Obituary: Gordon Underwood
Tuesday 25 March 1997
Underwood was always impressed by physical achievement through determination. He was an early practitioner in Britain of "sport science" - the study of the mental skills of athletes. This year he had been working with a member of the British Mogul ski-team, Tim Dudgeon, preparing for the 1998 winter Olympics in Japan and had just written two new self-help sport psychology books, one for rugby players (Mental Skills Training for Rugby, 1996), the other for orienteers (Mental Skills Training for Orienteering, 1997, co-written with Steve Bird), which were the beginning of a planned series.
His first book, The Physical Education Curriculum in the Secondary School: planning and implementation, was published in 1983, followed by Teaching and Learning in Physical Education: a social psychological perspective, in 1988.
Underwood was born in 1933 in Lincolnshire, and as a boy was athletic and ambitious. He played rugby at Deacon's School, Peterborough, and was selected for Northampton county under-16 rugby team. After National Service in the Royal Army Service Corps he became a captain in the Territorial Army.
Between 1952 and 1954 he studied Physical Education at King Alfred's College, Winchester, and then at Loughborough College. In 1955 he was appointed assistant games master at Harrow County Boys' School. He took groups of Harrow County boys on rugby tours of France, packed into a minibus with tents, food, rugger kit and enthusiasm.
In 1963 he was one of the first students on the Advanced Course in Physical Education at Carnegie College, Leeds, and received his first lectureship there in 1964, aged 32. He was a natural leader and gifted teacher and his interest in the academic aspect of sport and education developed as knowledge of athletic performance advanced into areas of sociology and psychology. It was accepted at this time that in order to excel in any sport peak physical fitness was essential. What began to emerge was the realisation that the difference between winning and coming fourth was in the mind of the athlete; a psychological advantage was necessary.
In 1966 Underwood joined the staff at Nonington College of Physical Education in Kent. He was promoted to Principal Lecturer and then to Head of the large Department of Movement Studies. This degree course trained PE specialists and prospective sport scientists. Underwood became one of the few academic and practising sport scientists in the country.
Whilst at Nonington he received an MA from University College London and developed his interests in curriculum planning, skill acquisition and the performance of top athletes. Among his colleagues was the gymnast and international swimmer John Wright, a longtime friend.
After the government closure of Nonington in 1987, which Underwood handled with a fighting grace, he moved to the Sport Science Department at Christ Church College, Canterbury, developing and teaching the Sport Psychology area of the undergraduate course. He received his doctorate in 1989 and was made an Honorary Fellow of the University of Kent.
In the course of his career, Underwood worked in association with many professional organisations including the Lawn Tennis Association, the Rugby Football Union, the Sports Council and the under-16 Kent cricket team.
Gordon Underwood's passion for sport never diminished. He continued playing rugby, he ran a marathon; on his 60th birthday he descended the Olympic bob-sleigh run in La Plagne. In recent years he loved nothing better than a 10-mile bike ride in the woods, followed by an England rugby international on television. Four days before he died, suddenly and unexpectedly, he was in the French Alps with his son, skiing black runs at over 3,200 metres.
Gordon Leonard Underwood, sport psychologist: born Market Deeping, Lincolnshire 8 January 1933; Senior Lecturer, then Principal Lecturer and Head of the Department of Movement Studies, Nonington College of Physical Education 1966-87; Senior Lecturer in Sport Science, Christ Church College, Canterbury 1987-97; consultant lecturer, Goldsmiths' College, London 1994-97; married 1954 Beryl Adamson (one son, one daughter); died Barham, Kent 11 March 1997.
When teaching the meaning of Christmas backfires
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...