May 24, 2011

The Structural Functionalism of Sport in America: PART 2

PART 2 Of  The Structural Functionalism of Sport in America 
By Juliann Boubel, BS, CSCS 

The integrative aspect of sport brings people together under a common purpose. Much like the institution of religion brings members of society together for a shared goal, the availability of sport creates bonds and friendships that would otherwise be non-existent. Although sometimes competition can have negative connotations, sport integration creates an “in-group” and sense of belonging that can use healthy competition to create meaningful relationships. Swimming on a club team, for example, will bond people together as a direct result of shared experience and close proximity. Likewise, watching the Superbowl with friends brings people under the same roof for playful competition and the maintenance of quality companionship.  The fourth dimension of the institution of sport is socio-emotional.   The socio-emotional aspect is often described as cathartic. 

Sport and exercise have proven to decrease stress and anxiety, 
and are also responsible for increasing levels of 
three mood-enhancing chemicals: “serotonin, dopamine 
and norepinephrine, acting much like an antidepressant,” 
states Katie Bell of Today’s Chiropractic Lifestyle (3). 

The socio-emotional aspect of sport works in tandem with the integrative approach—giving players and exercisers a way to relieve stress, cope with life’s daily obstacles, or rally as a unit just for the fun of it.  

The socio-emotional part of sport is extremely important in the way that it focuses on individual needs and wellness. In the same manner that a car only works as well as its parts are maintained, so too does our country only function as well as its members are kept strong. When each piece of a person is excelling physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally, their overall wellness increases. Sport is an outlet for social and personal stress, and the fact that the resource of exercise is available and widely used proves its worth and value as a piece of society.
Finally, the political influence sport has on society can be seen through a few examples. To start, the United States’ boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics was due to issues in the Cold War. Another instance can be seen in the implementation of Title IX. Title IX is most commonly thought to solely apply to sports, but it is actually “a law passed in 1972 that requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding” (4). Gender equality within the sport and educational domains has since grown exponentially. Title IX has also increased knowledge of the benefits of physical activity across the board. Through the education provided to all members of society through legislation such as Title IX, sport continues to help better and develop our nation as an equal, cohesive unit.

As illustrated, mobility, socialization, integration, politics, and the socio-emotional aspects are each an important part of the institution of sport in society. Each piece works to further the structure and function of the institution of sport in America. After all, the American public places great value on living the American Dream. Sport aides in reaching this dream by uniting society through the mobility it provides, socialization and character development, and the integration of people from different racial classes and socio-economic groups. Sport promotes the equality needed politically and betters the individual on a socio-emotional level.

The goals of the institution of sport closely align with the hopes 
of the American Dream; thus, the values intertwine 
and contribute to the betterment and development 
of people individually and in society as a whole.

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