a text book ‘Sports Science: A complete introduction’ and has contributed to 11 other text books. Recent publications include:

  • Rea, S. (2015). Sports Science: A complete introduction. London, John Murray Learning.
  • Rea, S. (2014). Mind Games: the psychiatrist hoping to help England stay in the World Cup. The Conversation.
  • Rea, S. (2016). European Championships 2016: Home Nations dare to dream or will it be an early Brexit? OpenLearn.



Dr Alex Twitchen (@etelligentcoach) is an experienced coach and coach developer with a passion for understanding and exploring how coaches learn and improve their practice. Alex also has an interest in motor sports and completed his PhD thesis examining the history of safety in motor racing. Alex has worked for a number of national bodies principally in designing curriculum and quality assurance processes around coach learning and development. Recent publications include:

  • Oakley, B. and Twitchen, A. (2018). How might online distance learning contribute to coach development, Applied Coaching Research Journal, 2(10), pp. 24-31.


Dr Kath Woodward (@woodward_kath) is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the Open University, where she was recently head of the sociology department. She works on feminist, psychosocial critical theories, embodiment and affect, mostly within the field of sport. Recent books include Embodied Sporting Practices, (Palgrave, 2009)Sex Power and the Games, (2012,Palgrave) on the explanatory reach of sex, gender and the idea of enfleshed selves and Sporting Times, (2012, Palgrave) on temporalities in sport, developing a conceptualization of the intensities and expressiveness of ‘real time’, which led to an invitation to curate the Chasing Time Exhibition at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne (June, 2014-January,2015). Kath has worked extensively on boxing which has led to publications, Boxing Masculinity and Identity, the “I” of the Tiger, (2006, Routledge )and Globalising Boxing, (Bloomsbury, 2014) and a film about boxing and art, A Bloody Canvas (RTE, 2010), about which she has written in journals. Ethnography, Sport in History and in Objects and Materials (2014, Routledge). Kath has taught interdisciplinary undergraduate social sciences and sociology and women’s studies at undergraduate and post graduate levels. She is the author of the popular introductory social sciences text, Social Sciences; the Big Issues (2013,Routledge, 3rd edition). She has also published on feminist theories and methods with Sophie Woodward, Why Feminism Matters, (2009, Palgrave) and the psychosocial approaches which inform much of her work, Introduction to Psychosocial Studies (Routledge, 2015). Kath is a co-editor of the journal Sociology and editor of Frontiers in Gender Sex and Sexuality. She was Principal Investigator with Tim Jordan on an AHRC funded project on ‘Being in the Zone’, in music, sport and the cultural industries, which inspires the forthcoming Culture, Intensity and Peak Performance: Being in the Zone, Routledge.

K Woodward


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