Sociology of Sport

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What is the social role of sport? To what extent does social structure influence the practice and experience of sport? Discuss in relation to two of the following: gender, class, ethnicity or Aboriginality, or region. Illustrate your answer with at least three examples from sporting contexts (local or international).

Sport plays a huge role in today’s society. It contributes to one’s health and fitness, social interaction, social and motor skills, patriotism, fun and entertainment. It also stimulates the economy and tourism leading to interaction between different cultures, for example the Olympics, and sport role models. Sports clearly are an important part of cultures and societies around the world as such events as the Olympics and soccer’s World Cup capture the interest of billions of people. Sports and sport images have become a “pervasive part of our everyday lives, especially for those living where resources are relatively plentiful and the media is widespread” (Coakley, 2003, p. 12).

Gender refers to the “female and male differences created by social, cultural, historical and political expectations about behaviour, interests, abilities and attitudes to men and women in sport” (Jarvie, 2006, p. 309). Throughout history, society has clearly defined the roles that men and women were expected to play. In these roles, men were seen as both physically and mentally stronger, and women were seen as more gentle, caring and physically and mentally weaker than men. Men participating in sports which demonstrate grace and elegance was not, and to some extent, is still not considered to be what society terms “norm”. Because of this, male athletes can be placed under pressure to succeed so that they can maintain an image of masculinity. For example, one of the most commonly used insults is to say that “so-and-so throws like a girl” or “so-and-so runs like a girl.” Poor male performance in sports is compared with a female’s natural performance....
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