Perceived Course Rigor in Sport Management: Class Level, Course Grades, and Student Ratings

During the last half-century, critics of higher education have disparaged institutions for their declining standards and lack of rigor.  The U.S. has slipped in educational rankings while popular culture has glorified the social aspects of college above the intellectual (Arum & Roksa, 2011).  Caught in the middle, particularly as higher education has adopted more business-centric models, are faculty.

By James E. Johnson, Robert M. Turick, Michael F. Dalgety, Khirey B. Walker, Eric L. Klosterman, and Anya T. Eicher. All authors are based at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.

During the last half-century, critics of higher education have disparaged institutions for their declining standards and lack of rigor.  The U.S. has slipped in educational rankings while popular culture has glorified the social aspects of college above the intellectual (Arum & Roksa, 2011).  Caught in the middle, particularly as higher education has adopted more business-centric models, are faculty.

While many faculty and administrators strive for high standards, worry over receiving poor student ratings may influence some faculty to lower their expectations/standards.  For example, the grading leniency hypothesis (Marsh & Duncan, 1992) suggests that faculty will inflate grades out of fear of retributional bias (Feldman, 2007) on student ratings. This stress could become amplified when tenure and promotion are at stake and student perceptions are the primary evaluative source for teaching performance.  In sport management, where some programs must combat the easy major label, this issue can become complex.  These beliefs are in contrast to the validity theory (Marsh & Duncan, 1992) that suggests students value a rigorous academic experience and rate faculty accordingly.

Unfortunately, an evaluation of rigor and its potential impact on course/faculty ratings is scarce.  For this study, rigor within individual courses was chosen so that instructor and course could be examined simultaneously.  Predictably, an operational definition of course rigor is elusive.  Removing the subjective nature of the term to objectively define and evaluate this construct is challenging.  Fortunately, Johnson et al. (2019) provided a definition that included the following five components of course rigor.

  • Critical Thinking
  • Challenge
  • Complex Material
  • Time and Labor Intensive (Quantity)
  • Production of Credible Work (Quality)

From those five components, Johnson et al. created seven questions designed to be included in tandem with student rating questionnaires.  Johnson et al.’s work provided the template used to conduct our study of sport management courses.

Methodologically, our study investigated 830 students in 69 sport management courses over the span of four years to determine if course ratings (i.e., student evaluations), course grades, and course level were related to course rigor.  The seven rigor questions developed by Johnson et al. were added to existing student ratings and strongly supported through a factor analysis.  Course ratings were distributed at the end of each semester and included three groups of questions that assessed the instructor, the course, and perceived rigor.

We found that the strongest correlations with course rigor occurred for course and instructor ratings.  Moreover, when predicting course rigor only the overall ratings scores (combined instructor and course scores) and course GPA were significant.  As overall ratings increased so too did the perception of rigor.  As course GPA decreased, rigor perceptions increased.

The pragmatic implications of this work are noteworthy for faculty and administrators.

  • While rigorous coursework may result in lower mean course GPAs, course rigor appears to be appreciated by students. So, the more rigor, the higher student ratings – provided work is appropriate for class level and content area.  This finding supports the validity theory (Marsh & Dunkin, 1992).
  • Because sport management students reported higher instructor, course, and overall ratings when perceived rigor increased (and mean course grades decreased), the grading leniency hypothesis (Marsh & Dunkin, 1992) does not seem to apply.
  • The fear of retributional bias (Feldman, 2007) should be minimized based on our results. This conclusion does not mean that individual students will not provide negative ratings or engage in retributional behaviors on occasion.  Rather, it means at the course level the mean scores over time indicate that if faculty engage in designing and implementing courses with the five elements of rigor, their mean course ratings will likely be improved.

 

Click here for full research article in Sport Management Education Vol. 14, Issue 1.

 

 

References

Arum, R., & Roksa, J. (2011). Academically adrift: Limited learning on college campuses. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Feldman, K. A. (2007). Identifying exemplary teachers and teaching: Evidence from student ratings. In R.P. Perry & J.C. Smart (Eds.), The scholarship of teaching and learning in higher education: An evidence-based perspective (pp. 93–129). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

Johnson, J. E., Weidner, T. G., Jones, J. A., & Manwell, A. K. (2019). Evaluating academic course rigor, Part I: Defining a nebulous construct. Journal of Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness, 8(1-2), 86-121.

Marsh, H. W., & Dunkin, M. J. (1992). Students’ evaluations of university teaching: A multidimensional perspective. In J.C. Smart (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research (Vol. 8, pp. 143-234). New York, NY: Agathon Press.

Meeting NASSM: Conference Manager Role

In the Spring of 2020, the NASSM Blog highlighted different individuals with NASSM leadership roles. We hope you enjoyed getting to know them and learning more about NASSM. For our final feature, we asked Stacey Warner to answer some questions about her role as Conference Manager (Note: These interviews were conducted in early February.):

Current faculty position:  Professor at East Carolina University (ECU)

How long have you been at this institution?:   10

Where are you from?:  Central PA

What are your primary responsibilities in your role with NASSM?  I serve as the conference manager for our annual conference. I oversee various aspects of the event including securing future sites, scheduling, budgeting, event operations, and securing & working with sponsorships, exhibitors, and advertisers.

What made you want to get involved with NASSM?   My mentors (Drs. Dixon, Chalip, and Green) did a tremendous job of role modeling the importance of service to the profession.    The environment at ECU, which has a motto of Servire or “to serve”, only further reinforced that. Success for me in this profession is about being able to balance and contribute strong research, teaching, and service.  NASSM offered an arena where I felt like I could serve and my skill set could contribute to the profession.

How do you hope to contribute to NASSM through serving? I feel that the NASSM annual conference should be a strong, healthy, and welcoming place for all sport management researchers and educators. I want to be a part of building and contributing to that type of culture and community.  I know there are Sport Managements colleagues out there that have felt like NASSM is their “home conference”.   I’m someone that wants to listen to those that haven’t felt that yet, understand why, and improve/fix what we can to make the annual conference feel like it’s the conference for all who haven’t found that home yet. The NASSM Conference can’t be everything for everyone, but my hope is it continues to be the conference that Sport Management researchers and educators look forward to going to meet new colleagues and exchange ideas.

What do you think are the biggest challenges NASSM faces?  Leadership, governance, & service.  We are an organization that continues to grow and is very dependent upon voluntary service. We’re very fortunately to have an organization full of gifted leaders and managers who always seem to step up each year, but as the organization grows so do the time demands. So I think restructuring and governance are the biggest challenges (and opportunity!) that NASSM faces.

Dream NASSM destination: Hawaii

Stayed tuned for all NASSM news on Twitter at @NASSM or on the website at nassm.org.

Meeting NASSM Series: Executive Committee Secretary Role

In the following months, the NASSM Blog will be highlighting different individuals with NASSM leadership roles. We hope you enjoy getting to know them and learning more about NASSM.

This week’s highlight is NASSM’s current Secretary, Dr. Leeann Lower-Hoppe.

Current faculty position: Assistant Professor a The Ohio State University

How long have you been at this institution? 3 years

Where are you from? Cincinnati, Ohio

What are your primary responsibilities in your role as EC Secretary? The NASSM Operating Codes provides a helpful comprehensive review of the Secretary role. To summarize, my primary responsibilities include: assisting the NASSM President, maintaining records of all Society meetings and Constitutional and Operating Code changes, recording Society meeting minutes, and serving as a voting member on the EC.

What made you want to get involved with NASSM? Servant leadership as a philosophy guides my research, teaching, and service. I believe it is a responsibility of the membership to serve your national association. Through supporting the internal operations of NASSM I seek to advance our field, professionally develop, and expand our network.

How do you hope to contribute to NASSM through serving? NASSM has a wonderful legacy of leadership. It is a privilege to serve on the NASSM EC with outstanding professionals in the field of sport management. I hope to embody the professionalism of the EC, contribute new perspective and ideas, promote the voice of the membership, support the NASSM President, and increase the efficiency of the Secretary role.

What do you think are the biggest challenges NASSM faces? As NASSM President Bob Heere outlined in his recent holiday message to the NASSM membership, we are in the process of exploring a new governance structure. This has been a significant topic of discussion within the EC and has the potential to produce positive change within the organization. However, I anticipate the process of proposing a new governance structure and potentially moving forward with restructuring the board will be a challenge – howbeit a worthy challenge.

Dream NASSM Destination: Chicago, IL – great city!

Meeting NASSM Series: The President Role

In the following months, the NASSM Blog will be highlighting different individuals with NASSM leadership roles. We hope you enjoy getting to know them and learning more about NASSM. Our first post highlights our current and past-presidents. Presidents are elected for three year terms, where they serve as President-Elect, President, then Past-President, each with their own roles and responsibilities.

 

Lisa Kihl, Ph.D., Past-President NASSM

KihllL-pref
Dr. Lisa Kihl

 

Current faculty position: Associate Professor, School of Kinesiology, University of Minnesota

How long have you been at this institution? 17 years

Where are you from? Australia

What are your primary responsibilities in your role with NASSM? Past president roles- conference manager and chair NASSM governance working group.

What made you want to get involved with NASSM? Networking, learn about the field, colleagues encouraged me.

How do you hope to contribute to NASSM through serving? Mentoring students and junior faculty; assisting with the implementation of the strategic plan, and aiming to create a more inclusive and supportive association.

What do you think are the biggest challenges NASSM faces? Current governance system and addressing the wide array of membership needs.

Dream NASSM destination: Turks and Cacaos

 

Bob Heere, Ph.D., President of NASSM

18_0507_bob_heere06
Dr. Bob Heere

Current faculty position:  Professor, Department of Management & Director of Sport Entertainment Management

How long have you been at this institution? About 20 months

Where are you from? The Netherlands, I received my PhD at Florida State University

What are your primary responsibilities in your role with NASSM?  To represent our society in our interactions with our stakeholders and oversee the governance of our Society

What made you want to get involved with NASSM?  Sport management is a small niche, and our boats rise and fall together with the academic tides. Supporting our Society is a crucial component of our service and directly benefits our own careers. I never saw it as a choice, but as a necessity.

How do you hope to contribute to NASSM through serving?  As the president, first and foremost, I try to make myself available to everyone engaged with NASSM, answering any questions they have, or supporting the initiatives they bring forward to our Society. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is stay out of the way of the people who champion certain initiatives. On my end, I have been focused on increasing our transparency in decision making, increasing the engagement of our members, help our committees refocus on their primary responsibilities, and building or modifying the relationship with our partners. For example, we just signed a new partnership with the International Association for Venue Managers (IAVM), and were able to renegotiate our contract with Human Kinetics, which will alleviate the financial burden of our members to carry on that relationship.

What do you think are the biggest challenges NASSM faces? Right now, NASSM is at a crossroads, and its biggest challenge is adjusting its governance structure to the changing demands of scholarly life. The implementation of such a change impacts everything and holds back other initiatives. This restructure has been advocated for, for over a decade, and we are finally able to explore its implementation because of increased sponsorship revenues, and decreased journal subscription costs.

Dream NASSM destination: Frisco, TX, so I don’t have to travel and I can share with our members who amazing this city is when it comes to sport 😊

 

 

Stay tuned for future “Meeting NASSM” blog posts about other NASSM leaders…

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/

The Experience of a Sport Management Instructor-Practitioner

A common practice among sport management programs, having practitioners as adjunct instructors are opportunities to provide particular expertise or more offerings than the current pool of professors and lecturers can provide on their own. This interview with Nikki Stewart from East Tennessee State University (ETSU) Athletics provides insight into that experience as a practitioner-instructor.

What is your current role, both as a practitioner and as an adjunct?

Currently, I am the Assistant Athletics Director of Academic Services at ETSU, and Issues & Trends in Sport Management adjunct instructor for both the graduate and undergraduate ETSU Sport Management programs

What do you most enjoy about having both of those roles?

As an assistant AD of Academic Services, I enjoy having a direct line to kids, my previous role (as a professional academic counselor), I only saw my advisees twice a year, but in this role, I see kids all day long. I enjoy investing in those students on a daily basis. In my role as an adjunct, I enjoy being able to teach again. I taught sport management at my previous institution, and while I’m currently teaching only online, it has allowed me to get back to teaching. I love having conversations with students. I get to hear their perspective on what is going on in sport. Every four or five years, the ways students think about the issues changes. I enjoy listening and discussing those issues with each group of students.

How do you see being an adjunct intersecting with your role as a practitioner?

It allows me to give first-hand, real-time, fluid opinions on what’s going on, because I deal with it on a daily basis. The students respect that. It’s great also to speak to non-student-athletes as well. A lot of the issues in sport are happening in college athletics. Whether it is TV rights, getting people through the gate, the different ways inventory is created, the laws being created in California, to all the crises in sport. All of that affects me day to day. While they can read an article about what’s going on, I also can say, “this is what happened to my team yesterday, this is what I’m dealing with right now.” I think that brings a unique perspective to the students.

What efforts do you make to bring your knowledge in as a practitioner to the classroom, and vice versa?

Like I said before, bringing in that real-time knowledge helps inform a class such as issues & trends. There is that insider real-time understanding I have that can help students understand how these issues are affecting the sport industry, because I’m living in it. In terms of the classroom to my role as a practitioner, I have to say I get really excited about to talk about these issues. I am a big nerd, so the classroom is a fantastic way to engage with these issues. It’s an avenue I don’t get as a practitioner, to have the time and space to discuss these issues with an engaged audience. We can get very narrow-focused on the athletics side, but by being both a practitioner and an instructor, I can see both ends of the higher education and athletics perspective. And by doing that, I think it helps our ability to best serve our student-athletes.

What do you wish sport management programs knew better or more about in regard to the sport industry?

That programs would understand how fluid everything is, how much things change. Week by week, things can change substantially. How quickly you have to adapt. It’s hard to convey until you are in it. Any opportunities to have field experience, even in each class, some opportunity to experience how adaptable you have to be. Experiencing failure, and learning how to grow from it while in the field can really help students. Articles and books are great, they give a great foundation, but taking that knowledge and “getting your butt kicked” in the field is what will help in the long run.

 

The interview was conducted by Dr. Natalie L. Smith, Assistant Professor in the Sport & Recreation Management Program & Graduate Programs Coordinator at ETSU. You can find her on Twitter @NatalieLSmith. She is always looking for blog post ideas and writers for this blog.

Observations from the FIFA Women’s World Cup – Part 1

For many former and current sports business professionals and academics, attending sporting events are often simultaneously exhilarating and frustrating. Here are a few academic-professional observations from my 5th live Women’s World Cup, and suggestions for research.

By Dr. Natalie L. Smith (@NatalieLSmith)

Natalie is an Assistant Professor at East Tennessee State University, a former Sky Blue FC & MLS employee, and is currently recruiting a Graduate Assistant for Fall 2020.

For many former and current sports business professionals and academics, attending sporting events are often simultaneously exhilarating and frustrating. Here are a few academic-professional observations from my 5th live Women’s World Cup, and suggestions for research. Watch for Part 2, an interview with interim GM of Sky Blue FC, Alyse LaHue.

Creation of liminal spaces

Many fans I spoke to felt a lack of atmosphere in most of the French cities, something I also felt in Winnipeg 4 years earlier. They strongly desired a feeling of togetherness, celebrating women’s soccer as a group. While there were fan zones, most whom I spoke to thought they were solely children focused. This may not be what the event organizers intended, but it is how many people felt. Once finally inside the stadium however, the feelings of community and atmosphere were different. USA-France was a magical combination of European fan culture and USA supporters. It was the best sporting event I’ve ever attended. Exploring women’s sporting events as liminal experiences may be a wonderful opportunity for academic-organizer collaboration.

Understanding your fan base

Regarding the 2011 WWC, Hallmann (2011) is a good read. I wonder do those findings apply to France? Or those who travel internationally? Thanks to a summer research grant from Clemmer College at my university, East TN State University, I conducted a small exploratory project regarding coaches who traveled to the WWC, and an interesting point came up: It isn’t just about the sport. These individuals who have dedicated their lives to soccer, also spoke of seeing the cultural sites, drinking good wine, and spending time with friends and/or family in a foreign country. It also included a focus on learning, it was about conversation with each other during games. Similarly, in my informal conversations with fans across the English-speaking spectrum, I noticed while they came for a variety of reasons, none of them traveled alone. Those who research this space are probably thinking, “yeah duh, Natalie,” but is that research translating to organizer decision-making?

Level of play differences

For all the press the 13-0 game received, no one seemed to notice that on average, the level of play has improved dramatically since 1999. While there is a great deal of Uncertainty of Outcome research related to various aspects of men’s sports, works such as Valenti et al. (2019), only recently published, addresses the dearth of generalizability for women’s sports. What will happen when the women’s game moves to 32 teams?

Sponsorship bundling

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WWC Commemorative Cup Collection

Some of the conversations around the games this summer was the “value” of women’s soccer, and finally someone pointed out what I’ve known since working at Soccer United Marketing, women’s soccer national teams are mostly bundled with their male counterparts. Anecdotally, there are vastly different approaches to this bundling paradox. Most of my supervisors in business development could’ve cared less about women’s soccer back in 2010 and sold it as an afterthought, however I’ve seen this bundling used intelligently to provide value for the whole National Team or international federation brand. Exploring those differences, a hybrid sponsorship-organizational behavior research exploration could provide valuable insight for sport organizations seeking to maximize all their properties.

 

Effect on domestic situations & leagues

Some previous work (Feng et al., 2018) in Chinese men’s soccer found Chinese Super League attendance actually went down after the men’s World Cup. However, the presence of star players can positively impact attendance after an event like the men’s World Cup. Indeed, an entire issue of Soccer & Society considered this issue, but as the editors themselves note the issue was entirely about men’s events. For the 2011 WWC, research indicated attendance improved dramatically at Women’s Professional Soccer games, however the league folding that year left many unanswered questions. The appearance of stability for the NWSL and other domestic leagues around the globe could provide a better opportunity to understand this relationship. Which is why I asked a current NWSL GM to update us on the situation, which you can read about in Part 2 next week…

In conclusion, so many questions remain about how our current management theories relate to the realities of women’s soccer, and perhaps women’s sport more generally. Fortunately, this seems to be a growing area of interest for scholars. In the past year alone, we have seen a book published on the business of women’s sport (co-edited by Drs. Nancy Lough and Andrea Geurin), and a call for papers with the International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing for a special issue on marketing in women’s sports (submissions due in December). This increased academic focus on women’s sport is needed and welcomed. Clearly those in the women’s sports space want more collaboration with academics, what an opportunity for us to provide much needed research.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week, right here at nassmblog.com…

How Do We Help Our Students Arrive, If We Don’t Know Where They Started?

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

Getting to know sport management studentsThe 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 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.

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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!

Diversifying the Face of the U.S. Sport Industry – A Call to Educators

by Dr. Jörg Vianden (University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse) and Dr. Liz A. Gregg (University of North Florida)

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.

Emerging Themes

  1. Perceived barriers: Toxic masculinity, male dominated culture, resistant or racist team owners
  2. Roles of women in managing sport: Women should fit specific roles in the sport industry, such as marketing
  3. Hiring policies in sport: Meritocratic ideals about who should be hired, affirmative action rules, increased competition for positions if more women or people of color were recruited
  4. Responsibility for change: Advocacy easier by current sport leaders versus those professionals fresh out of college, remaining open minded to learn about diversity without concrete commitment to enacting social change

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

  1. Name White Male Privilege in Sport

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.

  1. Infuse Diversity in Sport Management Curricula

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.

  1. Inspire Responsibility in White Men to Stand up for Diversity

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.

Additional References
Brooks, D.D., Harrison, Jr., L., Norris, M. & Norwood, D. (2013). Why we should care about diversity in kinesiology. Kinesiology Review, 2, 145–155. doi: 10.1123/krj.2.3.145
Jones, D. F., Brooks, D. D. & Mak, J. Y. (2008). Examining sport management programs in the United States. Sports Management Review, 11(1), 77–91. doi:10.1016/S1441-3523(08)70104-9
Hancock, M. G. & Hums, M.A. (2011). If you build it, will they come? Proceedings of the North American Society for Sport Management Twenty-Sixth Annual Conference, London, Ontario.