OU Sport & Fitness Research Cluster

Sport and Fitness Research Cluster:

Lead: Dr Ben Langdown

Convenor: Steph Doehler

Cluster members: Steph Doehler, Dr Jane DorrianDr Caroline Heaney, Dr Nichola Kentzer, Dr Ben Langdown, Candice Lingam-Willgoss, Dr Jim Lusted, Kieran McCartney, Professor Ben Oakley, Dr Helen Owton, Simon PennDr Jessica Pinchbeck, Simon Rea, Dr Alex Twitchen, Gavin Williams, Jeremy Wilcock, Nigel WrightProfessor Emeritus Kath Woodward


Steph Doehler is an academic at the Open University, having joined as a Staff Tutor in 2020, and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She has also been an Associate Lecturer since 2016. Steph is a sport sociologist, and her current research focuses centre on athlete activism, media framing, and the social construction of athletes.

  • Doehler, S. (2022). Role model or quitter? Social media’s response to Simone Biles at Tokyo 2020. In: Center for Sociocultural Sport and Olympic Research – annual conference, 18-19 Mar 2022, California State University, Fullerton.
    URL: https://www.cssor.org/
  • Doehler, S. (2021). Taking the star-spangled knee: the media framing of Colin Kaepernick. Sport in Society (Early Access).
  • Doehler, S. (2021). A hero’s journey: the monomythical narrative of Diego Maradona’s World Cup appearances. Funes. Journal of Narratives and Social Sciences, 5 pp. 4–17.


Dr Jane Dorrian is a Staff Tutor at The Open University. Her PhD investigated the professional identities of early years practitioners and this is still a research area that Jane is interested  and active in. She is also involved in projects that explore physical literacy in the early years.

  • Dorrian, J. (2022). Rethinking the Design of School Readiness Assessments. In: Betts, A. L. and Thai, K-P. eds. Handbook of Research on Innovative Approaches to Early Childhood Development and School Readiness. Advances in Early Childhood and K-12 Education (AECKE). Hershey, Pennsylvania: IGI Global, pp. 96–112.
  • Dorrian, J. (2021). An exploration of factors affecting the baseline assessment scores of children attending morning or afternoon sessions in nursery settings in Wales. Early Years (Early Access).


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 Senior 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:


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

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Dr Jim Lusted (@DrJimLusted) is a  Lecturer in Sport and Fitness at The Open University. Jim’s research interests revolve around a critical examination of social inequalities in sport, focusing particularly on the structural and institutionalised barriers to participation for minoritised social groups. He has undertaken commissioned research for several institutions including The Football Association, The England and Wales Cricket Board, The Youth Sport Trust, Sporting Equals, Northamptonshire Sport and the Northampton Leisure Trust.

He has a particular interest in grassroots, recreational sport, developed from his PhD thesis completed in 2009 which investigated the implementation of The FA’s equality policy into grassroots football. More recently he has turned attention to the social barriers to sport coaching, having recently co-edited the Routledge collection ”Race’, Ethnicity, Racism and Sport Coaching’.

Jim’s full list of publications can be found on his Google Scholar profile here and his ORCID ID is available here .


Kieran McCartney has been a Staff Tutor in the School of Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport (ECYS) since August 2017 and a Tutor in Sport and Fitness since 2008. He also works as a Tutor in the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.


Ben Oakley (@Oakley212) is Professor in Sports Performance Education. 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:


Dr Helen Owton (@Dr_HLO) founded The OU Sport Research Group in 2015. Helen is a Chartered Psychologist and Lecturer in Sport and Fitness. Her 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:


Simon Penn is a Sport, Fitness and Coaching lecturer who joined the Open University in 2013 as a tutor and became a full time academic in 2018.

In 2017, Simon co-edited the book ‘Advanced Personal Training: Science to practice’.  The book reviews scientific literature to identify optimal training strategies for fitness instruction and programming.  The book enables health and fitness industry specialists to combine professional experience with strategies underpinned by scientific evidence.

Simon is currently researching the optimal method of delivering feedback in an online environment.  He is researching the innovative use of screencasting for increasing the personal, and supportive nature of feedback and has recently published an article examining the impact of the feedback medium on student learning:


Dr Jessica Pinchbeck (@open_jessica) is a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Fitness at The Open University. Jessica’s research interests lie within female sports participation across the lifespan, which also includes the influence of the family on sport particpation. Her PhD thesis investigated the sociolocultural influences of women’s participation in netball, including the role of the family during childhood and into adulthood.

Jessica’s work is designed to promote and raise awareness of the importance of the sociocultural factors that influence female sports participation and influence those involved in coaching female athletes in sport as well as educating parents on how they can support their child.  Recent publications (full list available) include:

Jess P


Simon Rea (@SimonRea4) is a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Fitness. He 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. (2016). European Championships 2016: Home Nations dare to dream or will it be an early Brexit? OpenLearn.
  • 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.



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:


Nigel Wright joined The Open University in 2009 as an Associate Lecturer and is currently a Lecturer in Sport and Fitness with expertise in exercise science and training. Nigel’s research interests are within exercise science and the quality of educational practice.


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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