Posts Tagged ‘competitive sports’

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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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The Social Function of Sports

January 26, 2009
"My girls never quit."

The coach of the losing team was quoted as saying: "My girls never quit."

Some sociologists hold that because sports are a product of society, they can often reflect larger elements of the society that spawned them. Some believe particular sports teach important principles, rules, and values that form key life skills. For example, how to learn from defeat or encourage self-discipline and drive through the rewards of deserved success.

But such approaches may cause problems in society as well. Some have been argued that winning is stressed over lessons of self-improvement or social cooperation. In other words, how well you play the game takes a second seat to victory. An example of this might include a recent high school basketball game in Texas where a team won by a score of 100 to 0.

The coach of the wining team reportedly explained that forfeiting the game would not have helped the losing team, recalling the wining school had experienced a similar loss and benefited by the experience. Officials from the winning school apologized for the dramatic disparity in the score. The coach of the winning team disagreed with that decision. He was fired.

Do you have an opinion about this issue? If so, please select a topic below and respond to it:

Topics for Discussion
1) What do you think are some of the social purposes of sporting events?
2) Do you think competition is a good medium through which to teach life values? Why?
3) Do you think the score should have been “curved” or the game stopped at some point? Why?

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