Sociology of sport
, alternately referred to as "sports sociology", is an area of sociology
that focuses on sport
as a social phenomenon and on the social and cultural structures, patterns, and organizations
or groups engaged in sport.
There are many perspectives from which sport can be referred to. Therefore, very often some binary divisions are stressed, such as: professional — amateur, mass — top-level, active — passive/spectator, men — women, sports - play (as an antithesis to organized and institutionalized activity). Following feminist or other reflexive and tradition-breaking paradigms sports are sometimes studied as contested activities, i.e. as activities in the centre of various people/groups interests (connection of sports and gender, mass media, or state-politics).
The emergence of the sociology of sport (though not the name itself) dates from the end of the 19th century, when first social psychological experiments dealing with group effects of competition and pace-making took place. Besides cultural anthropology and its interest in games in the human culture, one of the first efforts to think about sports in more general way was Johan Huizinga's "Homo Ludens" or Thorstein Veblen's "Theory of the Leisure Class".
So the first texts on sport sociology appeared in the early 1920s; however, this sub-discipline of sociology did not fully develop until the 1960s, prominently in Europe and North America. Scholars from both physical education and sociology formed the base of the International Committee for the Sociology of Sport (ICSS) in Geneva (1964). The organisation was formally founded in Warsaw (1965), presently known as the International Sociology of Sport Association (ISSA) One year after the first international seminar, "Small Group Research and Sport", took place at the University of Cologne (1966). Since then international symposia and meetings are held on the regular basis. ISSA co-operates with national and regional organisation. It continuously tries to exchange information between national bodies, identify current problems and organise research programmes. There are now some well established research centres throughout the world, e.g. University of Waterloo (Canada), Loughborough University (England), Seoul National University (South Korea), or University of Otago (New Zealand).
Scholars from various countries contributed to development of this relatively new branch of sociology. E.g. Harry Edwards, former Professor at UC Berkeley and professional sports consultant to the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League.
Current research areas include: sport and socialisation, sport and social stratification, sport subcultures, the political economy of sport, sport and deviance, sport and the media, sport, the body and the emotions, sports violence, sport politics and national identity, sport and globalisation.
Several colleges and universities currently teach courses in sociology of sport, and graduate degree majors are offered at an increasing number of schools.
The History of Sociology of Sport in North America
The 1st Annual Conference of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS) took place in 1980. It attracted about 100 participants and attracted many new scholars to the field. The second conference, in November 1981, stimulated over a twofold increase in the number of participants and scholarly researchers. The second conference proved that the NASSS was a viable organization and it has continued to expand today.
Sociology and the Sports Fan
Sports fans can be perceived as a positive force for both individuals and society or as having a predominantly negative impact on society. Sports fans can be separated into sport fans and sport spectators. Sport fans are individuals who are interested in and follow a sport, team, and/or athlete. Sport spectators are those indivuals who actively witness a sporting event in person or through some form of media.
The Desire to Follow Sport, Teams, and Athletes
A recent study asked ninety-one college students to state why they originally began and continued to follow their current favorite sport team. In addition they were told to list the reasons why they stopped following a formerly favorite team. The most common reason for supporting a team was that their parents were supporters, followed by the talent and characteristics of players. Surprisingly, success of the team was only the fifth most common reason for originally identifying with a team. Though when the same fans were asked why they continue to support their team, the success of the team was the number one reason.
The Functions of Sport Fandom for Society
Sport has had and continues to have a tremendous impact on society and its members. Studies conducted in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s revealed that at least two-thirds of Americans considered themselves to be a sport fan. The reason that most Americans identify themselves as being sports fans while some others have no interest at all in sport can be explained through sport socialization process. Socialization is defined as the process of learning to live in and understand a culture or subculture by internalizing its values, beliefs, attitudes, and norms. There are four sources that are mainly responsible for teaching the values, beliefs, attitudes, and norms of sport fandom. They are called socialization agents. They include the individuals family, peers, school, and community.
Males and females have been found to have different patterns of sport fan socialization. Males are most often influenced by their peers, followed by family and school. The community is not a significant agent in the sport fan socialization of males. As for females, family had the greatest influence, followed by peer groups. The community did have a significant impact on the socialization of females, but to a less significant degree than family and peers. School is not a significant agent at all for females.
Also, the socialization process does differ from one sport to another and among different ethnic groups. The values, beliefs, attitudes, and norms held by European soccer hoolgans differ greatly from those held by North American golf fans. Further, different sport settings give rise to different fan cultures. A good example to look at would be ticket lines. A sports ticket line has been stated as being "a miniature social system...formulating its own set of inormal rules." Other examples include restrooms, "tailgating parties," sport memorabilia conventions, and Internet chat rooms.
Sport Fan Motivation
Families that are highly involved as sports fans generally have a high percentage of children that become socialized into the sport fan role. Though this does not always ensure that they will become sport fans. Although they are well aware of the values, beliefs, attitudes, and norms of the sport fan culture, they are not encouraged to engage in the activity by any perceived benefits. Similarly, some individuals who are only casually socialized in the sport fan role may become highly involved fans because they are strongly motivated by several specific factors. There are dozens of motives, but researchers and theorists have identified the following as being the most common: group affiliation, family, aesthetic, self-esteem, economic, eustress,escape, and entertainment.
The Group Affiliation Motive
is possibly the most common of the major motives. In this motive, the individual is motivated to participate in sport as a fan because it provides an opportunity to spend time with others. Sport spectating is a social activity that tends to be consumed in a group environment. For some individuals, it is precisely the social nature of sport spectating that attracts them to it. They are motivated by the group affiliation motive, that is, a desire to spend time with others.
Sport fandom and sport spectating can help fulfill the human need for social interaction by providing a sense of belongingness. The fact that most spectators consume sport as a member of a social group suggests that fans do indeed use sport to satisfy social interaction needs. A study that was done after an Ohio State football victory on the streets of Columbus, Ohio found that 74 percent of fans reported being with one or more friends. Another study found that 95 percent of spectors attending college basketball games bought tickets that allowed them to sit with friends.
Deviance in Sports
Deviance is defined as any behavior that violates, or goes against, social norms. There is no exception in sports. Many athletes choose to be deviant through cheating, steroid and drug abuse, alcohol abuse, etc. There are many reasons why athletes choose to participate in deviant behavior. Some think they are above the law because they are professional athletes. Some are deviant because they want to gain an edge against their competition.
In today's sports, there is an increasing demand to be the best. This is a major reason why many athletes are deviant through anabolic steroid abuse. The goals of individuals who use anabolic steroids and related substances in sport and exercise are dependent upon the activity in which they participate. Bodybuilders desire more lean mass and less fat. Weightlifters desire to lift the maximum amount of weight possible. Field athletes want to put the shot, or throw the hammer, discus or javelin, farther than their competitors or holders of previous records. Swimmers and runners hope to be able to perform frequent, high intensity, long duration workouts without physical breakdown. American football players want to increase lean mass and strength, so that they can be successful at the high school, university or professional level. Other anabolic steroids users simply want to look good, which to many people means being big and muscular. This is why many athletes choose to be deviant and use anabolic steroids, to gain the edge it takes to be the best.
- Squashblog - media coverage of a minority sport
- International Sociology of Sport Association
- North American Society for the Sociology of Sport
- Sociology of Sport Journal
- University of Leicester, MA Sociology of Sport
- Loughborough University, MSc Sociology of Sport
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