What Is the Sociology of Sports?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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Sociology of sports is an academic field that seeks to examine the many interpersonal and group phenomena that arise in relation to sports. Sports provide many different separate but mutually dependent groups for sociologists to examine with the aim of learning about human social behavior. Athletic teams, sports fans, and for-profit athletic companies all engage in overlapping social behaviors that researchers find to be very interesting. Practically, people in this field can look for better ways to motivate teams, strengthen the bond between teams and fans, and prevent discrimination in amateur and professional athletics. It is closely linked to other fields such as sports medicine, psychology, and social justice.

One of the aims of sociology of sports is to look at various groups in athletics as societies in and of themselves or as microcosms of society as a whole. A sociologist looking at the social phenomena that occur within a team, for instance, may be interested in the relationships between players of different skill levels, coaches and players, and players of different races. Power dynamics between different players or between the coach and the players can be particularly interesting when examined as social phenomena arising from the social structure of the team.


Another important subject in this field is the relationship between sports and the rest of society. Sports fans, for instance, often obsess over their favorite teams. This branch of sociology is also interested in the relationship existing between sports, the media, and the rest of society. In many cases, news media are the main mode of communication between the groups. Despite this "filter," professional sports teams, players, and events have a profound effect on popular culture and other social trends.

Sociology of sports is also interested in addressing some of the social problems that occur within athletic society and culture. Gender equality, for instance, is an important issue in both amateur and professional athletic circles. Girls tend to have fewer and more limited athletic opportunities than boys throughout their time in school, and female sports teams are often poorly funded in comparison to male teams. The same problems are also found in professional athletics, as female athletes generally are paid less and given fewer opportunities than male athletes. Researchers are also interested in issues related to race, ethnicity, and physical disability.


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Post 6

I find the relationship between the professional teams and the fans is really getting obsessive. It takes a lot of time and money to be a die hard fan. I guess it's interesting for some people to know and discuss continually all the stats of the team players, goals scored,yards gained and on and on. It gets to be rather tiresome for me.

Now I like to attend a game here and there or watch the Superbowl on TV, but for some, spectator sports takes over their life.

And then there are some who not only attend a whole season of games, watch sports on TV, but also participate in fantasy sports. Wow!

Post 5

One of my concerns about the emphasis on sports, especially football, is the disregard that some coaches, players and even parents show about the safety of the players. I saw a documentary about high school football players. The way that concussions are treated as temporary injuries and the fact that players are sent back in to play way too soon. There is clear evidence that a series of concussions can be very dangerous.

There is such a competitive pressure for the team to win. And the parents of individual players want their sons to be successful and make the great plays so they can get a scholarship to the college of their choice.

To make football a safer sport, coaches, parents, and players have to become more aware of the physical dangers of the game. The excessive obsession with winning has to be tempered. Put the fun back in the game.

Post 4

As far as sports sociology it seems from studying sports teams as societies themselves to studying sports fans to how all the pieces relate in creating unifying or breaking up of groups of people there would be plenty of material to work with!

One of the other sociology and sports aspects I would like to hear more about in popular news is the changing of women and sports. With Title IX, the United States amendment that states that women's sports must be equal, I have seen change in society and its views of women's sports.

What I am not sure of is why the change in society and its view of women’s sports changed?

What I would

like to know is if people think that the change in society's view of women's sports is because of the national recognition of the sports played by women by a the Title IX amendment or maybe because women's sports have become better spectator sports with increasing talent being cultivated via the money spent by schools via Title IX funds.

I definitely believe in sports ability to change societies and I think the movie about South Africa entitled "Invictus" attests to that.

Post 3

One area in the sociology of sports I'd like to see studies is the way sporting events can unify a certain area. I know in the city I used to live in, everyone was into football.

In fact, if our team did well, certain building in the city would change their outdoor lights to the team color. You could tell if the team was doing well because as it got closer and closer to the Superbowl, there was more colored lighting.

I feel likes sports gives people a reason to be proud of their city. And it gives people something to talk about with strangers! Everyone knows how the game went, after all.

Post 2

@JaneAir - Interesting point. I think I'd be far more interested in the sociology of sports fans.

I'm not really into sports, so I'm baffled every year when football season comes around. People go absolutely nuts over it! I've actually seen bar fights break out over sporting events before.

And the way that people obsess over their teams...I just don't think it's healthy. I know some guys that know more about their favorite quarterback than they do their wife or girlfriend! That can't be normal.

Imagine what these people could accomplish if they devoted some of the energy they waste on sports to more productive activities.

Post 1

Interesting. I think that sport teams definitely function as a society in and of themselves. Even in high school, members of sports teams tend to isolate themselves from everyone else and associate only with one another.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing-I know that sports take up a lot of time. It's only natural that people would bond after spending that much time together and engaging in an activity as a team.

However, I think from a sociological perspective it makes more sense to study sports teams as their own societies.

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