Apr 25, 2011

The Structural Functionalism of Sport in America PART 1

By: Juliann Boubel, BS, CSCS

There are many institutions in society that exist to better human existence. Institutions like politics, economics, religion, marriage and family, and education are all individually distinctive but important in their relation to the whole, working network of society. This article argues the validity and necessity of sport as one of these valued institutions within America, created and maintained for the betterment, development, and unification of society. 

Sport is a huge industry throughout the world that unites everyone involved. The institution of sport in America serves many purposes, and I believe there are five major areas of influence under the umbrella of this organization. Sport acts as a means of mobility and socialization as well as being integrative, socio-emotional, and political. To start, the mobility of sport can be seen through the ladder of success it can provide its participants. For example, sport has provided great means of social mobility for those from low-economic backgrounds as a way to the top of the social hierarchy through affluence and education. College scholarships can provide access to education for individuals who otherwise would not be able to afford such learning or opportunity. Even though he was cut from his high school basketball team, Michael Jordan is one of these individuals who beat the odds and received a scholarship to his dream school of UNC. After being named College Athlete of the year twice before his final season, he was drafted in 1984 by the Chicago Bulls and has since become “the greatest basketball player of all time” (1).

Because sport creates this bridge between economic classes, 
its mobility helps unite our country and 
give potential opportunity for all athletes to succeed.

Socialization of sport relates to how it molds and shapes people into appropriate, capable members of society. The camaraderie found in sport is a unique aspect that brings people together and teaches them how to act in social situations. Formal and recreational sports teach qualities like teamwork, sportsmanship, honesty, and integrity, all of which are highly valued characteristics in well-developed individuals. According to Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology, “character-developing benefits of sport contend that participants learn to overcome obstacles, cooperate with teammates, develop self-control, and persist in the face of defeat” (2). The authors state that...

sport and character relate within the context of four intertwined truths—
compassion, fairness, sportsmanship and integrity. All of these qualities combine 
to form and shape character through the participation in sport 
and teach individuals how to function as a team on the field, in the gym or at the office.

See Part 2 of this Article NEXT MONTH.

Juliann Boubel, BS, CSCS is a Strength & Conditioning Coach for Prevail Conditioning Performance Center and works with athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike.  For further information regarding this topic please contact Juliann at Juliann@prevailconditioning.com

  1. "NBA Encyclopedia: Playoff Edition." NBA Media Ventures. 2009. 27 Apr 2009.
  2. Weinberg, Robert S., and Daniel Gould. Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 4. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2007. Print.
  3. Bell, Katie K. "Boost Your Brain Power." Today's Chiropractic Lifestyle 36.1FEB/MAR 2007 34. Web.25 Apr 2009.
  4. "History of Title IX." titleix.info. 2009. The MARGARET Fund of NWLC. 25 Apr 2009.

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