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Teaching Social Adaptation through Sports

March 17, 2009

A number of sociologists suggest that some socialization research identifies competitive team sports as an avenue to teach social cooperation under pressure through productive competition. Others might suggest it underscores the need for membership in a social collectivity. Many sociologists would identify the resulting social skill set and understandings as important for young people’s adaptation to complex societies.

The above perspective is based in part on a foundational sociological concept called the “generalized other.” This refers to a person’s ability to understand what society expects of her based upon her understanding of overarching values and norms within society as a means to achieve goals and objectives. These social insights help her to determine where and how she fits into society.

What do you think about the above interpretation of sports? Do you have an opinion you want to share? If so, respond to one of the talking points below:

1. Some might argue a key assumption in the analysis of sports presented above is a basic principle: “it isn’t whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” Otherwise, people’s behavior would be organized under a set of rules. Anomie or confusion would result—preventing the participants from being taught stable forms of social cooperation. What do you think is most important in school athletics: following the rules or winning? If you answered “following the rules,” what do you think is preventing such an environment from developing? If you answered “winning,” what changes have occurred in society in the last 100 years that supported this view? Why?

2. Can you think of some positive effects that sports might have upon society, other than providing a medium through which to teach social cooperation?

3. What other social institutions teach cooperation or productive competition in society today? How?

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2 comments

  1. 2. I feel that being a part of a sports team not only helps one grow as an individual, but also helps them learn discipline for their future. Having a disciplined co worker means trusting them to do what they are supposed to do which will help the company they work for run smoothly. Also being a part of a team helps them learn how to get along with all sorts of people and learning to like them when it matters. As an athlete, you will run into many people on your teams that you might hate but you have to be mature enough to cooperate with them.


  2. Sports is to me satisfying the need to be accepted and wanted by others. It is a very nice way to fulfill this need and at the same time helping us to accept things that we otherwise could not do on our own . For example being able to deal with the fact that you can’t always win. A gang is another way that youth have turned to to fulfill this need. But a gang is a negative way of achieving this and as sports allow one to grow and mature through competiton, a gang does not. At the same time sports can make us a healthier people. Sports in many ways better our society as a whole.



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