Sociology of sports is a field of sociology that perceives sports from a social perspective. One may consider irrelevant to view sports from a social perspective but understanding of different areas of sports social aspects reveals the key role of sociology in sports. I will briefly discuss importance of sociology in sports by highlighting some of binary divisions common to this field.
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Importance of Sociology in Sports
Understanding social relationships between sport participants is the basis of the need to study sports from a sociological perspective. Common binary divisions in the study of sports from a sociological perspective expose importance of the field. For example, it is important to study and understand the relationship shared between the amateur and professional.
This social relationship is comparable to the social interaction shared between a leader and follower. The amateur develops sports skills by socializing (engaging in the sports) with the professional who serves as the mentor. Social relationships established between both parties go beyond a mere physical competitive activity and changes experienced by both parties from their interaction reveal presence of sociology in the activity.
Deeper understanding of importance of sports sociology is achieved through exploring social variables that are obvious in sports activities. Apart from examining the mentor/learner relationship created by sports, another important area of this discipline is presence of gender issues in sports. Gender issues are central to sociology as the discipline defines the roles of males and females in different aspects of society. The study of female engagement in a sport or certain sports is an aspect of sports sociology that cannot be overemphasized. The fact that women are less engaged in certain sports is a question that can only be resolved by combining sociology and sports.
Sports sociology can also be viewed from a broader perspective through analysis of the impact sports have on the society at large. The contemporary society has developed to respond differently to different sports activities and events. Sports mega-events are best described as significant cultural events that have intense appeal, mass general acceptance and are internationally significant. It is obvious that sporting activities are a tool to transfer promotional messages to billions of individuals.
Increasing attraction of the international community to sports activities is notable in the 2014 World Cup hosted in Brazil. The astonishing cult-like following of the World Cup through different social media platforms is evidence of how the world of sport is shifting from a mere collection of physical activities to a social phenomenon. The study of sports sociology exposes characteristics of mega-events (particularly significant effects) and different effects they have on the countries where they are hosted. The impact these events have on the global society proves that sports occur beyond the field; hence, there is certain need to study sports sociology.
On balance, it is possible to state that the importance of sports sociology cannot be overestimated. Sociology of sports is a field of study that perceives sports from a social perspective. It is important to develop this study because sports have moved beyond mere physical activities and concerns other social phenomena such as feminism, interpersonal relationship and social media.
Functionalist and Conflict Theory in Sports
Different sport theorists affect development of sport policies. Particular interest may be drawn to the effect of these theorists’ perspectives on potential outcomes of sports policies. I experienced this first-hand when I was recently appointed to a committee that had been required to develop a set of policy recommendations for changing the organized youth sports programs in my town. There were two other people on the committee. One views sports in terms of functionalist theory and the other in terms of conflict theory. From theoretical perspectives of these committee members, I was already prepared for their varying policies.
Effects of Sports Theories on Resulting Theories
During analysis of any area of society, a functionalist theorist focuses on the effect of the considered societal aspect on general social stability. Proponents of functionalist approach consider sports to be a religious body that applies ceremony and ritual to strengthen the society’s fundamental values. According to this view, sports will increase the level of socialization shared amongst young individuals into such ideals as patriotism and sportsmanship.
The functionalist will also consider that sport helps in maintaining physical health of individuals and serves as a safety net for active and passive participants alike when they ease tension and aggressive verve in a socially tolerable manner. Functionalists will also consider sport as a tool for fostering societal interaction and promoting unity within society. Functionalist policies will focus on ensuring that the policies developed support inclusion of sports into the society.
Conflict theorists, on the other hand, believe that social order is achievable through exploitation. Conflict theorists argue that sport reflects and, in fact, increases conflicts and deviation within the society. Sport, from conflict theorists’ perspective, is a means whereby big business organizations generate profits at the expense of safety and wellbeing of their employees (sportsmen). According to conflict theorists, sport perpetuates such wrong principle as the idea that success is achievable simply through hard work and failure is attributable to an individual alone.
Sports, from the perspective of conflict theorists, are an opiate issue that makes individuals look for a distraction rather than focusing on their actual problems. Conflict theorists will also consider sports as an irrational point of expenditure since scarce resources are used for construction of sports facilities. Also, while Blacks and Latinos are major participants on the field of play, they are rarely involved in sports management or coaching. These views of conflict theorist will make them discredit any policies seeking to promote sports in society.
As a member of the committee, I will go with the view of functionalist theorists because I understand the importance of sports in the society. However, it is important to note that both theoretical schools present disadvantages for youth sports.
Functionalists will encourage sports engagement amongst youths and this may have negative effects on their performance academically due to excessive participation in sports. Conflict theorists, on the other hand, will totally discourage youths from engaging in sports and this will reduce their social skills, physical health and motivation. I believe sports will have positive effects on youths and a regulated policy should be implemented.
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Deviance in Sports
Deviance in sport occurs when athletes act unethicality to enhance their performance during competitions. One of major acts of deviance in sports is the use of performance enhancing drugs. Many world renowned athletes have been stripped of their titles because they engaged in some form of deviance. Social factors responsible for athletes’ deviance in sport and correcting these factors may considerably reduce the need for athletes to deviate from sporting ethics.
Curbing Deviance in Sports
In order to effectively curb deviance in sport, it is necessary to understand that there are social factors responsible for athletes’ unethical behaviour. The primary social factor responsible for deviance is athletes’ desperation. Secondary factors are rewards athletes gain from winning. There will be a significant reduction in sport deviance if rewards for athletes’ performance are reduced. Placing big price rewards for athlete’s performance will only increase their yearning to win and drive them towards taking desperate measures.
It is also important for regulatory bodies to extend regulation of rewards to athletes’ endorsements. Athletes receive high financial rewards from different business conglomerates as endorsement packages. These companies select the best performing athletes in order to promote perception of excellence amongst their target market. To get such deals, athletes must perform excellently and this may drive them to engage in unethical practices.
The conflict theory in sports suggests that promoting sports will drive bigger companies to use athletes at the expense of their health. The act of punishing athletes that engage in deviant activities is a means of curbing conflicts suggested by conflict theorists. However, it is inappropriate to apply only one school of thought in considering rationality of sports development. Therefore, the best method of curbing deviance is the use of conflict theorists’ views to work out ethical codes for a functionalist-based sports community.
This article focuses on deviance in sports with emphasis on athletes’ use of illegal performance enhancing drugs. Deviance in sports amongst athletes is common and is rooted in their desire to achieve rewards. The best strategy to curb deviance is to use conflict theory approach while developing ethical codes for a functionalist-based sports community. Integration of these two theoretical schools of thought will increase sports performance and credibility and reveal social advantages of sports.