How Can Sport Contribute to Community Recovery from COVID-19 and Beyond?

By Yuhei Inoue (Manchester Metropolitan University), Daniel Lock (Bournemouth University), Leah Gillooly (Manchester Metropolitan University), Richard Shipway (Bournemouth University), & Steve Swanson (Deakin University)

Image by Kawolf via Wikimedia Commons

For this year’s International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, António Guterres—the United Nations’ secretary general—communicated his belief that “the world of sport has crucial contributions to make in forging a safe and sustainable recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic. That sport may facilitate crisis recovery is hardly a new idea. In past crises—9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake, to name a few—sport organizations and their members were said to have played important societal roles (Inoue & Havard, 2015). Yet little attempt has been made to explore “how” sport organisations can contribute to crisis recovery. 

The Organizational Identification and Well-being Framework, which we proposed in a recent article, seeks to answer this question. It rests on the capacity of sport organizations to serve as a prominent source of group identity (i.e., a shared sense of who “we” are) for individuals (Lock & Heere, 2017). People may identify with a range of social groups, such as ethnicity, gender, and religion. Yet what makes identification with a sport organization significant is that it tends to map onto other group identities (e.g., sport and geographic region; Heere & James, 2007). 

Moreover, once people identify with a sport organization, they gain access to shared resources (e.g., social support, relatedness) that can enhance their well-being (Inoue et al., 2015; Wann, 2006). As such, the central premise of our framework is that sport organizations—where they have capacity—can facilitate recovery from a crisis to the extent that they foster shared identification (i.e., sense of oneness) to galvanize support towards relief efforts. 

Roles of identity leadership

We do not assume that identification with sport organizations will always be instrumental in crisis recovery. Rather, our goal is to illustrate how leaders may reimagine their organizations’ in-group identity in a way that is meaningful in the crisis context. To do so, we draw upon identity leadership, which focuses on how group leaders cultivate in-group identity for their followers (Haslam et al., 2020; Reicher & Hopkins, 1996). Specifically, when situations surrounding a group change due to social events (e.g., crises), leaders may create a new vision for the boundaries (i.e., who is included in “us”) and content (i.e., what “we” exist to do) of an in-group to offer meaningful responses to the crisis (e.g., encouraging social distancing during COVID-19). 

How leaders define their in-group’s boundaries is important, because people tend to mobilize more resources for those included in the same group (i.e., in-group members) than for those excluded (i.e., out-group members). In addition, the content—or meaning—of in-group identity establishes a common understanding of how members should behave.

Exercising on a golf course. Image by Austin Community College via Flickr

Against this background, organizations and their leaders aiming to address new community needs created by a crisis should consider the following course of actions in relation to in-group boundaries (1) and content (2):

  1. Temporarily (or permanently in some cases) redefine the in-group to include both existing members (e.g., employees, fans, club members) and the broader population leaders seek to support (e.g., all residents affected by a crisis). For example, during the COVID-19 lockdown, executive boards of some British golf clubs decided to open their courses to the public—inclusive of both club members and other residents—to address an urgent community need for safe exercise spaces.
  2. Communicate a new or updated vision for the in-group to accentuate common experiences or needs shared during the crisis. This applies to the International Surfing Association’s use of International Surfing Day 2020. Through this event, the organization featured multiple surfers who had actively contributed to COVID-19 relief efforts and encouraged its followers to share similar stories on social media. This was a shift from the organization’s past annual celebrations that typically included paddle outs and beach clean-up, rendering its identity content more relevant and meaningful amidst COVID-19. 

In short, when responding to a crisis, leaders should try to align the boundaries and content of their organization’s identity with needs exacerbated by the crisis. This, in turn, will make identification with sport organizations an asset that can accelerate community-wide and cross-sector efforts to mobilize resources for those in need. 

Opportunities for future research

Some questions remain. For example, what if typical leaders, such as Chief Executive Officers and Presidents, lack experience or expertise (e.g., public health knowledge) in shaping a response to address common needs created by a crisis? Or, should organizations respond to a crisis even if they are inadequately resourced? In the article, we provide some preliminary answers to these questions; however, more theoretical and empirical developments will be needed to refine the framework. We hope our initial theorizing will inspire a new line of research that will further sport’s roles in contributing to recovery efforts for COVID-19 and beyond. 

Click here for the full article to be published in Sport Management Review.

References:

Haslam, S. A., Reicher, S. D., & Platow, M. J. (2020). The new psychology of leadership: Identity, influence and power(2nd ed.). Routledge.

Heere, B., & James, J. D. (2007). Sports teams and their communities: Examining the influence of external group identities on team identity. Journal of Sport Management21(3), 319–337. https://doi.org/10.1123/jsm.21.3.319

Inoue, Y., Funk, D. C., Wann, D. L., Yoshida, M., & Nakazawa, M. (2015). Team identification and postdisaster social well-being: The mediating role of social support. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice19(1), 31–44. https://doi.org/10.1037/gdn0000019

Inoue, Y., & Havard, C. T. (2015). Sport and disaster relief: A content analysis. Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal24(3), 355–368. https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-12-2014-0276

Lock, D., & Heere, B. (2017). Identity crisis: A theoretical analysis of ‘team identification’ research. European Sport Management Quarterly17(4), 413–435. https://doi.org/10.1080/16184742.2017.1306872

Reicher, S., & Hopkins, N. (1996). Self-category constructions in political rhetoric; an analysis of Thatcher’s and Kinnock’s speeches concerning the British miners’ strike (1984-5). European Journal of Social Psychology26, 353–371.

Wann, D. L. (2006). Understanding the positive social psychological benefits of sport team identification: The team identification-social psychological health model. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 10(4), 272–296. https://doi.org/10.1037/1089-2699.10.4.272

Between Patriarchy and Western Secularism: Islamic Feminism a new approach in Sport Management

By Umer Hussain

Umer Hussain recently defended his Ph.D. dissertation at Texas A&M University. Hussain research focuses upon understanding the intersection of race, religion, and gender in the sporting context. 

One of my Ph.D. colleagues, while arguing how religion is the cause of suppressing women’s rights in sport, underscored, “In the Western popular press, when the word ‘Muslim’ is used, one picture comes into my mind: oppressed women.” These remarks are pervasive to hear for any Muslim residing in Western society. However, as a practicing Muslim from my childhood, I have been told stories of how religion Islam liberated Arab women and gave them equal rights compared to Arab men. During my Ph.D. in sport management, I have also gone through a plethora of literature about Muslim culture. I found some fascinating studies focusing upon decolonizing the current scholarship; however, I have come across numerous studies trying to depict the two billion Muslim population as violent, retrograde, and bizarre. I found that in numerous studies, Western scholars make a wrong implied assumption that two billion Muslims are irrational; that is why they do not question various Islamic traditions. Indeed, Muslim men and women both have challenged various thoughts and transformed religious teachings per modern needs. However, the scholarship detailing Muslim world issues is highly tilted towards a Western ideology or, in other words, in imperialist and colonial views.

Likewise, the realm of sport management has primarily been established in North America. Thereby, scholars of Western origin have broadly researched the Muslim world and Muslim women. Hussain and Cunningham (2020) have underscored that Western sport management scholars investigate Muslim women living within and outside the Muslim world via a Western ocular. Scholars of Western origin homogenize Muslim women as weak and dominated subjects. Hussain and Cunningham (2020) also argued that the Western researchers’ primary thesis to understand Muslim women’s issues is grounded in White feminism. The White feminists advocate for global sisterhood; thus, they try to homogenize women as one singular entity. Hussain and Cunningham (2020) claimed that using White feminism as a theoretical approach delimits understanding of Muslim culture and further perpetuates systematic marginalization. For example, while researching Pakistani Muslim women, Hussain and Cunningham (2020) found that Pakistani Muslim women athletes had a strong anathema against the Western sporting paradigm and Western women participating in sport. Thus, the White feminism basic thesis is flawed and does not resonate with women’s heterogeneous experiences worldwide. Therefore, a new theoretical approach is warranted, especially to understand Muslim women’s issues in sport.

Some sociologists have advocated using Islamic feminism as a theoretical approach to understanding Muslim women’s issues (Badran, 2009, 2017; Bahlul, 2000). For example, Badran (2009, 2017) argued that Islamic feminism originated from feminist discourse within the Quran (Holy Book of Muslims) can offer a new means to explore Muslim culture. Islamic feminism calls for gender equality for women and men in the totality of their existence in the light of the Quran (Badran 2009, 2017). Islamic feminists defy both the patriarchal system inside the Muslim world and Western secularism (Bahlul, 2000). Islamic feminists reject the notion of being either religious or secular but argue for women empowerment per Quranic teachings (Badran, 2009, 2017)

In sport management scholarship, researchers have employed various theoretical frameworks to understand Muslim women’s issues. However, there remains a paucity of research using Islamic feminism as a theoretical perspective to empower Muslim women. Following the Islamic feminism approach, researchers can explore how gender segregation can enhance Muslim women’s sport participation and empower them. Islamic feminism can help scholars move beyond focusing on Muslim women’s clothing issues and explore other means through which Muslim women’s sport inclusion can be enhanced. For instance, the Islamic feminism approach can help researchers explore how Muslim women’s sport consumption and fandom could increase. Hence, Islamic feminism can be a new theoretical approach to enhance Muslim women’s sport inclusion. 

References

Badran, M. (2009). Feminism in Islam: Secular and Religious Convergences (Original ed.). Oneworld Publications.

Badran, M. (2017, August 8). Islam’s other half. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2008/nov/09/islam-women

Bahlul, R. (2009). On the Idea of Islamic Feminism. Journal for Islamic Studies20(1), 33–62. https://doi.org/10.4314/jis.v20i1.48391

Hussain, U. & Cunningham, G. B. (2020). “These are ‘Our’ sports”: Kabaddi and Kho-Kho women athletes from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. International Review for the Sociology of Sport (IRSS). Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/1012690220968111

Sticking Together as We Move Forward

Ehren R. GreenLinkedIN

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Ehren is a second-year doctoral student at the University of Louisville. Before returning to school for her PhD, Ehren worked in intercollegiate athletics for ten years as well as in training and development in both the private and public sector. 

The challenges of Covid-19 have pushed us out of our personal and professional comfort zones. We have learned a lot about ourselves and about others during this time. As we enter 2021, we face the challenge of helping lead our industry through the transition – from the way things were, to the way things are, and to who we want to be moving forward. To be successful in this transition, a continued investment in ourselves and in each other is necessary. We can no longer just be experts in our field, but need to invest in ourselves, as people leaders, to build productive and healthy teams. 

In the sports industry we rely on other people, from faculty members collaborating on research projects to practitioners working together to make sure a game happens. However, how do we ensure we are effective team members? As contrary as it sounds, it starts with self-understanding. We must be grounded in who we are and understand what we bring to the team. There are numerous self-assessments and personality profiles available, including CliftonStrengths, DiSC, and Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to name a few. While there are differences in the assessments, what each of them brings is a level of self-awareness for individuals and an understanding of differences in others. As a certified MBTI practitioner, I’ve learned a lot about myself through the MBTI. For example, I know that I innately need to see the big picture in projects (this is identified as the intuition preference for MBTI). I also recognize that others see projects as steps in a sequential order (this is the sensing preference in the MBTI). This difference can be a major source of conflict when not understood. Team members can talk around each other, not understanding what the other is explaining, leading to frustration and a negative emotional response. However, when teams know each other’s preferences it becomes shared language and a strategy for utilizing each other’s strengths. By using a tool like the MBTI we can gain self-awareness and create a unified understanding of others as a first step in creating successful teams. 

Considering most events in the sport industry occur under high stress, it’s important that we recognize the role of emotions, both in ourselves, and in our interactions with others. Emotional intelligence is an important skill required for productive teamwork. Defined as, “the ability to monitor one’s own and other’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (Salovey & Mayer, 1990, p. 189), emotional intelligence recognizes the behavioral element of human interactions and the role emotions play in those interactions. Goleman and Boyatzis (2017) developed an emotional and social intelligence leadership competency model that identifies four domains of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. The table below defines each domain and lists strategies to develop competencies in each. 

EI DomainDefinitionStrategy
Self-awareness“Here is what is going on”Tune into your senses
Recognize your triggers
Get feedback
Self-management“This is what I need to do”Count to ten
Pause before you respond
Social awareness“Accurately recognizing other’s emotions”Practice empathy
Be present
Relationship management“Utilizing my awareness to build relationships”Have the tough conversations
Acknowledge individual strengths

One of the simplest and most effective emotional intelligence strategies is the power of pausing before responding. Pausing engages our thinking brain, forcing us to respond consciously rather than emotionally. Additionally, pausing increases your ability to recognize your triggers and your emotional responses to those triggers. To build effective teams, we must acknowledge the role of emotions in our environments.  

As an industry we will continue to face new challenges in 2021, but one constant will be the need for effective teamwork. Self-understanding (e.g., MBTI, etc.) and emotional intelligence can guide our industry as we continue to build effective teams. 

References: 
Goleman, D., & Boyatzis, R.E. (2017, February 6). Emotional intelligence has 12 elements. Which do you need to work on? Harvard Business Review, 2-5
Salovey, P., & Mayer, J.D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 9, 185-211.

Considering Taking Up A Cause? Here are some lessons

When American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos experienced and observed the plight of Black Americans, they knew they had to do something. So, on October 16, 1968, Smith and Carlos, winning gold and bronze in the men’s 200 meters, respectively, each wore black socks without shoes to the medal podium. They proceeded to extend one black-gloved fist over their bowed heads during the national anthem to protest racial injustice in the U.S. “The boos were about as profound as the silence was when we raised our fists and bowed our heads in prayer,” Smith recalled (Zacardi, 2018, para. 36).

Disruption is hard. Some people succeed, able to transform their organizations or institutions in which they operate. Others are not so effective, incapable of unsettling the current situation that exists within their environment. One reason for such “failure” is because people often tend to oppose change that disrupts the status quo. We saw this in 1968. Interested in this story of disruption, we recently set out to better understand this essential yet poorly understood aspect of social change. We gathered and analyzed interviews with 59 members of the 1968 U.S. Olympic Team concerning their reactions (see Agyemang, Berg, & Fuller, 2018).

In general, and as you may imagine, Smith and Carlos’ teammates did not approve of the protest. Based on the interviews, we identified four main reasons why teammates disliked their activism: (1) the sacred spirit of competition should supersede all else; (2) the Olympics should be apolitical; (3) the Olympics should be cherished as an entertainment spectacle; and (4) nationalism and representing the U.S. team is more important than any sociopolitical viewpoint. Building on this and other research, I address the following question: how do change leaders harness and manage the negative perceptions they encounter concerning their disruptive activity? Here are some takeaways and how they may apply to people working for change:

Become an expert in the area which you seek social change.

At the end of the day, change leaders cannot force people to believe in the same social causes they do. This is why people working for social change should focus on the things they can control. One way is to be an expert in the area in which you intend to disrupt and desire social change. Occasionally groups resisting may lack essential information and not understand the social cause. In other cases, those opposing the social change frequently attempt to obscure a change leader’s message. Based on reading and observation, sometimes this is easier to do because change leaders do not fully understand what they’re doing. As a result, they are unable to generate empathy from the broader public because their message is unclear. For instance, Colin Kaepernick said that he had considered taking a stand for a while, but before he did, he wanted to make sure he was well read on the subject matter. Though he has faced criticism for his actions and his beliefs, it is clear he is strong in his convictions and is able to back them up given his understanding of the issues.

Not all causes are seen the same.

In 2016, I spoke with a renowned sports journalist about the current wave of athlete protests. Comparing the likes of LeBron James to Colin Kaepernick, the journalist noted how there is a fundamental difference between calling for an end to gun violence (i.e., James at ESPY Awards) and calling for systemic change to social institutions that have historically wronged racial and ethnic minorities. He contended that the former is much more likely to gain consensus (or at least close to it) from the public than the latter, which is much more divisive. Regarding the latter, opposition may even dispute the social issue even exist. The biggest challenge here is to articulate how and why the change you are calling for will benefit those who are not yet onboard. Human nature is to operate from a “what’s in it for me?” mentality. If change leaders desire commitment from others, they should consider what these groups want and need.

Anticipate resistance.

Related to the point above, I think one of the more obvious takeaways is that change leaders should always anticipate resistance. This occurs for many reasons, including dominant groups are more prone to uphold the status quo and not champion change, because they benefit from societal norms. Contrasting to that, peripheral actors who are often less privileged members of society and are less favored by the status quo are more to desire change. We saw this in 1968 during Smith and Carlos’ time, and we see similar scenes today. For example, Colin Kaepernick’s silent gestures beginning in 2016 has received backlash both for his tactics (i.e., kneeling during the national anthem) and the causes he’s bringing attention to (i.e., police brutality against Black people).

Embrace the challenge.

Sure, people resisting a social cause you believe strongly in can be a frustrating and oftentimes agonizing experience. However, as cliché as it may be, it is important for change leaders to not withdraw from the resistance, but embrace it. One piece of advice I received was to think of resistance as strength training. We use resistance (e.g., dumbbells) to build muscle and endurance so that we can gain strength. The same could be said for the opposition change leaders face when attempting to bring attention to a social cause. So, keenly listen. Attempt to understand why they are resisting. This seems to be a lost art in today’s divided political climate. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to concur with every single criticism; but listening to opposition criticisms can open your eyes to blind spots you may have not considered, and serve to ultimately strengthen your cause when you respond to these blind spots.

Social position matters.

A person’s social position is based on various social groups they belong to (e.g., profession, gender, race, culture, relationships) and provides them consent to perform certain actions and enter certain spaces. One of the more interesting observations from the study is that Smith and Carlos’ protest may have been viewed differently if they had the support of their teammates and people in positions of power. Based on this, it would behoove change leaders to seek ties with people with access to resources and “clout” they need to make change. For instance, recently, professional athletes have established relationships and met with Congressional leaders about issues related to race and policing, among others. These relationships could provide your change effort more legitimacy.

Final remarks

When we consider what is necessary for social change to take place, it regularly demands some type of disruptive act. Change leaders can play an integral role in this process. The challenge is this is often complex, and will often entail resistance to both the change and the tactics a change leader will use. Yet, I’m reminded of what John Carlos recently told me: If anyone ever calls you a troublemaker, rest assured you’re in damn good company. Don’t let them [opposition] intimidate you and scare you away from doing what you feel is right.”

Click here for full research article in Journal of Sport Management Vol. 32, Issue 6.

 

 

Author note: another version of this blog appears at: https://kwameagyemang.com/considering-taking-up-a-cause/

Agyemang, K. J. A., Berg, B. K., & Fuller, R. D. (2018). Disrupting the disruptor: Perceptions as institutional maintenance work at the 1968 Olympic Games. Journal of Sport Management, 32(6), 567-580.

Zacardi, N. (2018, October 3). Tommie Smith, John Carlos remember Olympic protest on 50th anniversary. NBC Sports. Retrieved from https://olympics.nbcsports.com/2018/10/03/tommie-smith-john-carlos-black-power-salute/

Writing Case Studies to Engage with Industry (And Become a Better Writer)

By Aaron Mansfield

Aaron Mansfield is a PhD student at UMass Amherst and an Associate Editor at ESPN

This summer, Zion Williamson – whom legendary former Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro describes as “the most marketable person I’ve seen” – hit the sneaker market. A bidding war ensued.

While the No. 1 NBA draft pick was ruining rims for Duke, pundits speculated about which brand he’d select: Nike or Adidas? Late in the game, however, a dark horse emerged: Puma.

Though Zion ultimately chose Nike subsidiary Jordan, the German giant’s commitment to basketball was evident. Puma announced its re-entry into hoops in 2018, after its attempt in 1998 famously flamed out. Twenty years later, Puma – sensing an opportunity to play “provocateur” – gave it another go, launching an ambitious campaign with Jay-Z.

I recently broke down this situation from a sport marketing perspective for the McCormack Case Study Collection at UMass Amherst. In the case, I offer context, highlight opportunities and challenges, and outline teaching points and assignments. For students, the case offers the chance to engage with a story developing right now – the type of thing they’re already talking about. For instructors, the case offers relevant, vetted material and a ‘plug and play’ design.

UMass’ collection is one of several such resources for sport educators – for example, check out Case Studies in Sport Management, or search for your topic of interest on the expansive Sport Management Case Studies Repository. Academics often hear of the importance of bridging theoretical instruction with industry. This is especially significant in sport because of our discipline’s applied focus (Chalip, 2006; Irwin & Ryan, 2013). Further, because consumer sport is young and rapidly developing, the subject matter we explore is dynamic. Trends and talking points arise constantly. (Consider the emergence of esports, or how many jobs are now centered on sport analytics.) It’s difficult to make a meaningful contribution in the classroom without industry awareness.

Case studies offer such a bridge, invigorating the classroom. Students excitedly participate in discussions. Well-suited for either individual or group work, cases offer a refreshing supplement to tried-and-true approaches like lecturing and textbook assignments.

I also encourage you to consider writing a case of your own. For example, the leader of UMass’ collection, Will Norton, is searching for quality content. Unsure what to write about? Well, when it comes to building theory, sport scholars have alluded to the importance of personal passion for the subject matter (Chelladurai, 2013; Fink, 2013). That insight extends to case studies. What are you passionate about?

The similarities between writing for journal publication and crafting a case may not be immediately apparent, but there is carryover. As a scholar and journalist, I have learned this to be true: writing is writing. When I am attempting to make a theoretical contribution for a journal, I am becoming a better editor; when I am coaching a writer on an NFL season preview feature, I am becoming a better theory-builder. Writing is akin to training your central nervous system – it doesn’t matter which muscle group you’re targeting. Working on a case refines your voice and sharpens your editorial sense, which come into play every time you write-up research (or review a peer’s work).

The language and conventions are different, but constructing a case is much like constructing a journal article: you start with a big idea, narrow its focus as you peruse related literature and take notes, break it down into component parts, and slowly but surely – making exponential progress, adapting as you discover new sources –mold it into a cohesive product. Perhaps most importantly, you spend time between writing wrestling with the concepts. Doesn’t that sound like the process of theory building that Fink (2013) described?

I specifically recommend that PhD students consider this opportunity. You’ll bolster your writing ability, enjoy exploring a topic of interest, and feel satisfied knowing your work could impact leading sport programs. Oftentimes, such as with the UMass collection, you’ll also be compensated financially.

Case studies are a tool for scholars who aspire to shape the future of the academic discipline and the next generation of sport professionals. I encourage you to take advantage of such a valuable resource: consider using a case in your next course or writing one of your own.

 

Citations
Chalip, L. (2006). Toward a distinctive sport management discipline. Journal of Sport Management, 20, 1-21.
Chelladurai, P. (2013). A personal journey in theorizing in sport management. Sport Management Review16, 22-28.
Fink, J. S. (2013). Theory development in sport management: My experience and other considerations. Sport Management Review16, 17-21.
Irwin, R. L., & Ryan, T. D. (2013). Get real: Using engagement with practice to advance theory transfer and production. Sport Management Review16, 12-16.

Capacity Building: A Comparison of Two Cases

By Patti Millar and Alison Doherty. Dr. Millar is an Assistant Professor at the University of Windsor in Windsor, Ontario and Dr. Doherty is a Professor at Western University in London, Ontario.

This research appeared in the July ’18 issue of the Journal of Sport Management.

Community sport organizations (CSOs) occupy an important place in the make-up of our communities by providing sport and physical recreation activities for all ages. CSOs, however, often face capacity-related challenges that can limit the impact that their programs have within their community. Organizations in this context have expressed challenges related to attracting and retaining volunteers, acquiring stable financial resources, and dedicating time to long-term planning.

Building off our previous research, and given the growing popularity of capacity building as a priority in the non-profit sector (Bryan & Brown, 2015; Girginov, Peshin, & Belousov, 2017), we took a closer look at the process of capacity building in both an organization that was successful in its efforts, and one that was not (Millar & Doherty, 2018). We uncovered the forces, whether internal or external to the organization, that initiated capacity building, the clubs’ perceived ability to respond to that force and whether it had the capacity to do so. We also uncovered the clubs’ readiness to implement capacity building strategies, and ultimately the clubs’ success in building capacity and responding to the initial force. We present an infographic that summarizes the contexts and findings of the cases, illustrating their respective experiences with successful and unsuccessful capacity building.

Blog Infograph

 

We found that both organizations initiated the process in large part in an attempt to address declining membership; this acted as the force that ultimately drove the organizations to introduce new leagues in hopes that this would counter the low membership numbers.

 

Of particular interest, the findings show that an organization’s readiness for capacity building can be a key factor in whether or not their efforts are successful. The curling club (successful case) had individuals within the organization who were willing to dedicate resources towards capacity building. It also identified areas of strength that could be leveraged during the capacity building process (e.g., relationships with local curling community). The club also reported that the capacity building strategies aligned well with its objectives, and therefore were less disruptive to operations.

 

The football club (unsuccessful case), on the other hand, despite an alignment between the capacity building strategies and the club’s objectives, expressed that a lack of willingness from the executive to plan and commit resources to capacity building was a key hindrance to the success of these efforts. The club also expressed that the added workload, and conflicts that arose as a result, combined with a lack of existing capacity, ultimately contributed to the failure of its capacity building efforts.

Together, these contrasting findings provide important considerations for organizations as they embark on the capacity building process:

  • Organizations are unlikely to build capacity simply for the sake of building capacity; there is some impetus that triggers the organization to react. Without recognition of that initial force, capacity building efforts will lack a strategic focus and are unlikely to be successful.
  • An assessment of capacity needs and assets should be conducted prior to implementing any capacity building strategies. These identified needs become the basis of the capacity building process, and so without a thorough assessment it is possible that an organization will overlook a critical capacity need. This also allows an organization to identify, upfront, capacity limitations that may hinder the process, as well as those assets that might be leveraged.
  • Perhaps most importantly, organizations should take the time needed to identify appropriate capacity building strategies that address their needs. These strategies should be ones that organizational members are willing to support, that are congruent with the organization’s processes, systems and culture, and that the organization has the capacity to implement. Without this readiness to build capacity, it is less likely that an organization will be successful in addressing its capacity needs.

The overarching finding from this study is that capacity building should be strategic in nature, such that the decisions made along the way are reflective of an organization’s mission, it’s internal and external environment, and should ultimately contribute to program and service delivery.

Interested in learning more about this research? Check out the article in the July 2018 Issue of the Journal of Sport Management.

References
Bryan, T.K., & Brown, C.H. (2015). The individual, group, organizational, and community outcomes of capacity-building programs in human service nonprofit organizations: Implications for theory and practice. Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance, 39, 426-443.
Girginov, V., Peshin, N., & Belousov, L. (2017). Leveraging mega events for capacity building in voluntary sport organizations. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 28, 2081-2102.
Millar, P., & Doherty, A. (2016). Capacity building in nonprofit sport organizations: Development of a process model. Sport Management Review, 19, 365-377.

Sport Ecology: all it is, and all it could be

Madeleine Orr* & Walker Ross**

*Madeleine is a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota. She currently teaches in the Sport Administration program at Laurentian University in Canada.

** Walker is a PhD candidate at the University of South Carolina.

As PhD students, we often answer the question: “what’s your area of specialization?” It’s a reasonable question: it’s important have a clear and consistently personal brand on the job market. But, what if your research doesn’t fit into one of the established ‘sub-disciplines’ of sport management?

When we met in 2017 (via Twitter posts on sustainability, of course), we compared notes and realized we both got the same ‘what’s your specialization’ question, and that answers such as ‘I study sport and the natural environment’ or ‘sport sustainability’ didn’t seem to satisfy the inquisitor. Perhaps the better answer is ‘sport ecology’, as this term is broad enough to include the full breadth and depth of the relationship between sport and the natural environment.

We’d like to use this blog to advance the understanding that the relationship between sport and the natural environment is complex and dynamic, ever-present yet ever-changing, meriting a subdiscipline of its own. What it comes down to, is that sport’s relationship with the natural environment is about more than just recycling and turning off lights.

Picture1
Concept Art for Forest Green Rovers’ proposed stadium in UK, made of sustainably sourced wood a caption

For example, sport ecology would encompass research on:

  • Weather and environmental conditions of sport,
  • Sport in natural versus artificial environments,
  • Impacts of climate change on sport,
  • Methods for making sport more environmentally sensitive and sustainable,
  • And more…

As a starting point, it is important to recognize the fundamental relationship that sport has with its environment. Many sports developed out of social-ecological connections in their places of origin. Think of golf (from Scotland), ice hockey (from Canada), or surfing (from Polynesia). Changes to the planet’s ecological state, coupled with rapid globalization and commercialization, have and will continue to alter where and when sport is played and enjoyed. For example, who would’ve guessed there would be indoor alpine skiing facilities in Dubai, or irrigated golf courses in the Nevada desert? These changes present new challenges which complicate the previously taken-for-granted relationship between sport and the natural environment. It follows that a sport ecology sub-discipline should develop in response.

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Caption: Heat exhaustion at the Australian Open, January 2018

We’re not the first to work in this space – we stand on the shoulders of giants: Brian McCullough, Tim Kellison, Sylvia Trendafilova, Melanie Sartore-Baldwin, Jonathan Casper, Cheryl Mallen, Haylee Mercado, Kyle Bunds, Greg Dingle, and others. These scholars have contributed substantially to sport ecology. There have also been contributions outside of sport management from geographers and natural resource scientists. Importantly, practitioners have been working in this space for decades: ski resort managers can tell you their job has everything to do with knowing and adapting to snow patterns; most college and NFL football games have a meteorologist on site (or at least, on call) to warn of storm activity; the golf industry has entire conferences and organizations dedicated to turf management.

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Recreational skater on melting ice in Edmonton, Canada

Here is some broader context for sport ecology:

  • The term ‘ecology’ combines ‘eco’ (environment) and ‘logy’ (study). The emphasis on ‘study’ in ecology is important: we are scientists and our work, first and foremost, is to understand.
  • Sport ecology would follow in the rich scientific tradition of human ecology, a derivative of geography and ecology, and would be related to recreation ecology (Marion, Leung, Eagleston, Burroughs, 2016; Monz, Pickering and Hadwen, 2013), tourism ecology (David, 2011), and business ecology (Abe, Bassett & Dempsey, 2012).
  • In the sport industry, associations and conferences have emerged to address issues related to sustainability and climate change. Examples include the Green Sports Alliance and the Sports Environment Alliance. Many major leagues and organizations, including the NHL, NFL, PGA Tour, and the NCAA, have launched green initiatives. There is even a ‘Green Sports Day’, recognized by the White House in 2016.

We are still working to define the boundaries of the sport ecology sub-discipline (we’ll get there – currently working on conference presentations and academic papers) And we would love to hear your input. Please, get in touch with us to discuss!

Explaining Sponsorships Using Analogy

By Jesse King, Ph.D. (Weber State University) and Robert Madrigal, Ph.D. (California State University, Chico)

Most sponsorship alignments do not make sense. For example, what does FedEx have to do with the NFL? This sponsorship is incongruent because the brand and property (e.g., events, teams, leagues, etc.) have little in common. In such cases, the brand must explain to consumers how it is related to the property. In a recent article in Journal of Sport Management, we find that using analogies is one tactic for explaining an incongruent sponsorship to consumers.

Understanding an analogy is like solving a puzzle. By highlighting shared associations, analogies provide a creative way for sport managers to explain how the brand is similar to the property. For example, FedEx makes use of an analogy by awarding the “Air and Ground Players of the Year” to the NFL’s top quarterback and running back.  The analogy allows fans to connect the actions of running backs and quarterbacks to ground and air delivery of a package, respectively. The package and football each plays the same relational role in this analogy. Just as a football may be passed through the air by a quarterback or carried by a running back on the ground, a FedEx package can be sent by air via a plane or ground delivered using a truck. Good analogies are useful because they promote a deeper understanding of the sponsor-event alignment. In this way, a sponsorship that once did not make sense to a consumer can explained in a way that links core equities of the property with those of the brand.

Creativity is required for fans to understand analogies and for sport managers to build them.  The goal for sport managers in creating analogies is to help the customer understand common functions in the sponsoring brand and sport property. To build analogies, managers should:

1) Identify Brand Action Words: Identify actions performed by the brand. This can be accomplished by identifying actions in terms of verbs used to describe a core function (e.g., Gillette razor blades shave hair off the body). Keep in mind that there are often many ways to describe the same action. For example, a close shave is achieved through close contact between the razor and few missed hairs.

2) Identify Property Action Words: Consider actions performed by the property that might align with those of the brand. Avoid shared surface traits such as common appearance (e.g., both property and brand’s logos are red) or immaterial detail (e.g., both players and employees wear uniforms). Instead, focus on common patterns of relationships that exist for the brand and for the property.

3) Avoid the Abstract: When creating analogical explanations, avoid abstract descriptors such as “excellence” or “integrity.” If no relevant actions within the property can be identified, the sponsor should work with the property to create something (e.g., award, event) that will serve a similar role to the actions that the brand wants to emphasize (e.g., the turnaround play of the game).

Analogies that explain deeper relationships are likely to be more effective than those that only explain surface similarities. For example, Gillette could explain a partnership with competitive swimming, a sport in which competitors “shave” the hair off their entire body prior to a major competition, by emphasizing shallow similarities associated with shaving hair and shaving seconds from a race time. However, a better fit might be achieved by explaining deeper patterns of shared relations. For instance, Gillette recently explained their partnership with Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby by emphasizing the relational importance of establishing close contact between a razor and skin as a way of making sure to not miss any hair follicles on one’s face with the importance of a baseball batter making contact with the ball in order to miss fewer pitches.

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Key Takeaways:

In this research we found analogy improves sponsorship fit, relative to other types of explanation. They help because analogies are perceived as creative. Also, short explanations of analogies seem to be equally effective as more detailed explanations.

For sport managers this means that short messages such as “The FedEx Air and Ground Players of the Year Awards” may be as effective as full press release in explaining a brand-property alignment.  Analogies are capable of concisely conveying a great deal of information. Because space and time are often severely limited in a sponsorship message, the use of analogy offers an efficient and creative method for concisely explaining how an incongruent brand is similar to a sports property.

Sport, Twitter Hashtags, and the Public Sphere: Curt Schilling Case Study

Instantly, the hashtag #CurtSchilling became a flashpoint for debate about the issue on Twitter. Thousands of users deployed the hashtag over the following 24 hours, either criticizing Schilling for his homophobia, or castigating ESPN for political correctness. Capturing 10,000 of those hashtags revealed fascinating findings.

By Dr. Brendan O’Hallarn (Old Dominion University)

“Twitter is Destroying America”

This stark headline greeted readers of current affairs and politics website The Week early in 2017, after a particularly ugly Presidential election campaign. The piece joined others with similarly bleak prognoses in The Atlantic and Medium as the popular social media site faced a rash of criticism over the prevalence of bad behaviors by its users.

For me, unabashed Twitter enthusiast, the critique represented a challenge. Can the enlightened, pro-democratic discourse Twitter promised during its hopeful early days

NASSM Blog Habermas
 Jürgen Habermas

as a vital organizing tool used by Arab Spring protesters still be realized? Can it still offer the potential to create dialogue akin to Jürgen Habermas’ public sphere?

The passion and consumption pattern of sport fans, along with specific aspects of Twitter architecture—notably the nimble hashtag—could spur the type of online discourse that Habermas termed deliberative democracy. Of course, barriers exist to that construct, notably the limitation on the length of tweets and the Online Disinhibition Effect, the tendency for online interactions to turn angry and negative.

On April 20, 2016, a former World Series-winning pitcher decided to make his political views very public.

The Military Child Education Coalition 17th National Seminar
Curt Schilling

Schilling was fired after sharing a meme on his Facebook wall about HB2, the North Carolina law which prohibits transgender people from choosing which bathrooms to use. It featured a picture of a large man in ill-fitting women’s clothing and the caption: “Let him in! To the restroom with your daughter or else you are a narrow minded, judgmental, unloving, racist bigot who needs to die!!!” Schilling was swiftly fired by ESPN.

Clearly, two “teams” of Twitter users materialized—with pro-Schilling and pro-firing tweets appearing in abundance. Analyzing the conversation patterns demonstrated there was very little interaction between the “poles”—the two sides were almost exclusively talking past each other.

However, an online questionnaire given to users of #CurtSchilling in the time interval of the study revealed three interesting things:

  1. The users themselves felt a tremendous kinship with other users of the hashtag, feeling like they were part of a collective conversation;
  2. Almost universally, they had no interest in communicating with the other “side” in the debate, feeling like everyone’s mind was already made up; however,
  3. Despite the lack of interactions, hashtag users knew all of the arguments being put forward by the other side. Even though they weren’t discussing the issue actively with them, they were consuming the alternative viewpoints.

Why This Matters:

The general fulfillment from users of the hashtag and the awareness of differing viewpoints (even if not commented upon) suggest some behavior approaching the Habermasian public sphere is present in the interactions.

For #Sportsbiz Professionals:

If they are running an active Twitter feed for their organization, the feeling that “engagement” with followers is the only way to feel like your feed is making an impact. Sometimes it’s worth simply knowing that even if they don’t voice their opinions, people are listening.

 

For those interested in reading in more detail, find the full research article here.

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.