Extreme Sports: Theorizing Participation

Topics: Risk, Climbing, Extreme sport Pages: 11 (3594 words) Published: June 25, 2013
Extreme Sports: Theorizing participation
- A Challenge for Phenomenology -
Extreme Sports: Theorizing participation
Introduction
The phrase ‘Extreme Sport’ has developed into an all-encompassing umbrella term for those activities that are traditionally associated with risk-takers or ‘adrenalin junkies’ (Lambton, 2000). Skateboarding, street luge, snow sports, mountain sports, moto-cross and surfing are just some examples of such sports. Participation in these activities has been considered as the expression “of a death wish” (Slanger & Rudestam, 1997, p. 355) and athletes were seen as emotionally unhealthy (Ogilvie, 1974) or crazy (Groves, 1987). Equally, research was invariably interested in the negative aspects of risk-taking (Farley, 1991). However as Brannigan and McDougall (1987) pointed out:

Stereotypes affect not only our perceptions of what we believe high-risk sportsmen to be like but also what we believe others believe them to be like. This affects our judgment regarding expectations of others, and consequently, identity-formation assumes an aspect of the self-fulfilling prophecy (p. 47).

Whilst for some participants there may be a desire for death, perhaps there is more to it. For many, these activities have resulted in positive personal changes (Brannigan and McDougall, 1987). Perhaps also, for some, there is a link to a‘modern-day rite of passage’ (Groves, 1987, p. 193). It may even be that participants have a powerful ‘life wish’ and a desire to experience what is possible.

The aim of this paper is to explore the extreme sport experience by reviewing current understandings through the literature. This paper will argue that research has focused on positing limited theoretical perceptions about the extreme sport experience. There is a focus on risk and often findings show little real difference between the extreme sport experience and any other activity. The overall conclusion being that not only does current research not help with our understanding of the extreme sport experience but perhaps, ironically, hinders any such understanding. The paper concludes by proposing a different perspective to developing a more complete picture of the extreme sport experience.

Defining the boundaries
It would seem that research studies have considered, perhaps naïvely, that extreme sports are just further along the risk continuum than high-risk sports. On the surface extreme sports do have similarities with many high-risk sports, in that they are self-initiated, typically occur in the natural-environment, and have limited outcome certainty. However, extreme sports differ from high-risk sports in that an ineffectively managed accident or mistake has the almost unavoidable potential for death where as for the high-risk activity the result is usually restricted to injury (Hunt, 1996, 1995). Examples of extreme sport activities that are encompassed by this definition are BASE-jumping, extreme skiing, extreme kayaking, solo climbing and high level solo mountaineering. Interestingly, normal risk has been defined as risk that is culturally accepted as related to skill and experience (Hunt, 1995). Perhaps those involved in the‘culture’ (if there is such a concept) of extreme sports would consider the risk relationship as normal. As such, it may be that participation in extreme sports has little to do with a desire for risk?

A review of the literature indicates that whilst high-risk activities have received considerable attention, very few papers have discussed the extreme sport experience. Further, as we have noted, the focus has been on the link with risk- taking. Despite this limited viewpoint, it is possible to differentiate between a sport that is high-risk and one that is extreme (Hunt, 1995; Slanger & Rudestam, 1997). The following sections consider those studies that have explicitly considered extreme sports. First, despite the comments above, the concept of risk is examined followed...
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Extreme Sports Essay
  • Extreme Sports Essay
  • Extreme Sports Essay
  • Extreme Sports Essay
  • Extreme Sports: What Influences Particpation in Extreme Sports? Essay
  • Extreme Sports Essay
  • Extreme Sports Essay
  • Essay on Extreme Sports

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free