The sociology of sports enables one to understand the relationship between society and sports. Additionally, one is able to examine how culture and values are interrelated with sports, and also look at the relationship that exists between sports, media, politics, race, religion, as well as gender (Yiannakis & Melnick, 2001).
From the functionalist perspective, sports as a social institution may be examined as a social system, consisting of interrelated parts, which is characterized by a plurality of individuals that continually interact with one another (Delaney & Madigan, 2002). Functionalists view the relationship between sports and society in such a way that it enables them to demonstrate sports as a valuable social institution, which is important for both, the society and an individual.
Sport is accepted by many people who believe that it is compatible with the society’s values, meaning that sport is seen as a positive social function in the society as a means of transmission of cultural values, and a release of both psychological and physical pressures, in addition to social mobility (Delaney & Madigan, 2002).
The functional perspective is more useful to the sociology of sports than other perspectives due to its conservative nature, and its social mechanisms that enhance oneness in the society. The perspective as such analyzes sports as a beneficial tool for the society.
Stanley Brown (2001) in his book “Introduction to Exercise Science,” asserts that, sports sociology purposefully centers on the connection between society and sports. Sports, therefore, help the society to have a keen analysis of the social behavior of human beings.
Brown further notes that, issues pertaining to the interactions between individuals and sports are looked at, examined, and expounded within the sociology of sports. In view of this, both scholarly and logical examination of sports can be advanced further by setting a platform that enhances the recognition of possible social change.
In her book, “The sociology of sport,” Coakley Jay, (2000) affirms that, the sociology of sport is a sub discipline of sociology that studies sports as part of both social and cultural life. She continues to note that a great deal of the research done in this field is usually aimed at organized competitive sports. However, other scholars study various activities in regards to goals and challenges of individuals in sports. A better understanding of sports as the writer affirms occurs when one learns to think of sports as a social construction.
Participation in sports either as fans, players, or as a business is mainly attributed to the fact that sports unite people by means of socialization, and the recreational advantages that go along with sports. The presence of team loyalties and friendly rivalries between individuals indicates an immense influence that sports have on people’s lives (Delaney & Madigan, 2009). Others see their participation in sports as investment opportunities in the industry that has a high potential for increased economic benefits. With regard to monetary benefits, being a sportsperson is beneficial if one looks at the amounts of money that they accrue through their usual payments (Delaney & Madigan, 2009). As fans, participating in sports is very exciting and enjoyable due to the passion that many fans have for sporting activities.
Sports offer a lot when it comes to fulfilling human needs in various ways. As such, humans need to divert their minds from the tasks of everyday life, so sports appear to be the best way to unwind. When sport is looked at from an educational perspective, it helps in the inculcation of values, such as discipline, dedication and developing of a sense of responsibility (Yiannakis & Melnick, 2001).
Sports, therefore, fulfill human needs as a physical mechanism, releasing one’s stress and tension, enhancing socialization and teamwork, building character, improving one’s health and self-confidence and increasing economic development through investments (Yiannakis & Melnick, 2001).
It is also worth noting that sport is one of the major ways of entertainment for people. Individuals often have to face challenging circumstances in their lives that affect their wellbeing and, consequently, their productivity. Going in for sports is one of the best ways of entertaining oneself not only with an aim of overcoming challenging situations, but also for people’s emotional health (Delaney & Madigan, 2009). It happens because participation in sports, either actively or by just watching it is exhilarating and pleasurable.
Explaining sports from a sociological point of view requires an understanding of the foundational tenets of this perspective. The core tenets is the understanding that individuals are social beings by nature, that individuals are in many cases socially determined and that individuals construct, maintain, and change the social forms through which they conduct their lives (Yiannakis & Melnick, 2001).
For sociologists to understand societal laws, they often use sociological imaginations. As such, if an athlete, for instance, uses steroids, it is commonly considered as a personal problem, but if many of them use the drug, this is then considered to be an issue of public concern.
Delaney, T., & Madigan, T. (2009). Sports: Why we love them! Lanham: University Press of America.
Delaney, T., Madigan, T. (2002). The Sociology of Sports: An Introduction. McFarland and Company Inc. Publishers.
Yiannakis, A., & Melnick, M. J. (2001). Contemporary issues in sociology of sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishers.