Sports represent one of the leading economic earners for many individuals who enjoy physical activities. Social theories provide the framework for individuals studying sports as they seek to uncover the hidden meanings connected to sports. Conversely, “sport sociology brings to bear a number of intellectual tools that allow one to look critically at power relations while connecting sport to large social issue, including race, class, nationalism, and gender,” (Zirin, 2008, p.2). The functionalist theorist and conflict theories are the most common theories related to the discipline of sports. The functionalist theory looks at the principles of structure, social systems, social patterns, and institutions associated with sports. The family, sport, media education, economy, religion, and politics all contribute to the world of sport. When organized, these social factors reinforce the functionalist theory that the whole social system impacts on sports. Functionalism in the sports suggests that the discipline is an organized system with interrelated components connected by shared values. In addition, there is a social system that maintains a state of balance.
Theorists of functionalism note that there are four main components to sports and why people participate in sports: goal attainment, adaptation, latency, and integration. In an effort to survive in the world of sport, functionalist theorists believe that one must adapt physical fitness which helps with goal attainment or success and failure. In sports, functionalism teaches that hard work leads to success. In addition, integration in the sporting arena is important as it allows individuals of all race and ethnic background to feel a sense of social identification and personal identity. Latency, on the other hand, allows for a pattern of maintenance and gives one a clear understanding of tension management. These four factors help sports individuals to develop in a holistic manner and add dignity to the profession. Still, Zirin points out that there are exceptions to the sociological perspective that the media portrays the reality of the discipline. In fact, “the media and marketing power of sports, the salaries commanded by top athletesthe overbearing sexism,” (Zirin, 2008, p. 1) shows that sports writers have lowered the bar of sports to matter of commentary.
Still, people participate in sports for different reasons. For many fans, sports offer recreational relief. On the other hand, athletes and business individuals see sports as a means to fulfill economic desires. From a sociological perspective, the functionalist theorists see sports as a discipline that maintains values of character and stability in social life. n fact, sports offer inner city or the lower socio-economic groups in the society, the opportunity to gain economic success. Many critics argue that sports offer an opportunity for social advancement for those who cannot get other financial channels to support their lifestyle. Nevertheless, the weakness in the theory is that it leads individuals to believe that sports offers, positive regards and that there are no negative repercussions to sports. Yet, there are a number of conflicts in the world of sports because individuals are different and have different opinions. Still, the discipline in sports offers one to channel one’s inner conflict into positive and meaningful activities on the field.
Zirin, Dave, (2008, November 26,) Calling Sports Sociology off the Bench” Internet. Viewed
at: <www.idrottsforum.org/articles/zirin081126.html> (ISSN 1652-7224)