It is only since 1970 that sports sociology has gained significant attention as a serious area of study. This is in part owing to the increasing major role sports play in our lives and the intellectual traditions in both physical education and sociology. In 1978, the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport was organized as a professional association; and its scholarly outlet for research, the Sociology of Sport Journal, was established in 1984.
The International Committee for Sociology of Sport is acknowledged within the International Sociological Association, and both groups co-sponsor the International Review for the Sociology of Sport. Another scholarly publication for sports sociology research is the Journal for Sport and Social Issues, thus confirming support for and the growth of this subdiscipline of exercise science.
Ways to study sociologic phenomena in sports rapidly became an issue with scholars as sports sociology was striving for legitimacy within the academic community. Kenyon and Loy defined sports sociology as the “study of social order”; and in later works, Kenyon set the tone for sociology of sports to take a positive perspective, noting that sports sociology is a “value-free social science” in which the researcher is to describe and explain values and attitudes not shape them. However, value-laden research is also undertaken when various perspectives and theories are used to study sports. For example,
The feminist perspective as a part of critical theory is obviously a value-laden approach, as is the conflict theorist’s approach; but bias is recognized, acknowledged, and analyzed carefully within these approaches.
Sociology of sports poses critical and controversial issues. Because sports are considered a microcosm of society, the same social issues that exist in larger society also exist in sports.
Sociology uses critical and conflicting approaches that force us to explore alternative ways to view the place and organization of sports in bur society as well as how issues and problems presented by sports in society affect individuals.
Again, the issues and controversies that sports sociology uncovers are the same ones reflected in our society. Included in the numerous issues of sports are the concepts of values, race, gender, ethnicity, class, sexuality, age, ability, politics, religion, and economics.
If, in fact, sports are a microcosm of society and/or mirrors society, we see an important reflection and thus must deal with the issues that are revealed. This chapter presents sociologic theories, or different approaches to thinking about sports and the issues that influence sports in our society. By becoming aware of these critical areas of sports sociology, students will:
. Develop social awareness and social consciousness of factors and issues that affect sports.
. Be cognizant of the consequences of various forms of social organization.
. Be able to critically examine their own life experiences in relation to their own sports participation.
. Explore how sports, in whatever form, can be used to provide opportunities for those who lack access, power, and opportunity.
. Examine how social justice and social change can be achieved in sports settings.
As a result of gaining this knowledge and understanding, students will approach the scholarly study of exercise science via an inclusive perspective rather than a narrowly focused and exclusive one.