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by Chris Barnhill (research conducted with Andrew Czekanski and Adam Pfleegor)
Dr. Christopher Barnhill is the Sport Management Program Director and Associate Professor at Georgia Southern University. Dr. W. Andrew Czekanski is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Recreation and Sport Management at Coastal Carolina University. Dr. Adam G. Pfleegor is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Sport Science at Belmont University.
In the summer of 2005, not long after my wife and I moved to Manhattan, Kansas, we experienced what has to be one of the most frustrating conversations of our marriage. I was in my new office in the Kansas State athletic department while Amy was driving back from a job interview in nearby, Riley, Kansas. She called from her cell phone desperately hoping that I could give her directions home. Unfortunately, I was of no help.
If you are familiar with this region, you know that most towns in the area are separated by a sea of wheat with no major highways. Smartphones did not yet exist and GPS was not common. She needed my help, but all I knew is that she was surrounded by wheat fields and a few windmills. Essentially, I knew she was somewhere in Kansas. I knew the destination she was trying to find but without knowing her current location, any advice was useless.
It’s impossible to draw a map to Point B without first knowing the location to Point A.
As faculty, it is our duty to be familiar with the knowledge and skills students must acquire to be successful in the sports industry. Many of us worked in the industry and regularly communicate with industry partners or advisory boards. Additionally, there is some great literature exploring industry and faculty perspectives of student outcomes (e.g. Barnes, 2014; Mathner & Martin, 2012; Schwab et al., 2013). We know the location of Point B. In Barnhill, Czekanski, and Pfleegor (2018), we attempted find Point A by gathering data from students at 12 undergraduate programs on their first day of Introduction to Sport Management.
Data About Sport Management Intro Students
The results of our study provided a complex picture of the students we are educating. Sport management students have high academic aspirations. More than half of the students surveyed desired to obtain an advanced degree and were heavily involved in their campus communities. However, their college GPA is lower than the general population. This might be explained by some of the demographic information in the sample. A majority of students identify as having a middle-class background, but many students come from lower or upper-class backgrounds. Graduation rates are significantly higher for students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds than for students who come from middle and lower socioeconomic classes (Snyder, de Brey & Dillow, 2010). This often stems from differences in resource allocations for K-12 schools, as well as less access to mentors with college experience (Institute for Research on Poverty, 2017).
When looking at racial and gender demographics, we found sport management programs generally have more White and Black students than the general undergraduate population, but few students from other populations (Snyder et al., 2019). Similarly, women are woefully underrepresented in our discipline. Literature consistently indicates diverse classroom environments improves learning outcomes (Gurin, Dey, Hurtado, & Gurin, 2002). While the current imbalance in representation represents an opportunity for growth by making our programs more welcoming to students from underrepresented populations, it also puts an emphasis on faculty to bring diverse viewpoints to the classroom.
The final section of our study explored students’ perceptions of their own abilities relative skills/knowledge. Scholarship consistently indicates sport management students are naïve to the realities of the field and have unrealistic expectations for their careers (Barnes, 2014; Mathner & Martin, 2012; Schwab et al., 2013). This may be because sport management students are primarily attracted to the discipline by their passion for sport. Participants in the study were generally unaware careers available in the sport industry. Our study also indicated students are overly confident in their own abilities. As a whole, the sample indicated beliefs that their skills and knowledge related to the industry were above average despite the fact that they had never taken a course related to sport management. Unrealistic career expectations not only impact student learning, they also have negative consequences after graduation (Bush, Bush, Oakley, & Cicala, 2014).
As sport management educators, we have a duty to prepare students for the industry to hope to enter. We must continue to be aware of and adapt to an ever-changing destination. However, we must also be keenly aware of the various jumping off points from which our students begin their journeys. We hope, if anything, this study provides a picture of the undergraduate student population and begins a conversation about curriculum design in undergraduate sport management programs.
Read the entire study here in the April 2018 edition of the Sport Management Education Journal
Barnes, J.C. (2014). What becomes of our graduates?: New employee job transition and socialization in sport administration. Sport Management Education Journal, 8, 27–34.
Barnhill, C.R., Czekanski, W.A., & Pfleegor, A.G. (2018). Getting to know our students: A snapshot of sport management students’ demographics and career expectations in the United States. Sport Management Education Journal, 12, 1-14.
Bush, A. J., Bush, V. D., Oakley, J., & Cicala, J. (2014). Formulating undergraduate student expectations for better career development in sales: A socialization perspective. Journal of Marketing Education, 36(2), 120-131. doi:10.1177/0273475314537831
Gurin, P., Dey E., Hurtado, S., & Gurin, G. (2002). Diversity and higher education: Theory and impact on educational outcomes. Harvard Educational Review, 72(3), 330-366.
Institute for Research on Poverty (2017). Poverty Fact Sheet: Falling Further Behind: Inequity in College Completion. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Mathner, R.P., & Martin, C.L.L. (2012). Sport management graduate and undergraduate students’ perceptions of career expectations in sport management. Sport Management Education Journal, 6, 21–31.
Schwab, K.A., Dustin, D., Legg, E., Timmerman, D., Wells, M.S., & Arthur-Banning, S.G. (2013). Choosing sport management as a college major. SCHOLE: A Journal of Leisure Studies and Recreation Education, 28(2), 16–27.
Snyder, T. D., de Brey, C. & Dillow, S. A. (2019). Digest of Education Statistics 2017 (NCES 2018070). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
Sport is a white, male-dominated, multibillion-dollar industry characterized by a severe lack of racial and gender diversity among its leaders. In all levels of collegiate and professional sports, white men represent the upper echelon in leadership, front office, and coaching positions.
The lack of diverse sport management undergraduates and alums perpetuates the underrepresentation of diverse sport industry leaders. Among sport management majors, women typically represent fewer than one third of all students, while African Americans represent one tenth (Hancock & Hums, 2011). Faculty in sport management are also overwhelmingly white and male (Jones, Brooks & Mak, 2008). This may negatively affect racially minoritized students who struggle to connect with the program’s exclusively white faculty.
Diverse environments in sport organizations and academic programs prepare future professionals for the workforce, reduce stereotypes, and encourage collaboration and cultural understanding (Brooks, Harrison, Norris, & Norwood, 2013). Yet, women and people of color struggle to advance in the sport industry because of dubious hiring practices, sexual and racial harassment, work-life balance constraints, a lack of role models, and the tight network of white men who limit the advancement of minoritized sport industry professionals. (Click here for full references)
The Straight White College Men Project
The Straight White College Men Project is a qualitative study sampling 180 college students with traditionally privileged and oppressed identities at 13 institutions of higher education around the country. The study explores how participants view their own campus diversity efforts, how they conceptualize privilege and oppression relative to race, gender, and sexual orientation, and how they articulate their own perceived responsibility to enact social change. For the purposes of the Sport Management Education Journal article (Vianden & Gregg, 2017), we asked 22 heterosexual white male participants at a Southeastern university about their thoughts on how they could foster diversity in the sport industry.
Key Takeaways: First, participants sensed a bit of resignation about fostering diversity initiatives. Comments such as “that’s just the way it is” or “not much will change” speak to this resignation, but also to privilege and acceptance of the status quo. Second, participants painted a narrow view of diversity in sport. To them, diversity meant women and African Americans and some participants held stereotypical views specifically about women. Third, participants could not articulate or commit to having individual or collective responsibility to make sport more diverse.
Tips for Sport Management Educators
Use white male hegemony in the sport industry as points of departure for classroom discussions. Interrogating white male privilege in sport helps both students and instructors raise critical awareness and foster commitment to social justice and equity.
Sport management as a major program of study has a captive audience of students who need to learn about diversity, but who seldom select such coursework unless required. Sport management programs have the ability, perhaps the obligation, to offer more diversity content in its curricula. Start with one required course, or establish learning outcomes in each course that target the understanding and application of issues of power, privilege, and oppression in sport.
White male sport management students will one day hold the leadership roles in which they could affect sweeping change. Given this context, sport management educators must inspire white men to express their understanding of the roles they play in a fast-changing U.S. and global social environment. White men in sport must recognize how their privileges have the potential of keeping their peers from minoritized social groups without the opportunity to advance in the field.