In the summer, much of a professor’s focus is on improving the quality of material being offered to students. This involves participating in professional conferences such as the 2022 North American Society of Sport Management (NASSM) conference in Atlanta. There will be more than 500 sport management professors delivering presentations, sitting on panel discussions, and sharing ideas on sport management. Topics will include everything from sport governance, marketing, and leadership to presentations on how these topics can be taught more effectively.
The Sociology of Sport
It is interesting for students to note that when higher education first researched sport from the perspective of an academic discipline, it was not actually focused on sport management. Sport’s first academic focus regarding how it was organized and governed was from the perspective of the sociology of sport. The North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS) was established long before NASSM.
For this reason, one of the first courses in our sport management program is Sport in Society. The goal of studying sport and its impact on society is to teach students how to think critically about what we are doing in this field. Students will learn to identify and understand what type of social problems and issues are associated with sport. Sport management students are asked to look beyond the statistics and see sport as a social phenomenon. As a result, as both sports fans and managers, can make informed choices about sport and its place in our lives.
The Social Phenomena of Sport
Sports are indeed social phenomena in how they relate to the social and cultural contexts in which we live. They provide stories and images used to explain and evaluate things that impact our life. Examples include the game-winning shot, the underdog overcoming odds, or the larger than life superstar athlete. They provide a window into what our culture and society is all about.
Sport trends are influenced by how sports are organized, commercialized and represented in the media. Trends are also impacted by emerging technologies and the demographic changes being seen in the United States. These are all areas that will need to be considered by sport managers to stay abreast of the latest trends.
The Future of Sport Management
Students creating new and alternative sports may be able to find new ways to view, play and be involved in sports. Regardless of your involvement or vantage point, much of how sport managers will be involved in sport is going to require visions of what sport and social life could and should be like. It’s will also require students to strategize how to turn their sport visions into reality.
Transforming sport is a challenging task. Sport managers may find that any effort to improve sport is often met with strong resistance. Many still believe in the sport myth that the way sports currently exist is the way they should be. People are often surprised that something as simple as changing sport to be safer for children will often meet resistance. Our Sport in Society class is designed to get students thinking of ways they can change sport for the better.
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By Dr. Joel Cormier, coordinator of the online sport management program and an associate professor of Exercise and Sport Science at EKU. He is particularly interested in academic integrity in college sports, athlete development, and organizational effectiveness. His book, Hockey (Mid)night in Kentucky: a coach’s guide and memoire was recently published.
Note: This was adapted from Chapter 3, “Sport in Society” from the textbook The Management of Sport Organizations (Cognella Press) by Dr. Joel Cormier, Sport Management Program Coordinator, Eastern Kentucky University.