A Guide to the Sociology of Sports

Studying The Relationship Between Sports And Society

Fans cheering at American football game
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Sociology of sports also referred to as sports sociology, is the study of the relationship between sports and society. It examines how culture and values influence sports, how sports influences culture and values, and the relationship between sports and media, politics, economics, religion, race, gender, youth, etc. It also looks at the relationship between sports and social inequality and social mobility.

Sports And Gender

A large area of study within the sociology of sports is gender, including gender inequality and the role that gender has played in sports throughout history. For example, in the 1800’s, the participation of women in sports was discouraged or banned and it was not until 1850 that physical education for women was introduced at colleges. Even through the 1930s, basketball, track and field, and softball were considered too masculine for proper women. The past several decades have seen a tremendous change in this area and now women’s participation in sports is approaching men’s, though differences are still present.

Sports And Media

Another area studied the sociology of sports is the media. For example, sports viewership varies by gender. Men’s sports that are typically viewed life or on television include basketball, football, hockey, baseball, pro wrestling, and boxing while the women’s sports that are covered include gymnastics, figure skating, skiing, and diving.

Men’s sports are also covered more often than women’s sports both in print and on television.

Sports And Gender Identity

Gender identity is another topic that is often examined under the sociology of sports. Sport reinforces gender-specific roles beginning at a young age. In T-ball for instance, girls are treated more harshly and ridiculed by boys and coaches.

Further, male coaches do more coaching while female coaches perform more organizational duties. Also, participation in “masculine” sports creates gender identity conflict for females while participation in “feminine” sports creates gender identity conflict for males.