The field of the sociology of sport can be considered to have no actual boundaries, as it is affected by and affect broad social structures, determining cultural values, social changes observed in long- and short-term perspectives, as well as social interaction. This science started getting considerable amount of attention since 1970 and today it is constantly widening its horizon. It poses controversial and critical issues, as it can be considered as a macrocosm of society, having practically the same issues as in the larger societies.
So, the scope of the sports sociology can be defined in the following way: it studies group behavior, social organization, and social interactions taking place in the sports environment; relationship established between sports and other areas of social life; social processes taking place in sports; how sports can impart people’s knowledge about the gender, body, social class, sexuality, disability, ethnicity and race (Coakley, 2004).
It has always wondered people, why many of us get so attracted to sports, participating in it in various ways. Every person usually have some particular interest, but it is possible to show certain tendencies. First, it is necessary to explain why people participate in the sport directly – go in for different kinds of sport, taking part in competitions, etc. The first possible reason is maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Second, people can like it due to their competitive nature. For someone achieving success in sports becomes a purpose in life. Other people do it to achieve some personal goals – lose weight, find new friends, etc. Those who participate as fans usually enjoy the competition, the adrenaline from what they see, as well as the feeling of unity that can be experienced in a group of fans. Businessmen participate in sports to make money.
Sport has very important roles in the society, as it forms a valuable part of the social and human development, contributing to tolerance, social development and integration. It is one of the most effective ways of socio-economic and physical development, serving as a powerful medium for economic and social changes. Cultural gaps can be bridged in society with its help, conflicts can be resolved and people educated.
There are various human needs that sport can satisfy. In the hierarchy of needs developed by Maslow it is possible to see that it can help with all the levels of needs, except for the physiological. The fact that it can provide for one of the basic needs – of safety, in particular, by improving people’s health, makes it especially important in the society. By introducing new friends and establishing relationships it can at least partially satisfy the need for belonging. The top levels of hierarchy, which are esteem and self-actualization, are also considerably influenced by sports (Guttmann, 2004).
There can be singled out three approaches in the sports sociology, each explaining sports in a somewhat different way. The first is structural-functional approach, which is focused on the uses of sports for a society. Among such functions there are fitness, recreation, etc. The second approach is social-conflict. It shows the relationship between social inequality and sports. For instance, golf is traditionally considered to be a game for wealthy people, as not everyone can afford playing it. Besides, there is gender conflict described within the scope of this approach, which shows kinds of sport that can be played only by representatives of the given gender. The last approach is symbolic-interaction, viewing sports as a complex interaction between perceptions and people. According to this approach, there are certain functions that sport can perform for separate players.
Coakley, J.J. (2004). Sport in Society: Issues and Controversies, 8th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.
Guttmann, A. (2004). From Ritual to Record: The Nature of Modern Sports. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.