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Posts from the ‘Research’ Category

Crossing the great divide between academics and practitioners: The application of autoethnographies in sport (event) volunteer research

By Erik Lachance, Doctoral Student, University of Ottawa

Since my volunteer experience at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, I have been passionate about sport management and, more specifically, sport (event) volunteers. At the end of the undergraduate studies I took an interest in studying sport (event) volunteers, and conducted an autoethnography about my volunteer experience in a small-scale para-sport event.

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To date, the recruitment of volunteers for the pilot study phase of my thesis, and some of my additional independent research projects, has been challenging as I have been repeatedly asked to volunteer in exchange for being able to interview participants. It appears as if once the targeted organization or event becomes aware of my research topic, they assume that I am more likely to be interested in volunteering. I believe this creates a trade-off in the sense that I would collect data from the volunteers, and, in exchange, I would volunteer for the sport organization or event. Some sport organizations and events have actually declined to participate because I could not volunteer, and when speaking to some of my colleagues, it appears as if this is not a normal request or occurrence when recruiting participants. Although the request to volunteer could present some challenges (e.g., time commitment), it also brings a great opportunity to bridge the gap between academics and practitioners. But, how can this be achieved? The answer is with the incorporation of autoethnographies.

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Compared to traditional ethnographies, autoethnographies can be considered as a combination of autobiography and ethnography in which the researcher’s personal experience is described and analyzed to understand a phenomenon (Ellis, 2004). Recently, autoethnographies have been applied to investigate the sport (event) volunteer experience in large-scale sport events, such as the Olympics (e.g., Kodama, Doherty, & Popovic, 2013; Sadd, 2018), and small-scale para-sport events (e.g., Lachance & Parent, 2017, 2018). Speaking from personal experience, my first taste of research in sport management was an autoethnography, which enabled me to appreciate the value of subjectivity in research, and shaped my current epistemological stance. Investigating my own volunteer experience at a para-sport event also gave me the opportunity to learn more about myself, such as the importance of establishing relationships with others, developing an interest in para-sport, and fostering my passion for volunteering in sport.

The application of autoethnographies benefits both academics and practitioners. Perhaps the greatest opportunity is to bridge the current gap between academics and practitioners. However, a benefit for academics is to gain an understanding of a phenomenon from a front-line perspective. As Ellis & Bochner (2006) explained, this approach seeks to put the researcher back into the study, and values subjectivity (e.g., emotions) in order for rich insight to be yielded from a front-line perspective. Therefore, the incorporation of autoethnographies would benefit academics with rich insight and a greater understanding of the sport (event) volunteer experience (Kodama et al., 2013).

The benefits of autoethnographies are also present for practitioners. More specifically, the collaboration between academics and practitioners during autoethnographies would allow for the transmission of knowledge to occur. For example, the researcher, who is an “insider”, could pass on knowledge from past research, relevant theories, concepts, and cases during the volunteer experience. Having the presence of an academic as an “insider” would also enable practitioners to have access to a valuable resource. Thus, autoethnographies would benefit practitioners with the transmission of knowledge, and having access to a valuable resource (i.e., knowledge and experience of academics) in an effort to enhance organizational capacity, and possibly the ability to succeed (e.g., achieve goals).

This post was inspired from my personal experience doing autoethnography, and of recruiting participants for research on sport (event) volunteers, and discussed the win-win situation that is created for academics and practitioners through the application of autoethnographies. The incorporation of such an approach could increase collaboration, and bridge the existing gap between academics and practitioners. The hope for this post is to spark discussion and interest among academics and practitioners regarding the application of autoethnographies for sport (event) volunteer research.

References:

Ellis, C. (2004). The ethnographic I: A methodological novel about autoethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

Ellis, C., & Bochner, A. P. (2006). Analyzing analytic autoethnography: An autopsy. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography35, 429-449.

Kodama, E., Doherty, A., & Popovic, M. (2013). Front line insight: an autoethnography of the Vancouver 2010 volunteer experience. European Sport Management Quarterly, 13, 76-93.

Lachance, E. L., & Parent, M. M. (2017, June). The volunteer experience in a local para-sport event: An ethnographic approach. Paper presented at the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) Conference, Denver, Colorado, USA.

Lachance, E. L., & Parent, M. M. (2018, June). Two phases, two tales: Planning and implementation phase experiences of a para-sport event volunteer. Paper presented at the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) Conference, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Sadd, D. (2018). Proud to be British: An autoethnographic study of working as a games maker at London 2012. Event Management, 22, 317-332.

Research: Aruban Sport

Conducting research on a small Caribbean Island: How I went about getting a grant from the Aruban government

by Bob Heere, University of South Carolina

aruba[1]As part of a partnership between the University of South Carolina and the University of Aruba, I was asked to collaborate with the local faculty there on research projects during my stay teaching a course. This mandate presented a couple of challenges. The faculty at the University of Aruba had no background in sport management, and had very little affinity or interest on research in sport. Thus, any collaboration would have to be initiated by me, and more importantly ‘sold to them’. Second, it was unclear to me what role sport played on the small Caribbean island and I was hesitant to start a project that Arubans had no interest in whatsoever. This was not the first time in my career I ran into this issue. Three years earlier, my idea to do a large study in Brazil had met with polite indifference from local scholars when I flew down to meet with them. Identity was not really an issue for the Brazilians. I went home empty handed. I wanted to develop an idea that would speak to the Arubans, and one that would make a real impact on the island. For any researcher who wants to conduct a study in a different nation, I can only advise to do the same.

awcarib[1]Aruba was not a blank page for me. While it is independent, Dutch is still an official language on the island it once colonized. I also knew the island depended on American tourism. I expected a Caribbean island that would have both Dutch and American influences. It made me curious to the sport culture in the nation though, as the Netherlands and the United States could not be more different in their views on sport. One favors sport for skill development, the other favors sport for community and health. Upon arrival I realized that Aruba was indeed the best (or worst) of both worlds, in terms of food, media, and sport. In one thing Aruba was definitely more American than Dutch: obesity levels. Aruba is among the nations with the highest obesity levels, an honor it shares with the United States. Thus, I started asking what the sport participation rates were in Aruba, as they might contribute to the obesity levels. Nobody could give me an answer. Thus, my research question became: what is the role of sport on the island, and how is it used to maintain health among the population?

cruise7[1]During my stay, I was asked to provide a seminar to the industry, which contained a mixture of sport officials, government officials, and business people. I decided to compile a lecture on sport for health, and in my presentation I used both the United States and the Netherlands as benchmarks. I realized that I had been able to find a subject that I was uniquely qualified to study. I had in-depth knowledge of both nations and the subject of sport itself. It reminded me: remain true to the self. The presentation was a success, and afterwards the Director of the National Institute for Sport and Movement and the secretary of the NOC approached me. Both women were excited by the presentation and gauged my interest in establishing a project to explore sport participation on the island. I realized that this was my ‘in’ and immediately set up meetings. I also was able to recruit a University of Aruba faculty member (Kimberly Greaux) to work with me on this, who was finishing her PhD in the Netherlands in Public Health.

cruise3[1]I spent the remainder of my time on the island meeting people, and I was glad I did. Everybody was excited about doing a baseline measure study to sport participation, but nobody had money to pay for it. The estimated budget forecasted about $28,000 to do the study. Had I not met with everyone, this project would probably have died. Fortunately, one of my contacts was able to set up a meeting for me with the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, who had funding available (final tip: build a solid foundation of stakeholders for your research project, you will need them). Six months later we received the money to start our project and have now collected over 1,000 surveys and conducted about 10 focus groups. We are excited to work with the government of Aruba on this, and we can’t wait to publish our results.

What makes a successful golf management university program?

By Matthew Walker, Ph.D.
Texas A&M University

Training the next generation of employees, managers, and future leaders is an essential and necessary practice for any industry. This practice is especially important for industries pro-golf-imagewhere economic conditions, coupled with waning consumer interest, has reduced the aggregate value and revenue generating potential of the service. This is the case for the Golf Industry in the United States, where approximately 5.9 million golfers left the sport between 2003 and 2014, and approximately 160 courses closed in 2013, marking the eighth straight year for this latter trend (NGF, 2014). In light of these and other data showing fluctuations in key industry metrics (e.g., rounds per year and consumer spending), it is imperative to assess whether employment/training programs are equipped to deal with shifting industry challenges.

The PGA of America is well-aware of these and others challenges facing the Golf Industry in the United States. One tactic the PGA is taking to reverse this trend is to focus on their educational programming. Their aim is to ensure new leaders in the field are highly qualified, motivated, and well-prepared to exceed stakeholder expectations. This concern was the catalyst for sponsoring a recent research project intended to evaluate the delivery and impact of golf management university (GMU) programs around the nation.

The GMU landscape has a long history, stretching back to the mid-1970s, when the first program at Ferris State University was initially established. Since that time, the PGA of America has officially accredited 21 programs, with 18 active programs currently delivering golf management content to hundreds of students nationwide. The 4-5 year programs are designed for aspiring PGA Professionals and are intended to be skill acquisition-based with a heavy emphasis on field experiences and experiential learning. Combined with campus instruction, primarily housed in business schools around the country, the students are exposed to courses ranging from introduction to teaching golf, food and beverage management, and merchandising, among others. The programs provide students the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the golf industry and collectively boast an impressive 100% job placement rate upon graduation.

These elements make for a degree path that is especially enticing for students interested in a golf management career. However, new student enrollment has waned in recent years, and the programs are plagued by high rates of student attrition, low graduation rates, and waning demand for the degree. Combined with a slowing market for recreational golf in the US, the PGA of America was keenly interested in better understanding the influence and impact of the GMU programs to help plot a course for their future direction.

hlkn_stacked-sportmanagementA team of sport management faculty from Texas A&M University comprised of Drs. Matthew Walker, Steven Salaga, George Cunningham, Paul Keiper, and Paul Batista were awarded nearly $200,000 from the PGA of America to evaluate the GMU landscape and formally identify and compare the characteristics of high and low performing GMU Programs. To this end, the research team engaged in a multi-step, iterative research process, which included: (1) qualitative and quantitative data collection aimed at understanding the attributes and perceptions of PGA GMU Programs; (2) estimates of the strength of relationships between program data, individual student characteristics, and economic factors; and (3) a market analysis to assess high school golfer awareness of and intentions to pursue a PGA GMU degree. Multiple data collection methods and analysis procedures were employed to ensure substantive conclusions could be most confidently derived by triangulating across measures and methods with non-overlapping strengths and weaknesses.

Based on the performance evaluation, the results showed the highest performing programs separated themselves from their peers through programmatic features, student engagement, connections with the industry, and attention to assessment and evaluation. The majority of these areas were closely tied to program delivery, student quality and commitment, and quality cohort management. In the aggregate, the programs are struggling with producing industry leaders with the acumen necessary to deal with various managerial challenges. Among the recommendations delivered to the PGA of America were: a renewed focus on innovation, a more committed stance for increasing diversity, a more robust standards and expectations evaluation for the member programs, and strategies designed to bolster new student recruitment and existing student retention.