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Study of sport is serious business
Today we introduce Anand Rampersad, an Instructor II in Sociology in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at the UWI St Augustine campus, as one of our columnist. Dr Rampersad teaches social theory, anthropology and industrial sociology. His areas of research include sport sociology, sport history, cultural change, technology and human behavioral change, and youth issues, which he will explore in this column every Monday.
Dr Rampersad is match secretary of the T&T Women's Cricket Association and vice-president of the T&T Sociological Association.
He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sport is an integral part of Caribbean social and cultural life. However, it has not been subjected to any sustained critical analysis as have other areas of public life such as education, the economy, poverty and crime to name a few.
Despite this, it is common to hear persons from many sectors of society holding out sport as a quick fix or panacea to some of society’s social ills such as crime. One such example is the Hoop of Life Programme which was started in 2012 using basketball in hot spot (crime prone) areas to foster life-skill and community development. After two editions of this programme, a number of questions are still unanswered in terms of assessing its effectiveness in meeting its desired objectives of crime reduction, community development and justifying the large expenditure of taxpayers’ monies.
It is quite easy to view sport as totally beneficial to society as it is supposed to teach skills of character development, fair play and team work. However, there is enough research that questions the complete goodness of sport viewpoint.
There is no denying that sport offers the potential to engender change however, for this to take place sport has to be understood against the social, economic and political background in which it takes operates. The origin and development of sport in T&T and the wider Caribbean has been shaped by colonialism and continue to be shaped by western capitalism and globalism.
Studying of sport provides an understanding as to why persons may or may not participate in sport and physical activities and to what extent. Furthermore it provides an understanding of multiple connected relationships between age, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, family, social class, education, the economy, politics and sport engagement and development.
There are several important issues that sport studies seek to address: What does sport mean to the population according to age, ethnicity, gender, social class, religion and sexual orientation? Is sport a means of social mobility and financial sustainability as education is valued and rated?
Can sport be transformed in to an industry where livelihoods can be sustained? Is sport tourism an effective industry for T&T and the wider to expand its revenue base? Why does it appear that participation in and type of sport varies according to ethnicity, gender and social class? Are there historical and cultural structural forces that are colluding to frustrate and or discourage persons from participating in sport and or certain sports? Are persons with physical disabilities treated equally in terms of access to programmes, facilities and funding in sports? Are there biases, intentional or not that favour males over females because sport is seen as a male practice that should be dominated by males? Are persons of non-heterosexual orientation negatively affected from participating in sport because sport is a heterosexual space to be protected?
Are sporting facilities and recreational grounds optimally used by the youth, family and the elderly to enhance their health and social being? Is state and corporate sponsorship of sport equitable or not? Are sporting organisations professionally organised with proper management structures and personnel? Is there equitable media coverage of all sporting disciplines? Is there equitable coverage of both women and men sport? Is sport politicised for political gains? Is there a policy which informs decisions as to how athletes’ outstanding performances rewarded?
Such an understanding of sport provides an informed basis upon which sport policy and decisions can be made. As such it will allow for effective implementation, monitoring and evaluation of sport programmes.
Additionally, it will provide a foundation upon which sport for development and the development of sport can be carried out to effect meaningful desired goals. The consequences of not regarding the study of sport as a serious area of intellectual inquiry on the part of technocrats, sport administrators and academics will result in the constant short-sightedness’ of seeing sport as being equated to leisure activities which may result in weak sport policy development and implementation.